Laws and Customs of a Funeral

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The Mitzvah of Burial

  1. There is a mitzvah to bury a dead body on the day of the death.[1] There is also a prohibition to leave a corpse unburied.[2]
  2. Even if a person requests not to spend his money on his burial we bury him from his assets and if he has none we still bury him.[3]
  3. Someone who hastens the process of the burial is praiseworthy except for a parent a child may not rush the burial as doing so is disrespectful.[4]
  4. When passing the shovel to someone else it shouldn't be passed directly; instead it should be left on the ground and the next person picks it up.[5]

Putting up a Tombstone

  1. Some have the minhag not to put up the tombstone until after 12 months from the death of the relative because a person's memory of the deceased weakens after 12 months and the tombstone is to be a commemoration of the deceased.[6]
  2. Reading the writing on a tombstone causes one to forget.[7]
  3. Some poskim hold that it is forbidden to sit or walk on a grave. It is proper not to walk on the graves unless it is impossible to avoid it and it is temporary. One should not sit on the tombstone of a grave. [8]

Practices after the Funeral

  1. There is a practice to take dirt and grass and throw it over one's shoulder after the burial. This is a reference to the resurrection of the dead.[9]
  2. After the funeral one should wash one's hands three times[10] and not to dry them, but if it is difficult one may dry them.[11]
  3. One should wash one's hands before entering a house.[12]
  4. One should not pass the cup used for washing hands from one person to another. Instead it should be put down for the next person.[13]

Laws of a Cemetery

  1. One may not wear tzitzit out while walking in a cemetery.[14]
  2. According to some poskim one shouldn't carry a sefer torah in a cemetery.[15]

Where to Do the Burial

  1. Generally it is forbidden to bury someone in another cemetery if there is a closer one in town. Exceptions to this rule include burying the corpse in Israel, burying them in a family plot, or if the deceased left an explicit directive to bury him in a certain location. [16]
  2. It is forbidden to bury someone who is wicked next to someone who is righteous.[17]
  3. It is forbidden to bury a Jew next to a non-Jew.[18] Therefore, the child of a non-Jewish mother and a Jewish father may not be buried in a Jewish cemetery unless he converted in which case he is completely Jewish.[19]

Cremation

  1. It is a very serious prohibition to cremate a Jewish body. It is an active commission of the mitzvah of burial and is a great spiritual curse for the deceased.[20]
  2. If a Jew requested to be cremated we can not listen to his listen and rather perform the mitzvah of a proper honorable burial.[21]
  3. If a Jew was cremated the rabbis on his own request the ashes may not be buried in a Jewish cemetery since the person who made such a request lost his kedusha and there is no further disgrace to the family by leaving the ashes not buried. The ashes remain forbidden to be used but there is no obligation to have them buried.[22]

Chevra Kaddisha

  1. The chevra kaddisha should consist of people who are pious and religious.[23]
  2. The chevra kaddisha should not charge exorbitant amounts for the burial.[24]
  3. The deceased should be buried in a tallit[25] but the minhag in Israel is not to.[26] The Ashkenazic minhag outside Israel is to put on a Tallit but to invalidate it.[27]

When to do the Burial

  1. Regarding burials on the second day of Yom Tov see Second_Day_of_Yom_Tov#Burials_on_Yom_Tov_Sheni.

Delaying a Burial

  1. It is forbidden to delay a burial. Some rishonim hold that this means that the burial must take place before nightfall, while others hold that the burial has to be before the next dawn.[28]

Under What Circumstances is it Permitted to Move a Skeleton?

