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September 28, 2016 / 25 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘grave’

May A Kohen Visit A Tzaddik’s Grave?

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

In this week’s parshah, we learn that when a person dies he conveys tumah. There is a machlokes why that is the case.

The Ramban, in the beginning of this week’s parshah, explains that when a person dies by means of the malach hamaves (angel of death) he conveys tumah. However, if he dies by means of neshikah (a form of death performed by Hashem) he isn’t. This is why Chazal said that tzaddikim do not become tamei upon death, since presumably they die by means of neshikah.

The Avnei Neizer (Yoreh De’ah 466) adds that Rav Chayim Vital says that the malach hamaves sprinkles three bitter drops on a person when he comes to kill him – and those drops create the tumah.

The Ohr HaChayim has a different understanding of why a dead person becomes tamei. He explains that since we accepted the Torah, we possess a high level of kedushah, and the forces of tumah are constantly anticipating and eagerly awaiting a chance to cling to this kedushah. As soon as a Jew dies the forces of tumah are able to enter his body, and thus he becomes tamei. This explanation, he says, also accounts for why a non-Jew does not become tamei upon death; since in his life he didn’t possess this kedushah, the forces of tumah are not interested in entering his body.

The Ohr HaChayim explains that with this understanding we can answer the following question pertaining to the words at the beginning of Parshas Chukas, “Zos chukas haTorah”: Why does the Torah refer to the mitzvah of tumah as “the chok of the Torah”? It does so, explains the Ohr HaChayim, because tumah only rests on deceased Jews due to them having accepted the Torah.

The Zohar says that only someone who dies of natural causes was killed by the malach hamaves. People who are killed by others were not killed by the malach hamaves. Based on this, the Avnei Neizer says there is a halachic ramification to the dispute between the Ramban and the Ohr HaChayim. According to the Ramban who said tumah sets in only when the malach hamaves kills, one killed by another does not become tamei. However, according to the Ohr HaChayim even one who is killed by another does become tamei.

It is unclear if graves of tzaddikim convey tumah and consequently whether a kohen can visit them. Even according to the Ramban’s opinion – that a dead person only conveys tumah when the malach hamaves kills him – tzaddikim still may convey tumah when they die since many tzaddikim die by means of the malach hamaves and not via neshikah. And even according to the Or HaChayim’s view – that tumah sets in due to the sudden absence of kedushah – a tzaddik perhaps doesn’t convey tumah since his body actually became kadosh during his lifetime, and it remains kadosh after his death.

Tosafos (on Baba Metzia 114b) cites a Medrash Yalkut in Mishlei that relates that when Eliyahu HaNavi and Rabbi Yehoshua (a talmid of Rabbi Akiva) were burying Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Yehoshua asked Eliyahu HaNavi how he, as a kohen, could bury a dead person. Eliyahu HaNavi answered that talmidei chachamim and their talmidim do not convey tumah. Tosafos says that Eliyahu HaNavi gave this answer out of respect for Rabbi Akiva. The actual reason he was allowed to bury Rabbi Akiva was because Rabbi Akiva was murdered by the government and no one was willing to bury him; thus, he had the status of a meis mitzvah for whom a kohen is allowed to become tamei. Apparently Tosafos maintains that tzaddikim convey tumah.

Rabbi Raphael Fuchs

Q & A: Erecting A Monument Over A Grave

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Question: Recently it came to light that there is no memorial stone over the grave of a family member who passed away some time ago. He has children, but, unfortunately, they refuse to do anything to rectify this matter. Worse, they say that erecting a monument is not a requirement. I don’t agree with them. Please quote sources so that I can prove to them that they must erect a memorial stone.

Name withheld by request


Answer: Your question is, unfortunately, a matter that we have dealt with in the past, but not in depth. Because of your question, we will republish and expand upon our original answer in the hope that doing so will resolve this matter in a way that results in your dearly departed relative receiving the honor he is due.

First of all, as we will set forth, not placing a memorial stone over the grave of a departed relative is not optional. It is an absolute requirement. A child or husband/wife is required to place a tombstone over the grave of his/her parent or wife/husband. The Torah states that Jacob placed a stone over Rachel’s grave (Genesis 35:20) “Vayatzev Yaakov matzeivah al kvurasa hi matzevet kvurat Rachel ad hayom – Jacob set up a monument over her grave; it is the monument of Rachel’s grave until today.” The custom to do so is mentioned throughout Tanach (II Kings 23:17; Jeremiah 31:21, etc.).

