Friday, May 02, 2008

Buried on the Land where he Died

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Nazir 43b) states that if a person dies and has no one to bury him, he is considered a meis mitzvah. The halacha is that he is buried on the land where he died, even if the land is privately owned. This is one of the ten conditions that Yehoshua made upon the division of Eretz Yisroel.

Why did Yehoshua make such a condition? Would it not be more appropriate to bury a person in a regular cemetery? The Chazon Ish writes that there was a concern that one who dies without relatives would be left to the devices of other people who would neglect the dead body on the road, thus leaving the corpse unprotected. Yehoshua therefore decreed that a person who dies and has no one to attend to his burial should be buried where the body was found.

The Taz and Shach write that nowadays in lands outside of Eretz Yisroel, we must bury an unattended corpse in the cemetery, because even if the person was buried at the site of his death, we are not certain that the site will be undisturbed.

Perhaps there is another aspect to burying an unattended corpse at the site of his death. It is said: v’chiper admaso amo, and He will appease His Land and His people, and this can be interpreted to mean that the land itself atones for the person. Burial is a sign of respect for the dead body, and although one normally buries a corpse in a cemetery, Eretz Yisroel is unique that anywhere in the Land is considered a respectful location. This would explain why Yehoshua was the one who set this condition, because the condition was unique for Eretz Yisroel.