web analytics
December 2, 2016 / 2 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘monument’

Q & A: Replacing A Monument (Part II)

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Question: Is there anything in Jewish law that prohibits replacing an old, existing matzeivah (tombstone) with a new, better one? I would greatly appreciate your response to this question.

A Reader
Tucson, AZ


Last week we discussed the origin of the custom to erect a monument at a person’s burial spot. We have the Biblical source of Jacob setting up a monument over the grave of his wife Rachel and proof from the Book of Yechezkel that the custom was extant many hundreds of years later.

Grave markers and demarcation lines to indicate the location of graves were always needed in order to warn passersby of the danger of ritual defilement. Tombstones and monuments were also seen as a sign of honor and respect for the departed. Since it is prohibited to derive any benefit from material needed for the deceased, it is questionable if one is permitted to lean or sit on a gravestone.

* * * * *

The Bach (Yoreh De’ah 364) remarks that one should take care not to sit on either a monument or a grave – including the soil above it, as stated by Rabbenu Yeshaya who is quoted by the Tur – even though the Gemara (Sanhedrin 47b) concludes that the soil is considered karka olam (natural soil, and thus ownerless) and states that only the structure or monument on it should not be used. The Beit Yosef (the name of Rabbi Yosef Caro’s commentary on the Tur) explains that Rabbenu Yeshaya considers the soil covering the deceased to be a kever shel binyan (lit. a structured grave).

The Bach also quotes Rabbenu Yerucham, who maintains that we should be careful not to sit on a monument (or any other structure above a grave). However, if it is the custom of family members to sit on such structures, we are lenient, he maintains, since we assume that a stipulation permitting this behavior was made when the monument was erected.

The Bach also quotes Haggahot Asheri, which states that it is prohibited to derive any benefit from anything made specifically for the needs or in honor of the deceased. That is why it is forbidden to sell a monument that deteriorated or cracked, and that is why it is forbidden to lean on it, etc.

The Beit Yosef, too, quotes responsum 296 of the Rashba (which we cited at the beginning of this column) in which he permits sitting on a monument because tombstones nowadays are erected only as a sign of respect for the deceased.

The Darchei Moshe (the name of the commentary of the Rema on the Tur) points out that the Rashba states in responsum 537 (which we also cited) that one cannot derive any benefit from a gravestone, but it is permitted to place it on another grave; doing so is not considered deriving benefit for the living. Indeed, it is even permitted to bury someone in a vacated grave since. The Darchei Moshe notes that the matter requires further consideration since the wording of the Tur implies that nobody forbids it, but we see that were it not for the above reason, we would forbid it.

The same rulings, essentially, are presented in the Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. ad loc.) by the Mechaber and the Rema, including the statement of Rabbenu Yeshaya which concurs with Haggahot Asheri to the effect that some prohibit sitting on a stone that was erected as a monument.

The Taz says in the name of the Rashal that we have adopted the custom to forbid sitting on a gravestone. He also quotes Haggahot Asheri that it is prohibited to derive benefit from anything that was done for the deceased or for the honor of the deceased. Therefore, it is prohibited to sell a tombstone that was damaged and one must not lean on it either. Furthermore, for the same reason, it is prohibited to step on a grave.

The Taz refers to a discussion concerning burial caves in Bava Batra (101a), where the configuration of the walled burial chambers is such that the carriers of the bier have to tread on graves when they enter the cave to bury the deceased they are carrying. R. Shimon allows them to step on the graves and the Rashbam explains that we look away since they have no other choice of access and they are only stepping on the graves for a short while.

Pit’chei Teshuva (ad loc.) quotes Teshuvot Eliyahu (54) which gives two reasons why it is forbidden to sit on a gravestone: 1) because of the prohibition to derive any benefit from a monument, and 2) the deceased might thereby be denigrated. He notes that there is a clear distinction between stepping on a grave and sitting on a gravestone. A person derives no pleasure from stepping on a grave since he would rather walk on the ground. Sitting on a gravestone, however, does give a person pleasure since without the gravestone, where would he sit?

Gilyon Maharsha (ad loc.) cites responsum 296 of the Rashba, which permits sitting on a gravestone, not because it has not been explicitly forbidden, but because of the accepted custom to do so. But nowadays, states Rabbi Shlomo Eger in step with the reasoning of Haggahot Asheri, we should not sit on a monument precisely because it is no longer the custom to do so.

He also quotes responsum 534 of the Rashba permitting the use of a gravestone for another deceased person since, as stated in Sanhedrin 48a, another deceased may be buried in a grave that has been vacated with the exception of one’s father. In such an instance, namely, if the grave was dug for his father and the father was buried elsewhere, the father may not be reinterred in the grave originally prepared for him because of the special honor due to one’s father.

Rabbi Shlomo Eger also quotes Rabbi Menachem Azaria da Fano (Responsa 10:44) who states that if tombstones were removed but not preserved in a dignified manner (i.e., they were not buried), communal leaders (tuvei ha’ir) may sell them to monument makers, but only with the proviso that the existing engraved letters be erased. The money acquired in exchange should be used only for the needs of the community.