  1. It is forbidden to move a skeleton to rebury it in another grave even to place it in a nicer coffin and grave.[29] Furthermore, it is forbidden to move a skeleton to make more room for another deceased.[30]
  2. It is permitted to move a skeleton to another grave in order to bury someone in a family plot, to move them to Israel, or if they originally buried him with intentions to move him it is permitted. [31]
  3. Additionally, if a grave isn't a protected area and it might be defiled by bandits, by flooding, or if was just a lone abandoned grave (not in a cemetery) it is permitted and it is a mitzvah to move the skeletons. [32]

Respect for the Skeleton

  1. Moving bones it is forbidden to break a bone or split a sinew.[33]
  2. When moving multiple skeletons each one should be placed in a separate coffin. [34]
  3. Technically it is permitted for a person to be involved with the moving of his parent's bones after the flesh has disintegrated, however, it is proper to have someone else do it.[35]
  4. When moving bones it is disrespectful to place the bones in a bag.[36]

Mourning when Moving a Skeleton

  1. If someone moves the bones of a relative he should mourn that day from the moment that the bones are unburied[37]. This aveilut includes the regular halachot of shiva including not sitting on a chair, not wearing shoes, tashmish, bathing, anointing, working, and learning. That night it is permitted.[38]
  2. Since there is only mourning on the day of the day of the moving the bones and not the night therefore the bones shouldn't be moved close to the end of the day since it will turn out that one will not have mourned that day at all.[39]
  3. If someone's relative's bones are being moved he should tear keriya.[40]
  4. There is no lining up at the burial, public comforting of mourners, or seudat havrah publically, however, there is a seudat havrah in their house. There is no eulogy but there are speeches praising the deceased and Hashem in that he takes life and returns it.[41]
  5. Bones may not be moved on Chol Hamoed.[42]
  6. If someone heard that a relative's bone were moved that day he should mourn that day. However, if he only heard about it the next day he doesn't mourn.[43]
  7. Someone involved in the moving of bones and their burial are exempt from mitzvot. [44]
  8. A woman whose husband died and got remarried doesn't observe aveilut for her first husband if they move the skeleton of her first husband.[45]

Benefiting from a Corpse

  1. It is forbidden to benefit from a corpse. Most poskim assume that this is a Biblical prohibition[46] and applies to a Jew and non-Jew alike.[47] Some rishonim hold that it doesn't apply to a non-Jew but the halacha is that it does apply to a non-Jew.[48]
  2. Jewelry on a dead person at the time of death isn't forbidden to benefit from unless it was attached to them such as a gold tooth. However, a ring or bracelet is permitted.[49]

