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Pregnant Women in Cemeteries

Pregnant Women in Cemeteries

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Question:

I heard that there could be a problem with a pregnant woman visiting a cemetery. Is that true?

Answer:

There is no clause in Jewish law that forbids pregnant women from entering cemeteries. However, there seems to be a longstanding custom to avoid this.

Why is this?

I have heard it said that this is out of concern for the health of the mother and fetus. A pregnant mother's emotional state has a strong effect on her unborn child, and cemeteries often invite the type of negative feelings which are potentially unhealthy for the baby.

In addition, it is said that certain negative spiritual forces found in a cemetery may attach themselves more easily to a pregnant woman as she is more vulnerable than others. To prevent this, pregnant women are accustomed to stay away. To date, I have not found either of these reasons written in any reliable source.

Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss1 (1902-1989) suggests a novel reason for this custom:

The Torah2 describes the fascinating ritual of the Parah Adumah (red heifer) whose ashes mixed with water were used in the ablution of one who came in contact with the dead and was thus ritually impure.

Many precautions were taken to ensure that whoever handled the ashes and the water was absolutely pure. In fact, the Mishnah3 tells of a colony of children in Jerusalem who lived in an area specifically constructed to prevent their contracting any sort of ritual impurity. These super-pure children would then have the honor of drawing water to be mixed with ash.

Rabbi Weiss posits that the women who chose to raise their children in this colony would take care not to come in contact with anything impure—including cemeteries—for the entire duration of their pregnancies. He suggests that even though we are now in exile and there is neither Parah Adumah nor a special colony of children to draw the water, pregnant women still avoid going to cemeteries out of faith and hope that the era of Moshiach will come soon, and their children will be the first to enroll in the special colony.

In addition, there is a custom that women married to members of the priestly Kohen families, whose male children will be Kohanim as well, do not enter cemeteries during their pregnancy. This is because it is forbidden for a priest (even a very little one) to come in contact with the dead or enter a cemetery. While there are strong halachic grounds for leniency in this case, some women married to Kohanim are careful nonetheless.

This is not law, however, but a time-honored custom. So if you are pregnant and need to go to a cemetery, talk to your rabbi concerning how to proceed.

Footnotes
1.

Minchat Yitzchak 10, 42:2.

2.

Numbers 19.

3.

Parah 3:2.

Malkie Janowski is an accomplished educator who lives in Coral Springs, Florida. Mrs. Janowski is also a responder on Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi team.
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Anonymous February 25, 2014

thank you! yes i went... and might go again! 4+ years ago in my 8th month with my son i felt the need to go to my grandmother's grave- she was a very special woman and I was very close to her. I went and prayed and cried and asked her to pray for me and left so happy, so relieved! I would definitely go again!
For those that suffer from the pain of fear please don't go!
but for me ( suffering from mild depression and anxiety) it was the best therapy session I could have gifted myself.
Thanks to chabad.org I now know that it's ok to go.
(I did ask my rabbi but thought he ruled lenient because of my situation..) Reply

Anonymous Newhaven via old.chabad.org April 13, 2013

Cemeteries and pregnancy Don't go. Please don't go. It is not necessary for any woman to go whilst pregnant.

This is why we wash after visiting the graves, to wash it all away.

Stay away from cemetery. Reply

Stephen Weinstein Camarillo, CA July 29, 2010

A very important practical consideration Near the end of a pregnancy (after the 7th month), do not go into a large cemetery that does not have roads wide enough for vehicles. If a woman goes into labor in the middle of the cemetery, this could be a problem, for obvious reasons. Reply

Anonymous July 9, 2010

hmph Whenever I am pregnant, even looking at pictures of cemetaries or hearing of miscarriages made me think that it was an omen. I got superstitious and while I suppose it was creating my own religion, it was a desire to control the uncontrolable. One day in my husband's desire to make me see that it was OK for me to go by a cemetary and that I'd be fine, we walked by and I caught site of a red balloon and-- it was obvious that a child had been buried earlier that day. I broke down in sobs for the mother, all mothers, my fears.

I won't argue with a rabbi if you need to go, but if you don't want to go and you are pregnant, don't go and anyone who tries to make you is a jerk. Reply


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