Sunday, April 08, 2007

Daf Yomi - Moed Katan 29 - Laws Regarding Burial and Mourning

Here is a compilation of halachos regarding the laws of burial and mourning by Rabbi Zalman Manela.


Before the Burial
A. From the time of death until after the burial, the close relatives, which are the father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, brother and sister, are considered onenim, which means:
1. They should be involved in the burial preparations
2. They are to respect the deceased:
a. by not behaving in a light-headed manner
b. by not eating in the presence of the body
c. by not eating meat or drinking wine
3. They are exempt from mitzvos:
a. not to say berachos (even for eating, berachos are not required, but the hands are washed for bread without a beracha)
b. not to pray, or say Amen or put on tefillin
4. They may not bathe, teke haircuts, or do work, but they may wear shoes until the burial at the cemetery. They may also leave the house to take care of the needs of the deceased.
B. An autopsy is forbidden because the Torah considers it a defilement to the departed. In case one is requested by authorities to do so, you may call our number: (213) 653-8886.
C. The deceased may not be left alone. A person is therefore designated to serve as a shomer (watchman) in honor of the deceased. Since the watchman is exempt from mitzvos while on duty, it is helpful to appoint two watchmen so that they may relieve each other. (If there is no alternative, the watchman may leave for brief periods.) They may not study Torah, but they may say Tehillim (Psalms). They may not eat while on guard. (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 195:11)
D. Beware of funeral homes that are ignorant of the Torah laws and Jewish traditional customs. Check with a competent Orthodox Rabbi or with a reliable friend for a reference to authentic Jewish services and proper pre-burial preparations for the deceased (taharah).

