The Shiva Plate: An Old-New Tradition Coming Soon to Lab/Shul.Amichai Lau-Lavie

Eight months ago, while sitting Shiva for my father in Jerusalem, my old friend Drori Yehoshua told me of an unusual gift he wants to give me: a Shiva Plate, specially designed to hold seven hard boiled eggs that are served to the mourners upon their return from the burial and the official start of sitting Shiva. The eating of eggs (or round foods) is an ancient custom for this fragile lifecycle moment, reflecting on the actual circular nature of life and death. The Shiva Plate for eggs is a custom of the Kurdish-Jewish community in which Drori grew up. Once the Shiva is over, the bereaved family keeps the plate until the next family in the community needs it, and so forth, hand to hand, family to family, mourning to mourning, sustaining grief and support and the ongoing ripples of mortality and community.

And so yesterday, Drori took me to the lovely SaramicArt Studio of Sarah Shuraki Zisken on a quiet street in Jerusalem, just two minute walk from my mother’s house. He commissioned the plate from Sarah, a gifted artist, had a verse from Proverbs inscribed on it, and added a moving dedication to my father’s memory.


Translation of the Inscription on the Shiva Plate: A plate of consolation for the First Meal Following Burial – Honoring the soul of Naphtali Lau-Lavie of Blessed Memory, who passed on the 14th of Kislev 5775.


I plan to bring the plate with me to NYC when I return next week, to serve the Lab/Shul community in our hours of grief and in our delicate and nourishing process of building a communal circle of care and support.
I’m deeply grateful to Drori for the gorgeous and generous gesture; to Sarah for the artistry. When one of us in our circle mourns next – as  sooner or later we all will – may we be there for each other, with the best of what old and new friendships have to offer, with the comfort of beauty and art, using inherited and invented  traditions, and the sacred simplicity of a hard boiled egg.
Jerusalem, July 13 2015


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