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Cemetery, Grave and Tombstone

Cemetery, Grave and Tombstone

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Beit Hachayim
The Jewish Cemetery

According to Jewish law, a Jew should be buried among Jews. It is forbidden for a Jew to be buried in a mixed- denomination cemetery, or in a cemetery that allows the burial of questionably converted Jews.

Should a situation arise where a non-observant parent or loved one acquired a plot in such a cemetery, a rabbi who specializes in this area of Jewish law should be consulted.

The Kever - Grave

A kosher grave is one in which the casket is laid directly in the ground, and covered with earth until it is full and a small mound is formed on top. The grave should be at least forty inches deep, and wide and long enough for the casket.

Above-ground burial is strictly forbidden according to Jewish law, and Kabbalah adds that all alternative burial options interfere severely with the eternal rest of the soul.

Some communities bury their loved ones in family plots, or side-by-side in the case of a spouse. Other communities will bury men and women in separate sections. Both of these approaches are permissible. One should follow the custom of his community or ask a competent rabbi for guidance.

The planting of grass or flowers on the grave is discouraged. Besides involving several transgressions, it is seen as following in the way of the gentiles.

The Matzeivah or Tzion - Tombstone

Setting a tombstone at the gravesite has been a custom among Jews since Biblical times and is a fitting way to honor the deceased. The tombstone is usually placed at the head of the grave, and the plot outlined with a low lying frame.

Many erect the tombstone on the day after Shiva (which is eight days from burial). Others wait until the Shloshim (thirty days), and still others wait twelve months. One should follow the custom of his community.

The tombstone should be made from stone or granite. It should be similar to those around it, to avoid embarrassing those whocannot afford an ornate tombstone. This does not apply to erecting a special monument for a great Torah leader and sage.

It is customary to engrave the Hebrew name of the deceased and his or her father's name, as well as the Hebrew date and year of passing on the tombstone. Some also add the name of community where he lived or the name of the Tzaddik or sage whom the deceased followed.

On all tombstones one adds the Hebrew letters תנצב''ה, which in acrostic form means "May his (her) soul be bound in the binding of life." Others write on the heading פ"נ , which means "Here is buried."

When preparing the text for the tombstone, one should avoid embellishing the deceased's qualities and praises, since some believe that the soul will have to account for what is written there during judgment.

Carving or engraving the form of a human being on the tombstone and mounting any pictures is forbidden.

It is best to use only the Hebrew language for writing on the tombstone. It is also highly advisable to review the text with the Chevra Kaddisha or a competent rabbi before ordering the tombstone.

The Jewish Learning Group creates plain language how-to guides on Jewish law and custom, traditional prayer texts with transliteration and instruction, and educational audio and video guides. Their innovative products help people attain the rudimentary knowledge and confidence needed to build, lead, and further their Jewish observance at a comfortable and gradual pace.
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Discussion (4)
December 2, 2012
Avi,
Thank you for replying. The cemetery president informed me that someone would have had to sign a declaration saying that my father was Jewish. I suspect it may have been his wife at the time of his death, his third wife, not my mother.
In any case, the cemetery president stated in essence that since he had the signature, he was not interested in pursuing the matter.
I am not opposed to mixed burials. What I am opposed to is that his choice not to convert was ignored, and he was buried as a Jew with a rabbi in attendance. I also feel as if the cemetery's continued advertisement to the public that it is exclusive is somewhat misleading to those who for religious reasons are opposed to mixed burial.
To me, religion is a serious matter, and I personally believe that each person's choice in the matter should be respected, even when, or perhaps especially when, he is no longer in the position to defend his wishes.
Becoming Jewish by a signature trivializes the faith.
Lucille Hollander
Alvin, Texas
December 1, 2012
Mixed burial
Hi Lucille, That's actually really bizarre that the cemetery allowed a non-Jew to be buried there. Indeed, there is no such thing as post-mortem conversion, and rest assured, your father is still Catholic. Perhaps there were extenuating circumstances at the time of burial that allowed for the error (like, if your mother insisted that he be buried in a Jewish cemetery-but that sounds like a detail you would have included-, or if the officiating rabbi neglected to ask about his faith). In any case, if what you are saying is correct, maybe the body should be exhumed. I think the best thing to do is to contact a Catholic cemetery/ member of the clergy in NJ and ask them how to proceed.
Avi
Toronto
September 16, 2012
Mixed burial
I have continued to ask and question why my Catholic father was buried at the Riverside Cemetery in Saddlebrook, New Jersey. I have spoken to several rabbis and all tell me unequivocally that there is no post-mortem conversion in the Jewish faith.
This cemetery continues to advertise that it is exclusive. If my father was not converted after his death, he is still a Catholic.
How can this be?
Lucille Hollander
Alvin, Texas
August 5, 2012
Mixed burial
My non Jewish father was buried in his still living wife's family plot. However, he was buried as a Jew, dressed with a yarmulke, and the cemetery president assures me that his cemetery is exclusively for those of the Jewish faith. While I am not opposed to a mixed burial, I am opposed to forcibly changing a choice that a person made in life (my father chose not to convert) and essentially making someone Jewish after their death. It seems to me that his choice made during his life should have been respected, and that the allegation that this cemetery is exclusively for those of the Jewish faith is a fiction if the conversion was post mortem.
Lucille Hollander
Alvin, Texas

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