Finally, he cites the R. Samuel Aboab (Devar Shemuel 342) who restricts the use of such monuments for the benefit of other deceased after erasing the original names and replacing them with the names of those for whom these gravestones are to be used.

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Q & A: Replacing A Monument

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

Question: Is there anything in Jewish law that prohibits replacing an old, existing matzeivah (tombstone) with a new, better one? I would greatly appreciate your response to this question.

A Reader
Tucson, AZ


Answer: My late neighbor and mentor, HaRav Simcha Zissel Levovitz, zt”lmashgiach ruchani of the (then) Mesivta of Boro Park and head mashgiach at Empire Poultry – once came back from Europe and showed me a photo of a new monument he made for his father, the famed Mirrer mashgiach, HaRav Yeruchem Levovitz, zt”l. He explained that the old monument had worn out to the point that the letters on it were illegible. He therefore had a durable plastic overlay with the text as it appeared on the original stone fashioned and fastened to the front of the existing monument.

His act comported with the view of the Rashba (Responsa 1:537) who allows replacing a monument with one of better quality. The Rashba actually maintains (ibid., 1:296) that erecting a monument is not strictly necessary; people do so for the honor of the deceased. The Aruch HaShulchan (Yoreh De’ah 364:4-6) agrees, noting that one may lean on a monument since it has not been set up for the need of the deceased.

Interestingly, the Chasam Sofer (Y.D., Responsum 337) posits that the mere presence of a monument on a property is not reason enough to forbid a kohen from entering the area since there is no clear proof that a Jewish graveyard exists in that location.

In order to understand why we erect monuments on graves, we need to refer to the Talmudic debate (Sanhedrin 46b) on whether burial is a means of averting disgrace (for the deceased and the survivors) or a means of atonement (for the sins the deceased committed during his lifetime). Since righteous people are buried, how can we say that burial might be for atonement? The Gemara answers by quoting Ecclesiastes 7:20: “For there is not a righteous man on earth who does [only] good and does not sin.” Thus even the righteous are in need of atonement for the few sins they may have committed.

The biblical source for placing a monument on a grave is probably the verse describing what Jacob did after Rachel died on the way to Efrat (Genesis 35:20): “Va’yatzev Yaakov matzeva al kevuratah, he matzevet kevurat Rachel ad hayom – Jacob set a monument upon her grave; this is the monument of Rachel’s grave to this day.”

The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 82:10) asks why Jacob buried Rachel on the roadside (and not in the town)? It explains that he anticipated that the exiles in the future would pass that way. He thus buried her there – and put a monument on her grave – so that they would recognize the site and she would pray for mercy on their behalf.

The Jerusalem Talmud (Yerushalmi, Shekalim 2:5 – also found in the Babylonian Talmud and quoted by the Midrash) states, “The surplus [of the money raised for the burial] of a deceased person is given to his heirs … R. Natan says: It is used for building a monument over his grave.” The Yerushalmi elaborates: R. Natan says that the surplus is used to build a monument (nefesh) over his grave and to sprinkle (aromatic wine) before his bier. Tiklin Had’tin (a commentary by a disciple of the Vilna Gaon on Tractate Shekalim) explains “nefesh” means a structure (binyan) or grave marker (tziyun) that serves as a remembrance of the soul of the departed. Thus, the surplus money is used for the honor of the deceased. The Gemara subsequently cites the opinion of R. Shimon b. Gamaliel who states that monuments are not erected for the righteous because their words (of Torah) serve as their remembrance.

The dispute between the Tanna Kamma and R. Natan centers on the fact that money collected for a certain purpose should be used for that purpose only. A third opinion, that of R. Meir, states that the money should be put aside until the arrival of the Prophet Elijah (who will decide how to dispose of the funds).

These views are quoted in Tractate Sanhedrin (48a) in a discussion on whether one may derive benefit from items that were intended for the deceased. It explains that the Tanna Kamma’s opinion is based on the assumption that although the deceased was humiliated by the fact that a collection had to be made for his burial, he overlooks and forgives this humiliation for his heirs’ sake; therefore, they should receive the surplus of the funds collected. R. Meir questions this assumption, and thus states that the money should not be used at all. R. Natan, however, is certain that the deceased does not overlook the humiliation and therefore the surplus money should be spent for a monument on his grave or for sprinkling before his bier.

Tractate Mo’ed Katan (the opening mishna, 2a) lists activities that may be performed during Chol Hamo’ed. At the end of the mishnah we read, “All public needs may be performed and graves may be marked…” Tosafot (s.v. U’metzai’nin”) notes that this activity involves no particular exertion.

Further on (5a), the Gemara asks: What is the Biblical source for the requirement to mark graves (with whitewash of lime to warn passersby against defilement)? A pasuk from Yechezkel (39:15) is cited as the source: “Ve’ra’ah etzem adam u’vanah etzlo tziyyun – [Those passing through the land], whenever one shall see a human bone, he shall set up a sign near it.” But, continues the Gemara, how did we know this to be a requirement before the Prophet Yechezkel stated it? The Gemara concludes that this is a “halacha leMoshe miSinai,” a law given to Moses at Sinai, and Yechezkel provided the asmachta, the Scriptural support for it.

