Friday, November 24, 2006

International Burial and Mourning

Disclaimer: As in all halachik discussions, what appears below is not meant as ruling, but as discussion only. Please discuss any practical applications with an orthodox rabbi.

The following halachik discussion is in memory of the ציץ אליעזר, Rav Eliezer Waldenberg, זצ"ל, and צביה צירל בת בנימין תנצב"ה. They both passed away this week. יהי זכרם לברכה.

The Shulchan Aruch (375:1) rules that normally, the shivah starts when the body is interred. In many cases, however, the deceased may be flown to Israel or some other country for burial. When does the seven day mourning period begin in this case, when some relatives accompany the body, wile some remain behind? The talmud in Moed Katan 22a states that Rava ruled that those who do not accompany the coffin, begin their mourning when they turn away their faces from the dead, and return home.

The Rosh brings down this ruling, and adds that those who accompany the deceased, begin shivah when the dead is buried. However, if there is a גדול משפחה, a head-of-family figure who generally looks after the whole family, all mourners follow his lead; if he goes with the body, everyone begins to mourn when the body is buried, and if he remains, all begin to mourn immediately. However, Tosafoth uses the head-of family strictly only. Thus, if the גדול משפחה stays behind, all begin mourning with him, out of respect. However, those that accompany the body, would count seven days only from the time the dead is placed in the ground.

The Shulchan Aruch (375:2): If a body is sent to a different country to be buried, and the mourners at home do not know when it will be buried, they begin to mourn immediately, while those who accompany the dead begin when he is buried. However, if there is a head-of-family, they all do as he does, לחומרא, similar to Tosafoth, in contrast to the Rosh.

Shach adds that this is only if the head-of-family plans to remain in the city with the dead indefinitely. However, if he plans to return to the mourners in the original locale within the seven day mourning period, even the head-of-family would mourn from the time that the stationary mourners started (i.e. from the time they turned from the dead and headed home).

The Aruch HaShulchan (375:8) infers from the language of the Shulchan Aruch that a difference in mourning times only happens when the mourners do not know when the body will be interred. However, in present times, this is almost never true, and therefore, it would seem that all would begin to mourn when the casket is buried. Even so, the Aruch HaShulchan brings many proofs that this is not true. Therefore, those staying in the original city would begin mourning earlier than those accompanying the casket, even in modern times.

The Tzitz Eliezer permits even those staying in the original town to mourn beginning at the time of the burial, if they need the time in between to sell off properties, or other things they will be forbidden to do for the seven days of mourning. He permits this based on the fact that most acharonim hold that, ideally, mourning should only begin at the burial time. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef permits this even without good reason. He also mentions that those mourners who remain behind should not practice the laws of Aninut during the intervening days, except the law not to lay tefillin on the first day.

May God destroy the concept of death forever, and may he erase tears from all faces, with the revelation of the Messiah.

Again, the above is not meant as ruling, but as discussion only. Please discuss any practical applications with an orthodox rabbi.