Senior Jerusalem rabbis permitted a late-night removal of the body of a Haredi rabbi from its grave, on the night between Thursday and Friday last week, because family members, who are Breslov Hasidim, claimed the “spiritual level” of the nearby dead was insufficient, causing what could be considered the desecration of the dead.
Reporter Yair Etinger described in a news blog associated with Haaretz walking over to the now empty grave at the Sanhedria cemetery in Jerusalem, with an official of the Chevra Kadisha, the burial society, on Monday. The official seemed unfazed by the revelation that the body had been dug up after having rested in its former grave for eight years, and replaced by family members or their agents in a plot in Mt. Olives cemetery next to the departed man’s father—who died after his son.
According to Etinger, transferring a body from one grave to another is most unusual halachically, but apparently it received the approval of leading Haredi rabbis, most notably the late Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who himself passed away only last month.
The departed died of an illness at a relatively young age, and was buried in a plot that he himself had purchased at the Sanhedria cemetery. But according to Menny Gra of the new Haredi phone news service “Kav Ha’Chasifot” (Exposé Line), family members, residents of the Meah She’arim enclave, resented the fact that he was buried next to a woman, as well as others whose level of adherence to the commandments was questionable.
Etinger cited a burial society official who told him: “We have no shortage of meshugoim (crazies).”
Several Haredi rabbis gave their approval to removing the departed to a better location, according to the website BeHadrei Haredim, including Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Wosner, a posek living in Bnei Brak, Rabbi Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss, Chief Rabbi (godol av beis din) of Jerusalem for the Edah HaChareidis, and Rabbi Eliezar Berland, dean of the Breslov Yeshiva Shuvu Bonim. But the family members insisted on receiving approval from the highest authority within the Haredi community at the time, Rabbi Elyashiv.
BeHadrei Haredim reported that the departed rabbi’s family members had arrived at Rabbi Elyashiv’s home five days before the latter was hospitalized at Shaarey Tzedek hospital, asking for his ruling. The question was posed to R. Elyashiv by his student, Rabbi Ben Tzion HaCohen Kook, and R. Elyashiv’s response was that it was a matter of “Honor your father” to execute the relocation.
Before they covered their father’s fresh grave on Mt. Olives, at the end of an operation that had begun around 1:30 in the morning, family members placed a “kvittel” – a note – inside the grave, asking his forgiveness for the suffering he endured as a result of being dug up and buried again in a new cemetery.