Here we address a few questions we have received whose answers do not necessarily require a full column.
When do we begin counting sheloshim, the 30 days after someone passes away? The day of the funeral (the day of burial) is Day 1. This is also how we count shiv’ah, the seven days of mourning.
The yahrzeit and, if appropriate, the eleven months of saying Kaddish, begin counting with day of death as Day 1.
Although we do not mourn on Shabbat, Shabbat counts as a day in counting seven. If we bury on a Sunday, we stand up from shiv’ah on Friday. Regardless the day or the time of burial, we stand up from shiv’ah after morning services, followed by taking a walk around the block.
What does “minhag” mean? מנהג refers to tradition, custom. It is similar to one saying in English, “It’s what we do!” in reference to Jewish practices: “it is minhag.” And there is a plural? Minhagim is the plural, referring to this minhag or that minhag. So though we don’t necessarily say, “it is a minhag,” preferring “it is minhag,” we can say, “the minhag is to do it this way.”
What does “nusah” mean? נוסח is related to minhag but refers specifically to the liturgy, usually relative to the origin of a tradition. Interestingly, the word itself means “text” or “version,” but has assumed also an additional implication with the musical interpretation of liturgy or presentational rendering, usually from a specific Jewish community or heritage. (“Dutch Jews chant it this way,” e.g.) Even further, it can refer to the differing sounds of the chants relative to the occasion of the service: the sounds of weekday morning minyan are different from the sounds of Shabbat which are different from the sounds of the High Holidays. As they say, one should be able to emerge from a coma, hear a service, and know exactly what time of day and day of week and year it is by its music. When a person says, “I learned it this way” and someone else learned something different, it is nusah.
There is a delightful website dedicated to various nusah traditions, https://offtonic.com/nusach/nusach.html. One may search there for such items as sound files and sheet music for certain tunes; your correspondent has found it a valuable resource. Of course, Rabbi Adelson has added many sound files to our own website, found at https://bethshalompgh.org/audio-beth-shalom-services/. Our former Executive Director Rob Menes shares numerous sound files on his https://hazzanmenes.info/. For those seeking eclectic nusah information, there is http://www.chazzanut.com/.
Everything we write about above is minhag! Now, then, if these brief answers are not sufficient, if you want more, please let us know: we can always report further on any specific topic.