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Shabbat, 29 Cheshvan 5775 / November 22, 2014

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Avel - Chapter 4

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Avel - Chapter 4

Halacha 1

These are the customs observed by the Jewish people with regard to corpses and burial. We close the eyes of the deceased. If one's mouth hangs open, we tie the jaw close. After washing the corpse, we stuff close the orifices, anoint it with different fragrances, cut its hair, and dress it in shrouds of white linen which are not expensive. Our Sages followed the custom of using a cloak worth a zuz, so as not to embarrass a person who lacks resources. We cover the faces of the deceased so as not to embarrass the poor whose faces turned black because of hunger.

Halacha 2

It is forbidden to bury the dead, even a nasi among the Jewish people, in silk shrouds or clothes embroidered with gold, for this is an expression of haughtiness, the destruction of useful property, and the emulation of gentile practices.

We carry the dead on our shoulders to the cemetery.

Halacha 3

The pallbearers are forbidden to wear sandals, lest the strap of one of them snap and he hold back the performance of the mitzvah.

Halacha 4

We dig burial caves in the earth and make hollows at the side of the caves. There we bury the corpse with its face upward; we then place the earth and the stones back in place above it. They may bury it in a wooden coffin.

Those who accompany the corpse tell him: "Go in peace," as Genesis 15:15 states: "You will go to your ancestors in peace."

Markings are made on the graves. A tombstone is placed on the grave. For the righteous, by contrast, a tombstone is not placed, because their words will cause them to be remembered; a person will not need to visit in the cemeteries.

Halacha 5

A person in his deathroes is considered as a living person with regard to all matters. We do not tie his cheek, stuff his orifices, nor to we place a metal utensil or a utensil that cools on his navel so that his body will not bloat. We do not anoint it or wash it or place it on sand or on salt until the person dies.

One who touches him is considered as shedding blood. To what can the matter be compared? To a candle that is flickering, were a person to touch it, it will be extinguished. Similarly, anyone who closes a dying person's eyes as his soul expires is considered as shedding blood. Instead, they should wait some lest he have fainted. Similarly, we do not rend our clothes because of him, uncover our shoulders, recite eulogies, or bring a coffin or shrouds into the house until the person dies.

Halacha 6

When a person's dead is lying before him, he should eat in another house. If he does not have another house, he should construct a partition and eat. If he does not have the materials to make a partition, he should turn away his face and eat. Under no circumstances should he recline and eat or eat meat or drink wine.

He does not recite the blessing before eating, nor the grace after meals. Others do not recite the blessings for him, nor is he included in a quorum of three for the recitation of grace. He is free from the obligation to recite the Shema, pray, put on tefillin, or observe any of the mitzvot stated in the Torah.

On the Sabbath, he should recline, eat meat, and drink wine, recite the blessing before eating, and recite grace. Others may recite blessings for him. He is included in a quorum for grace and is obligated in all the mitzvot of the Torah with the exception of sexual relations.

Once the dead is buried, he is permitted to eat meat and drink a small amount of wine to help digest the food that he has eaten, but not in an unrestrained manner.

Halacha 7

We do not delay the burial of the dead. Instead, we hurry to bury him immediately. Hastening the burial is praiseworthy. For one's father and mother, by contrast, it is demeaning.

Halacha 8

On Friday or the day before a festival, or when rain was drenching the coffin, it is permitted to hurry even the funeral of one's parents. For the person hurried the funeral only as an expression of honor for his father and mother.

Whoever delays the burial of his dead overnight violates a negative commandment, unless he delays the burial for the honor of the dead and to complete providing for his needs.

Halacha 9

On the first day alone, it is forbidden for a mourner to put on tefillin or to eat food of his own. He must sit on a overturned bed. During the remainder of the days of mourning, he may eat his own food, sit on a mat or on the ground, and put on tefillin.

What is the source which teaches that a mourner may not put on tefillin on the first day? Instructions were given Ezekiel (Ezekiel 24:17): "Your glory should be bound upon you." Implied is other people are forbidden. He was instructed: "Do not eat the bread of men." Implied is that other people should eat from others on the first day and are forbidden to eat their own food.

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Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.
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