We find numerous references throughout the Talmud indicating the need to place a stone over a grave. In the Gemara (Baba Bathra 58a) Rabbi Bana’ah is especially praised for marking caves (tombs) with dead bodies, including the Ma’arat Hamachpelah. The Gemara (Baba Metzia 85b) also states that R. Shimon ben Lakish is said to have marked the burial place of rabbis and to have cast himself in prayer on the graves of the pious for the propitiation of the great sages of Beit Shammai and of the just and the wronged.

Rabbi Yechiel Michel Tukacinzky (Gesher Hachayyim ch. 28) offers three reasons for placing a stone over a grave: 1) to mark off the place of the grave – so that a priest not tread there; 2) to establish the location of the grave so that relatives and offspring can visit and pray in the merit of the deceased; 3) to honor the spirit of the departed soul.

The Gemara (Mo’ed Katan 5a) relates that Rabbi Simeon ben Pazzi said, “Where is there an indication in Scripture that gravesites be marked? From the following verse (Ezekiel 39:15) ‘v’ro’oh etzem adam u’vonoh etzlo tziyyon – and when [passersby] see a human bone, they will set up a marker near it.’” We find this ruling in the Rambam (Hilchot Tum’at Met 8:9), who states that it is an absolute requirement to place a stone on a grave in order not to create a stumbling block for passersby.

We find as well in the Mishnah (Shekalim 2:5) that Rabbi Nathan said, “From the surplus of funds collected for the burial of a person, a tombstone should be erected over his grave.” The Gemara elaborates that not only did Rabbi Nathan order the surplus be allocated for a tombstone, he also ordered that some of that surplus be used to satisfy the requirement of sprinkling aromatic wine over the deceased’s bier as he/she lies in state prior to his/her burial.

The commentary Taklin Chad’tin (sv yibaneh lo Nefesh al kivro”) explains that we should set in place above the grave a structure – a mausoleum or a monument – which serve as a remembrance for the soul and enables survivors to come and remember him or her. It is a matter of kavod ha’met – honor due to the dead. Thus, we see that there might be a requirement to set upon the grave an elaborate structure; surely, minimally, one is required to place a memorial stone.

The Mishnah states that the funds for the stone should come from the surplus of funds collected for the burial. If there are no surplus funds, it seems that one cannot force the deceased’s child, spouse, or other close relative to erect a stone. According to Tractate Moed Katan, though, it seems that the requirement is absolute, since it states that the tombstone’s purpose is to prevent passersby from stepping unlawfully on the grave.

A son should certainly be persuaded to attend to this mitzvah as soon as possible for yet another reason: kibbud av v’em. The duty to honor one’s parents continues even after their deaths (Kiddushin 31b).

Furthermore, if a person has children and wishes to earn their respect, he must remember that children often learn by example. As the years pass, he may one day come to regret being nonchalant in this matter and not erecting a gravestone.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Weather Forecast: Chance of Rockets Raining on Sharon’s Funeral

Monday, January 13th, 2014

The Israel Air Force (IAF) and General Security Services (Shabak) are on high state of alert ahead of former Prime Minister Sharon’s funeral, according to a report in Maariv.

Ariel Sharon is to be buried Monday in his Negev “Sycamore Ranch” (“Havat Shikmim”), which is within range of Gaza’s rockets.

There is concern within the security forces that the Gazans might decide to shoot rockets at the funeral, and so, have launched “Operation Kalaniot” to try to prevent any rockets from being launched and hitting the ranch during the funeral.

An Iron Dome anti-rocket system will also be deployed to protect the funeral.

In 2007, a rocket from Gaza hit and exploded on the ranch.

After Sharon pulled Israel out of the Gaza Strip, Gaza became a terror base that has put millions of Israelis within rocket range of Gaza’s terrorists, and semi-regularly requires that residents of Israel’s south go into bomb shelters and reinforced sewer pipes so as to not get injured or killed from falling rockets.

Israel’s security has significantly diminished since the 2005 expulsion of Jews from their homes in Gush Katif and Gaza.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is pushing current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make even deeper expulsions and pullouts from additional Israeli territories.

Shalom Bear

What Would Stalin Say?

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Originally published at Chabad.org.

By Rabbi Berel Lazar

My relationship with Reb Shmuel Rohr started about twenty years ago, in the early 1990s. He was visiting Russia on a business trip, looking for investment opportunities.

Truth to tell, I looked at him kind of quizzically: “Investment? In Russia!?” This was a country that everyone was trying to get out of, figuring that it had no future. A dank and dreary place, where the store shelves were empty and there was nothing to eat; the only kind of economic activity was that of émigrés selling their goods and leaving the country with the little money they had gotten for them. Now this man is coming to invest? When does he ever expect to see any profits from this?

So I asked him, “Reb Shmuel, what are you doing?”

“I myself may not see any profit from it,” he replied, “but my children and grandchildren will. I’m investing for their sake. Now, when everything is collapsing here, when no one sees a future for the country—that’s the time to enter the market here. It’s a window of opportunity that opens only once in many decades. So, yes, it’s unlikely that in the near future I’ll see any benefits from this investment, but my grandchildren will see it.

“And this is just as true in spiritual matters, in matters of Judaism, as it is in business,” he continued. “On the face of it, there seems to be no future here: everyone is getting out as fast as possible, going to Israel, or America, or Western Europe. But I do foresee a future here—a bright future. Again, I may not get to see it, but my grandchildren most definitely will. Time will come when Russia gets back firmly on its feet, both economically and Jewishly!”

As Reb Shmuel spoke, I saw before me a Jew with great vision, a person with enormous foresight. He envisioned a revolution—and he took a leading role in making it happen. He was the Nachshon ben Aminadav who jumped into the swirling waves, into a sea where no firm footing could be seen—yet he walked into it with head held high and eyes affixed ahead, toward the future.

He encouraged, cajoled, pushed and worked on having shluchim sent to Russia. He not only talked the talk, but walked the walk—supporting them financially from the start.

In the many conversations I had with him, he’d often refer to his underlying inspiration. What indeed motivated him to spend such a fortune on behalf of Russian Jewry? His yardstick, he said, was simply this: “If Stalin could see this, he’d roll over in his grave!”

This idea was expressed in the wide variety of activities he funded, in each of which he saw the ultimate revenge against Stalin. A few come to mind now:

Return of Synagogues

Whenever Reb Shmuel would hear about a synagogue that had been nationalized by the Communist government and that there was a chance to have it returned to the Jewish community—he’d exert all possible efforts to make it happen.

That was his sweet revenge. A building that was seized by Stalin’s goons en route to ensuring the ultimate defeat of the Jews—to think that in that same building Judaism would be rebuilt and blossom anew—that would definitely make Stalin roll over in his grave, if he could only see it. So it must be done!

Bris Milah (Circumcision)

During that early period of Jewish awakening after seventy years of communism, there was a particularly urgent need to find mohalim who could arrange circumcisions in an orderly fashion.

One day I approached Reb Shmuel excitedly and told him that we identified an expert mohel, who was also a credentialed surgeon, who would be perfectly suited for performing adult milah.

After committing certain funding, Reb Shmuel told me, “The real revolution, the real Jewish victory, is performing a bris on an eight-day-old infant, a bris in its proper time. That’s what will make Stalin roll over in his grave.

“You see,” he continued, sounding like a sagacious chassid, “Stalin wanted to break the Jews’ intrinsic connection to G‑d. When an adult undergoes a bris milah, that’s on his own initiative: he’s weighed the pros and cons, and decided rationally that he needs to be circumcised. He’s taken Stalin’s view into consideration and ended up rejecting it.


For These We Weep

Monday, July 29th, 2013

I have been searching for the answer to this question…who did they kill…those 104 we are about to release? I know of a mother and her three children; I know of a grandfather stabbed in the back. I don’t know all the names but it is for these we weep today – once killed by Palestinian terrorists, today betrayed again by the government and the justice system in Israel.

Today, for these we weep…knowing that tomorrow…there will be…there will be…others.I got this on Facebook with the following note:

Look Into These Eyes….Men, Women, Parents, Grandparents, Children, Grandchildren, Infants, Soldiers, Asheknazi, Sefardic, Jews and Non Jews, Religious and Secular.

These precious faces haven’t smiled since vicious murderers stabbed, shot, kidnapped and murdered them. The Government has just agreed to release the spineless animals who murdered the people you are looking at. The Israeli Government did this as a prerequisite to have the ‘privilege’ to sit and discuss ‘peace’ with a people who continues to call for our destruction.

Who could demand such an insane request from us? I don’t forget all the good America has done for me and my people, but today… today is a brand new day. Yesterday doesn’t exist and tomorrow isn’t here yet. Today I live in a country that feels humiliated, confused and betrayed.

Look into their eyes… and imagine the agony of those who love them still and forever…


Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

Paula Stern

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/a-soldiers-mother/for-these-we-weep/2013/07/29/

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