Burial Preparations
1. The shrouds for the deceased are to be made of inexpensive, nice, white material. Even for a wealthy person one may not use expensive shrouds.
2. If a male child, G-d forbid, died before being circumcised, a circumcision (without a blessing) is performed before burial. The child, whether male or female, is to be given a name before burial.
The Funeral
1. It is a mitzvah to escort the deceased to the cemetery.
2. One should walk along for at least a distance of 7-8 feet, (if he is unable to go to the cemetery).
3. It is important that at least a minyan of ten are present at the cemetery, so that there is a minyan for kaddish.
4. It is a great mitzvah to eulogize the deceased properly:
a. by raising the voice and saying things that will cause the people to be heartbroken and to weep
b. to mention the praises and good character traits of the deceased (without too much exaggeration, for that would be harmful to the speaker and to the deceased)
5. It is a mitzvah to cry and mourn upon the passing of a righteous observant person. Hashem counts and treasures the tears of weeping for a righteous person.
6. The primary objective of eulogy is to honor the deceased. We also speak about his parents and family. If the deceased left instructions that he prefers not to be eulogized, we omit the eulogy.
7. A male kohen may not enter a cemetery or be in the same room with a deceased who is not related to him.
However, he may attend to relatives whom he is obliged to mourn for, except not to attend a sister who has been married.
At the cemetery, a deceased kohen is buried near the cemetery gates so that the relatives do not defile themselves from other graves.
8. It is important that men and women do not mingle during the eulogies or funeral procession.
Honoring the Deceased
1. It is forbidden to delay a burial, for it is a disgrace to the deceased, and it may cause pain to the soul of the departed.
2. In urgent situations, if a short postponement will be a definite honor to the deceased, i.e. to prepare shrouds, coffin, etc., or so that people can attend the funeral, it is permissible. (We do not make a late Friday afternoon burial if it may lead to the desecration of Shabbos.) It is necessary to consul with a competent Orthodox Rabbi before delaying a burial. It is wrong to delay on account of extra fees to the gravediggers on a legal holiday.
3. For parents, it is proper to extend the eulogies in their honor.
4. It is proper that only Jews be involved in caring for and carrying the deceased.
5. If a person passes a funeral procession, he is obligated to join and escort the deceased for at least 7-8 feet.
6. One is obligated to even interrupt his Torah study in order to escort the deceased.
7. It is customary to recite Tehillim (Psalm) 91 during the funeral.
8. Some have a custom that women do not go to the cemetery.
1. It is a mitzvah to bury the deceased in the ground.
2. A wooden coffin is used but it is preferable to minimize the wood and even the shrouds, so that the deceased is closer to the ground.
3. The deceased is placed on his back as one who is sleeping.
4. We ask forgiveness from the deceased in case we did not show the proper respect.
5. It is customary not to hand the shovels from one person to another to show that we do not hand sadness to other people, but rather the shovel is put down and then taken from the ground.
6. One may not act in a light-headed manner in the cemetery, which includes:
a. not to eat or drink there (it is also improper to smoke at a cemetery. [Yalkut Yosef])
b. not to engage in business matters
c. not to take a shortcut through a cemetery
7. It is generally forbidden to reopen a burial plot after it has been closed.
After the Burial
1. At the conclusion of the burial, the seven-day mourning period begins.
2. If the deceased is being sent to another country, the mourning begins after taking leave of the deceased, except for those who are going along with the deceased.
3. At some point the mourners remove their shoes. Some have the custom to wait until coming home before removing their shoes. (Some say that those who do not remove their shoes until later should put some earth into their shoes.)
4. Tzidduk Hadin is recited, and the mourners then recite a kaddish prayer.
5. Upon leaving the cemetery, everyone should:
a. lift up some earth (to remind ourselves that we are compared to earth, and that our end is in the earth)
b. and some grass (to demonstrate that the dead will sprout back to life when the dead are resurrected [Techiyas Hameisim]), and throw it behind themselves
6. The hands have to be washed three times afterwards.One should not enter a private home before this hand washing. The cup should not be handed to one another-to show that we do not hand sadness over to another person, but rather it is placed on the ground with the opening turned downward to indicate that all life eventually comes to an end.
Tearing the Garments
1. Upon the passing of a close relative: a parent, child, brother, sister or spouse, the mourners are required to tear their garments.
2. The garments are torn:
a. while standing
b. beginning near the neck and torn downward through the rim of the garment (It is customary to have someone else begin the tear and then the mourner finishes the tear by hand.)
3. Torah law prescribes the limits and procedures for mourning. One may not do more or less than what the law requires. One may not tear his hair or flesh as a sign of mourning. "You are children of Hashem, do not cut your flesh on account of death." (Devarim 14) The Seforno explains that a Jew should realize that Hashem is our closest relative, and He is always with us. We may not, therefore, overreact with pain over the loss of a relative, for our closest relative, our dear Father in Heaven is always present.
4. The mourner may change to old garments before performing the mitzvah of tearing his garments.
5. The "tearing" may not be done on Shabbos or Yom Tov.
6. for parents, the children tear:
a. clothing that is commonly worn (shirt, dress, blouse, except for undershirts, coat or tzitzis. Women are to cover over the tear or pin it up or even stitch it up, soas not to expose themselves.)
b. on the left side towards the heart
c. by hand
d. in public
e. an obvious tear on the garments all the way down to the heart
f. If he changes clothes during the seven-day mourning period, he must also tear those clothes. It is improper to merely tear a ribbon or to wear a black ribbon instead of tearing one's garment.)
7. For other relatives (children, brothers, sisters or spouse):
a. the upper garment is torn for about 4 inches
b. on the right side
c. a hidden tear (under the coat) is sufficient
d. a knife or scissors may be used (for the entire tear)
e. If he changes clothes he does not have to tear them.
8. When a righteous person passes away, even non-relatives are obligated to cry and mourn for them.
9. It is customary to fulfill the mitzvah of "tearing" the clothes after the eulogies, or at the cemetery after the burial of the deceased. The blessing "the truthful judge" is said before the "tearing."
10. It is proper for men to assist men and for women to help women mourners tear their garments.

The First Meal
1. A mourner may not eat his first meal of his own food.
2. It is a mitzvah upon the friends and neighbors to provide the food for the first meal.
3. The meal consists of bread, hard boiled (peeled) eggs or cooked lentils as a symbol of mourning (eggs do not have an opening, to show that the mourner is unable to speak) and some wine. They may then continue with meat, wine, etc. (they should not drink a lot of wine).
4. It is very important to consider all of the possible needs of the mourners and try to be helpful. The needs include: Arranging the minyanim, preparing meals, contacting other potential visitors, caring for the house, caring for the children, etc...

Praying and Saying Kaddish
1. It is a mitzvah for prayer services to be held during the seven-day mourning period at the home of the deceased.
2. Tachanun is not said when praying at a house of mourning. Hallel is not said on Rosh Chodesh. On Chanukah, the non-mourners do say Hallel after leaving the house of mourning.
3. When a son leads the prayers in public during and after shiva and says kaddish for his parents, he is redeeming them from Gehenom. The Maariv prayer after Shabbos is especially significant because that is when the souls return to Gehenom after Shabbos.
4. A mourner does not lead the prayers on Shabbos and Yom Tov, but he does say kaddish. In addition, being called up to the Torah for Maftir is also a benefit to the deceased.
5. Kaddish is said for 11 months after the passing of the deceased and on the day of Yahrzeit.
6. If there are no sons to say kaddish, the family should pay someone to say at least one kaddish per day for this period.