Sources

  1. Rambam (Sefer Hamitzvot Aseh no. 231), Sefer HaChinuch no. 537, Ramban (Devarim 21:22). The Gemara Sanhedrin 46b derives from the pasuk that there is a Biblical mitzvah to bury the deceased whether he was killed by the Bet Din as the pasuk is discussing or anyone else.
  2. Sanhedrin 46b, Shulchan Aruch YD 362:1
  3. Shulchan Aruch YD 348:2 and 3
  4. Moed Katan 22a, Shulchan Aruch YD 357:2, Chazon Ovadia (Aveilut v. 1 p. 300)
  5. Eliya Rabba 224:8, Chazon Ovadia (Aveilut v. 1 p. 332)
  6. Eliya Rabba 224:8 provides two reasons for the minhag not to set up a tombstone until after 12 months. First, during the first twelve months the relatives are filled with sadness and putting up the tombstone is happy. Second, only after 12 months is it necessary to set up a tombstone to remember the deceased.
  7. Eliya Rabba 224:8
  8. The Hagahot Ashuri (Moed Katan 3:79) quotes the Or Zaruah who held that it was forbidden to sit on the tombstone or walk on top of a grave since the grave and everything made in honor of the deceased are forbidden to benefit from. The Tur 364:1 quotes the Rosh as permitting sitting on the tombstone since it isn't part of the grave. The Bet Yosef writes that we hold like the Rosh. The Rama 364:1 cites both opinions. Pitchei Teshuva 364:2 cites the Yad Eliyahu who concludes that for a mitzvah it is permitted to walk on top of a grave but not to sit on a tombstone. The Taz 364:1 learns that walking on a grave quickly to get somewhere is permitted. Aruch Hashulchan 364:11 permits walking on top of a grave even if it is forbidden from benefit unless it is done in a very disgraceful manner. Chazon Ovadia (v. 1 p. 436) writes that it is proper to avoid walking on a grave unless it is impossible to avoid and it is temporary. Yalkut Yosef YD 51:3 agrees.
  9. shibolei Haleket (Semachot no. 14), Shulchan Aruch YD 376:4
  10. Shulchan Aruch YD 376:4
  11. Ben Ish Chai (Shana Rishona, Toldot no. 16), Chazon Ovadia (Aveilut v. 1 p. 331)
  12. Rama YD 376:4
  13. Eliya Rabba 224:8, Chazon Ovadia (Aveilut v. 1 p. 332)
  14. Brachot 18a
  15. Bach YD 282:3 and Taz 282:3 are strict to forbid carrying a sefer torah within 4 amot of a grave. Nodeh Beyehuda OC 109 discusses the matter and isn't certain that it is forbidden.
  16. Shulchan Aruch and Rama YD 363:2
  17. Gemara Sanhedrin 47a, Shulchan Aruch YD 362:5
  18. Ran (Gittin 28a s.v. kovrin), Chazon Ovadia (Aveilut v. 1 p. 313), Yabia Omer YD 7:36. Chazon Ovadia writes that the graves need to be at least 8 amot apart.
  19. Melamed Lhoil 2:127 writes that it is a very serious sin to allow a child of a non-Jewish mother to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Firstly, it is forbidden to bury a non-Jew next to a Jew. Secondly, it makes it appear as though the child of an intermarried couple with a non-Jewish mother is Jewish is completely false.
  20. Gesher Hachaim 1:16:9:1
  21. Gesher Hachaim 1:16:9:2
  22. Gesher Hachaim 1:16:9:2
  23. Chazon Ovadia (Aveilut v. 1 p. 300)
  24. Pitchei Teshuva 361:1 citing Chatom Sofer YD 329
  25. Shulchan Aruch YD 351:2. Tosfot Niddah 61b s.v. aval writes that the practice was to remove the tzitzit from the tallit on the deceased thereby invalidating it. He explains that it would be a mockery to put on tzitzit on a person who didn't wear tzitzit when he was alive since the time to acquire mitzvot is when a person is alive. Furthermore, it would embarrass those who don't wear tzitzit if they only put tzitzit on the deceased if he wore it when he was alive. Therefore, the practice was to remove the tzitzit from the tallit of the deceased. Tosfot Brachot 18a s.v. lemachar agrees. Baal Hameor (Moed Katan 16a s.v. abba) writes that the practice was to untie the tzitzit before the deceased was interred. Raavad (Katuv Sham Moed Katan 16a) agrees. Ramban (Milchamot Moed Katan 16a s.v. amar) argues that they should put tzitzit on the tallit that the deceased is buried in so that the deceased isn't embarrassed that he isn't wearing tzitzit. Shulchan Aruch YD 351:2 codifies the opinion of the Ramban.
  26. Chazon Ovadia (Aveilut v. 1 p. 303), Gesher Hachaim 15:2:1
  27. Rama YD 351:2. Aruch Hashulchan 351:3 relates that the Gra instructed a talmid to make sure that he was buried with kosher tzitzit. When they were burying him the talmid didn't feel well and when he left for a moment the chevra kaddisha invalidated his tzitzit. When the talmid returned the gedolim decided not to replace the tallit as it was a sign from heaven that they shouldn't change from the minhag.
  28. The Sefer Hachinuch clearly implies that the burial must be the day of the death, meaning that it must be before nightfall. The Yereyim (no. 152), however, holds that it is only considered delaying a burial if it is delayed past dawn of the next morning just as we find regarding Notar. The Magen Avraham 72:2 and Mishna Brurah 72:6 assume like the first approach.
  29. Shulchan Aruch YD 363:1
  30. Shulchan Aruch YD 363:3
  31. Shulchan Aruch YD 363:1
  32. Shulchan Aruch YD 363:1. Chatom Sofer 334 (cited by Pitchei Teshuva YD 363:1) permitted to moving an entire cemetery which was given to the Jews on loan because of a plague. He explained that majority of the deceased had relatives in the other Jewish cemetery and so they can be moved to a family plot and everyone else can be moved so that they aren't in a deserted area that will be defiled.
  33. Shulchan Aruch YD 403:6
  34. Shulchan Aruch YD 403:8
  35. Shulchan Aruch YD 403:7
  36. Shulchan Aruch YD 403:10
  37. Shach YD 403:1
  38. Shulchan Aruch YD 403:1
  39. Shulchan Aruch YD 403:1
  40. Shulchan Aruch YD 403:2
  41. Shulchan Aruch YD 403:3
  42. Shulchan Aruch YD 403:4. In Moed Katan 8a there is a dispute between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yose if it is permitted to move a relative's bones on Chol Hamoed. Rabbi Meir says it is permitted since anyway one will be gladdened by the joy of the moed and Rabbi Yose says that it is forbidden since it is causes a person to mourn which is inappropriate for Chol Hamoed. The Ramban holds like Rabbi Meir and Rambam like Rabbi Yosef. The Shulchan Aruch follows the Rambam.
  43. Shulchan Aruch YD 403:5
  44. Shulchan Aruch YD 403:1
  45. Pitchei Teshuva YD 403:2 citing Chatom Sofer 355
  46. Tosfot Bava Kama 10a, Rashba Bava Kama 10a, Ramban Vayikra 11:3, Rashba Teshuva 1:364, and Lechem Mishna 14:21 all assume that the prohibition to benefit from a corpse is Biblical. However, the Mishna Lmelech Avel 14:21 end of s.v. vraaiyti (1) suggests that perhaps the Rambam Maachalot Asurot 2:3 holds it is only a rabbinic prohibition.
  47. The Rashba Teshuva 1:365 rejects the position of the questioner that a non-Jewish corpse is permitted for benefit. He seems to conclude that it is just as forbidden to benefit from a non-Jewish corpse as it is for a Jewish corpse. Shulchan Aruch YD 349:1 rules like the Rashba.
  48. Gra YD 349 cites the Tosfot Bava Kama 10a and Rashba who hold that it doesn't apply to a non-Jew. Pitchei Teshuva 349:1 quotes the Avnei Shoham who says that it is only a Biblical prohibition to benefit from a Jewish dead body but a rabbinic prohibition to benefit from a non-Jewish dead body.
  49. The Gemara Erchin 7b cites a dispute between Rav and Rav Nachman Bar Yitzchak whether hair of a corpse is forbidden. Rav holds it is. Additionally, Rav holds that a wig which is tied to a woman's hair is also forbidden. The Tur YD 349 holds like Rav, while the Rambam Avel 14:21 rules that hair is permitted. Tosfot Bava Kama 10a agrees with the Rambam. Lechem Mishna 14:21 explains that the Rambam ruled like Rav Nachman. Shulchan Aruch YD 349:1 rules like the Tur. Rama clarifies that jewelry that is tied to the corpse at the time of death is forbidden. The Bear Heitiv cites the Bach who is more stringent and even if the jewelry is pinned onto the body it is also forbidden. The Pitchei Teshuva YD 349 quotes the Bechor Shor who says that it would seem that a tight ring would be forbidden according to the Bach. However, he thinks that we can be lenient since there are many rishonim who hold like Rav Nachman, including Tosfot and the Rambam. Also it isn't clear that we should extend the halacha of the gemara from a wig to jewelry. Lastly, the Rama thinks that as long as the jewelry isn't tied onto the body we can be lenient.