Re-burial In Eretz Yisrael
‘If One Finds Three [Corpses]…This Is A Graveyard’?
The Mishna states that if one discovered several graves [three] arranged in a manner indicating that the area is an ancient gravesite [and not just a temporary burial spot], the bodies may not be exhumed and relocated elsewhere (see Sanhedrin 47b; Jerusalem Talmud Mo’ed Katan 2:4).
The Kol Bo (siman 114, Hilchos Avel s.v. “Amar Rav Ba’al Halachos…”) explains that transferring a dead body disturbs the deceased, who becomes frightened at the thought of being summoned to judgment in the heavenly court. This concept is alluded to in I Samuel (28:15), where Samuel, the prophet, upon being raised from his grave by King Saul, exclaimed, “Why have you disquieted me by bringing me up?” Thus implying that moving a buried body can be a frightening experience (see Responsa Chacham Tzvi 47:50).
Reasons For Re-interment
Following are several examples cited by the halachic authorities in which re-interment is permitted.
The Talmud Yerushalmi (Mo’ed Katan 2:4) states that it is pleasant and satisfying for a person to be buried near his relatives, and therefore it is permitted to transfer a body to a family plot.
The Chacham Tzvi (Responsum 50) permits transferring a body buried amongst gentiles to a Jewish cemetery.
The Or Zarua (cited by the Rabbi Yosef Caro in the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 363:1) rules that a buried body may be transferred to a safe area if it is at risk of being disturbed by a flood or by gentiles.
Re-interment In Eretz Yisrael
Rabbeinu Yerucham (as cited by Rabbi Caro ad loc.) permits transferring a body from chutz la’aretz to Eretz Yisrael, since burial in Eretz Yisrael provides one with a special atonement, as alluded to in the verse (Devarim 32:43), “…He shall cause His land to atone [and/for] His people.” (In Toras Ha’adam, Ramban notes further that burial in Jerusalem is optimal.)
The Maharal ben Chaviv (siman 63, cited by Pis’chei Teshuvah, Y.D. 363:s.k.2) adds that even if it is known that the deceased was not favorably inclined toward burial in Eretz Yisrael (as was the position of Rabbi Bar Kirah, see Yerushalmi Kil’ayim 9:6, who felt it was improper to bring bodies to Eretz Yisrael), his children are permitted to transfer his body to Eretz Yisrael. He rules that as long as the father did not explicitly tell his children not to bury him in Eretz Yisrael, it is commendable for them to give their father the privilege and atonement of a burial in the land of Israel.