We might ask: Why doesn’t the Gemara quote the verse in Bereishit stating that Jacob set up a matzeva on Rachel’s grave?

The Rambam (Hilchot Avel 4:4) rules (based on Tractate Shekalim and Tractate Mo’ed Katan, as the Kesef Mishneh points out) that we place markers (metzainin) throughout a cemetery and also build monuments (nefesh) over graves. Thus, we see that “place markers” and “monuments” do not refer to the same object. The Rambam also states (ibid. 14:19), based on Sanhedrin 48a, that if a monument was built for a specific living person, and a different person was buried at the site – and a row of stones was placed at his grave – no benefit can be derived from the site even if the remains of the person buried there are removed.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Hitler’s Childhood Home to be Demolished by Austrian Government

Monday, October 17th, 2016

The home where Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was born in 1889 is to be demolished, pending passage of a law to legally ensure its destruction because the owner of the house was refusing to sell – or demolish – it. The same family has owned the property for more than a century, although the Nazi regime bought the house and used it during the reign of the Third Reich. It was returned to the owner’s family in 1952.

Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said a committee of experts ruled in favor of demolition of the former guest house, according to a report in Die Presse, a German-language Austrian newspaper. “A thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building,” Sobbotka said.

The structure, located in the western town of Braunau, will be replaced instead with a new building to be used for administrative or charitable purposes, the paper reported.

There has been discussion for some time over whether to demolish the building, or simply renovate it to change its use. However, the Austrian government wants to block the structure from becoming a pilgrimage destination for neo-Nazis. The building has been empty since 2011.

Hana Levi Julian

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

Café el-Fishawy, Cairo

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Some 240 years ago, a man named al-Fishawy began serving coffee to his friends in an alley of Cairo’s Khan al-Khalili district each evening after prayers. The al-Fishawy’s gatherings grew larger and stretched longer, and the rest is history.

Qahwat al-Fishawi (Fishawy’s Café) is the most renowned café in the Arab world and a monument to the traditional Egyptian way of relaxing with friends—and the occasional stranger— over coffee, tea and tobacco.

We pray for the residents of Cairo to be able to emerge from their current strife and to return to their sweet and harmless (except for the tobacco thing) way.

Yori Yanover

What Obama Didn’t See in Palestine (Israel)

Monday, March 25th, 2013

“I will never compromise when it comes to Israel’s security… Not when there are terrorist groups and political leaders committed to Israel’s destruction. Not when there are maps across the Middle East that don’t even acknowledge Israel’s existence.

  Barack Obama, AIPAC Conference, June 4, 2008

The sharp eyes at Palestinian Media Watch couldn’t help but catch the controversy surrounding the Palestinian Authority’s monument to terrorism in Bethlehem that erased Israel from the map.

In order to hide their true intentions from President Obama, who was set to pass by that area, the Palestinian Authority removed a large monument/map of the “State of Palestine”  located in Bethlehem’s Central Square.

The monument celebrates two events, the UN vote for the “State of Palestine” in 2012, and the first Fatah (PLO) terrorist attack in 1965 (note, that is 2 years before the “occupation”).

The local residents were enraged that their map of an Israel-free Palestine was removed in order to not offend the Obama’s willful fiction of a peace-loving Palestinian Authority.

For more details, read the entire article on Palestinian Media Watch.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Putin Vows: Holocaust Will Not Be Repeated

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Two years ago, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on a visit to Moscow, proposed the idea of a monument in Israel commemorating the sacrifices of the Red Army on behalf of Jews, President Putin promised to come to Israel for the inauguration ceremony.

On Monday, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, Israeli President Shimon Peres, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, and Jewish leaders from around the world unveiled the brand-new Victory Monument in Netanya, Israel.

“I am very excited to be here today,” said President Putin. “We live in a fragile world and we are obligated to make sure that this dark and tragic time in history does not repeat itself. The Jewish Holocaust was the most shameful and dark event in human history, and the Soviet Army was the one who crushed the head of the Nazi monster.”

Puttin added: “This amazing monument strengthens the respect I feel towards to the Jewish people and the State of Israel…The wings in the monument are white like the wings of the dove that symbolizes peace.”

The design of the Monument was a first-ever joint initiative of Israel and Russia, conducted by a committee of members from both countries and funded by major Jewish philanthropists led by Keren Hayesod – UIA and the World Forum of Russian Jewry.

President Putin visited Israel specifically for the inauguration ceremony.

The Monument honors the millions of Red Army soldiers who perished in the war, among them 120,000 Jews.

Alexander Levin, President of the World Forum of Russian Jewry, a persistent supporters of the monument, said, “Millions of Russian Jews around the world are united at this moment in solidarity for the brave Red Army soldiers.”

More than half a million Jewish soldiers fought with the Red Army in WWII against the Nazis.

Jewish Press Staff

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/putin-vows-holocaust-will-not-be-repeated/2012/06/26/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: