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Should I Buy a Burial Plot?

Should I Buy a Burial Plot?

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Question:

Many of my friends who are in their 70s are making arrangements for their Jewish burials, so that the burden won’t fall on their children. Is this appropriate? Or are we to simply leave our final requests in writing for our family when we are no longer in this world?

Answer:

You know the story of the charming husband who bought his wife a burial plot for her birthday? The next year he didn’t buy her anything. When she asked why, he responded, “I bought you a gift last year, and you didn’t use it.”

It’s a horrible joke. But even bad jokes have some truth to them. The sages of the Midrash advise us to purchase a burial plot even while we are still alive and well.1 And it is commonly said that doing so will actually bless one with a long life. So this guy’s wife should be blessed with good health for many years to come.

Although some write that this blessing does not appear to be written in any classical Jewish source,2 it is possible to explain it psychologically. The fear of dying, like the fear of anything, saps our energy. Buying a burial plot may help normalize death, which will prevent us from becoming preoccupied with it.

Another suggested explanation: It is ordained in heaven how much income each person makes in a year. This includes the burial society—a certain amount of money will come to them each year. Unfortunately, they make a living from people dying. So there needs to be a certain number of funerals each year. But if you pay your funeral costs in advance, then they get the money that is coming to them, and you can live on.

Death is an unpleasant topic, but we all have to face it. Our emphasis should always be on life, not its opposite. But on occasion, a gentle reminder of our mortality can motivate us to use our time wisely. May we all live for many years, and may those years be filled with meaningful days.

Footnotes
1.
Vayikra Rabbah 5:5. See also Talmud, Bava Batra 112a; Shiltei Gibborim, Sanhedrin, end of ch. 6; Responsa of Maharam Mintz 18; Maavor Yabbok, p. 208.
2.
See Orchot Rabbeinu ha-Kehillat Yaakov 4, p. 108.
Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Anonymous via jewishmonroeville.com November 24, 2017

My wife and I purchased burial plots several years ago in the cemetery where 3 generations of our family are buried. Our children had no idea of what our wishes were because they didn't want to talk about it though we told them death was not something to fear. We also belong to the Jewish Burial Society in our area ensuring that we will have "Kosher Burials". The Orthodox Rabbi was in agreement with everything that we did. Reply

Pesach Melbourne August 12, 2016

Ummmm Thanks for the information, but I feel unfulfilled and let down by this article. Reply

Yehudis Brooklyn August 10, 2016

Rabbi Moss did not give a clear answer to the question of buying a plot while still living. What is the basis for the "segulah" to live long by buying a plot in advance? Reply

mendy elbrook August 9, 2016

why take death for granted? shouldn"t we be anticipating Moshiach"s immediately? why are we certain that we will die? Reply

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