Visiting the Mourners
1. It is a great mitzvah to visit a mourner, and it is considered a kindness to the relatives and to the deceased whose soul is also in mourning.
2. A visitor may not begin to speak but he should sit by silently until the mourner begins. (The mourner can begin by saying "Blessed is the Truthful Judge.") The mourner may not greet others by saying shalom; and he may not receive greetings from others.
3. The mourner sits up front on the ground.
4. The topic of conversation should be about the merits of the deceased, not topics that will distract from the loss, such as sports, clothing, business, parties, cars, etc.
5. The mourner should not say, "My punishments have not equalled my sins," indicating that he is deserving of more punishment. (Even if it is true, one should not voice such thoughts as it may bring on more suffering.)
6. One may not tell the mourner, "What can you do, it is impossible to change Hashem's decisions," but rather we say, "Whatever Hashem does if for the good, and He knows best. He knows what is really good, and we should accept his decree with love."
7. As soon as the mourner indicates that his visitors may leave, they should not delay. (Be considerate, do not overdo your visit or stay late.)
8. Upon leaving, one should say, "May Hashem comfort you among the other mourners of Tzion and Jerusalem."
9. It is customary to cover the mirrors in a house of mourning.
10. It is proper to have a minyan for prayer three times a day at the house of mourning. After the morning and afternoon prayers, an additional Psalm, chapter 49, is recited. It is also good for the others to learn mishnayos for the benefit of the neshamah of the deceased.

The First Three Days
1. For the first three days of mourning, it is a mitzvah to cry in mourning.
2. During this time, one should consider that he is required to improve his ways.
3. People may not greet or be greeted by a mourner. If they greet him in error, he should reply, "I am unable to return the greeting, for I am in mourning."
4. The "work prohibitions" during these days apply even if the mourners will suffer financial loss.

The Seven Days of Mourning
A mourner may not:
1. Work (for situations with partners, employees, etc. one should check with a competent Orthodox Rabbi before the burial takes place in order to make arrangements.)
a. Regular, necessay housework (House-cleaning, dishwashing...) and food preparation are permitted.
b. We are required to provide financial assistance to poor people, so that they can afford to take off from work during shiva (seven days of initial mourning).
2. Mourners may not wash or bathe except for the face, hands and feet with cool water (using cosmetics in also included in this prohibition).
a. If the person needs to bathe to remove dirt (not for included in this prohibition).
b. A woman of marriageable age (or a bride) may beautify herself even during the seven-day period.
3. They may not wear leather shoes.
4. They may not have intimate relations (not even on Shabbos).
5. They may not stucly Torah (because it causes happiness). A mourner may study Iyov, Kinos, the sad portions of Yermiyahu and the laws of mourning. He may not study other sciences or read things (i.e. newspapers) that will take his mind away from his mourning. (Aruch Hashulchan) He may study works of Mussar. (Sdei Chemed, Aveilus 25)
6. They may not greet others. If someone does greet a mourner after the first three days, he may respond in a low voice.
7. They may not wash or clean clothing or change into clean clothing.
8. They may not speak excessively nor engage in laughter and rejoicing as it says: "May they remain silent." This prohibition is understood from the fact that they may not even say "Shalom" to others.
A mourner may also not hold a child in his lap or engage in similar activities that may lead to laughter. (Rambam, Aveilus 5:20)
9. He may not shave or take a haircut (hair combing is permitted).
10. He may not cut his nails with a utensil but he is allowed to bite or pull them off.
11. He may not sit on a seat. One who is ill or in an unusual situation should consult a competent Orthodox Rabbi for exceptions to the above.
12. A mourner may not go out of his house during the first week. However, he may leave the house to sleep elsewhere in the evenings if there is a need for it.
13. On the seventh day, after the morning-visitors leave(or after the time they would normally leave), the seven-day period is over. It is customary for some friends to assist the mourners in rising from the floor.

On Friday
1. The mourners stop their mourning to allow themselves time to prepare for Shabbos according to their needs.
a. they may change their clothes
b. even to put on Shabbos clothes
2. They may put on their shoes and rise from sitting on the floor as close to Shabbos as possible.

Shabbos and Yom Tov
1. Shabbos is counted as one of the seven days, although obvious demonstrations of mourning are forbidden.
2. On Shabbos, marital relations, washing, and Torah study are forbidden, because these activities are not obvious to others.
3. He may greet others on Shabbos and say "Gut Shabbos." <>