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Eggs as a symbol of mourning

Judaism recognises various stages of mourning. After the funeral, the family and friends of the deceased prepare a meal of condolence, which includes hard-boiled eggs to recall the sorrow at the destruction of the Holy Temple. Eggs and other round-shaped food, such as bagels and lentils, also represent the circle of life.
ST032-02 Funerailles juives Jerusalem Israel 2011
© Getty Images / Uriel Sinai - Funérailles juives, Jérusalem, Israël, 2011

The Jewish religion recognises five stages of mourning, among them the shiva, the first week following the funeral of a relative. During this time, the focus of mourning shifts away from the deceased and toward the relatives. They stay home for a week, comforted in their grief by relatives, friends and acquaintances. To mark the irrevocable change at the death of a loved one, during shiva, the mourners traditionally sit on low chairs. They cover all the mirrors in their home and light a candle to commemorate the deceased. During this time, the mourners do not carry out activities such as bathing or getting their hair cut. As a sign of compassion and consolation, neighbours and friends usually take it upon themselves to prepare the first meal after the funeral, known as the Se'udat Hawra'a, the meal of condolence. Hard-boiled eggs are an important part of this meal along with bagels, lentils and other round-shaped food, as a reminder of resurrection and the circle of life. The eggs are often dipped in ashes, in memory of the destruction of the Holy Temple. The food is intended to convey the fact that life must go on.

Eggs not only play an important role in the meal of condolence, but in the Jewish religion as a whole. Their rounded shape represents the cycle of life, but also freedom and servitude, joy and suffering, which are closely linked in Judaism. The ritual meal known as the Seder, takes place on the first two evenings of Passover. This ceremonial dinner traditionally includes hard-boiled eggs, to pay homage to the destruction of the Temple and symbolise mourning in general. Hard-boiled eggs are also eaten prior to the one-day fast known as Tischa B'Av, which commemorates the destruction of the Temple.