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Avel - Chapter 14

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Avel - Chapter 14


It is a positive commandment of Rabbinic origin to visit the sick, comfort mourners, to prepare for a funeral, prepare a bride, accompany guests, attend to all the needs of a burial, carry a corpse on one's shoulders, walk before the bier, mourn, dig a grave, and bury the dead, and also to bring joy to a bride and groom and help them in all their needs. These are deeds of kindness that one carries out with his person that have no limit.

Although all these mitzvot are of Rabbinic origin, they are included in the Scriptural commandment Leviticus 19:18: "Love your neighbor as yourself." That charge implies that whatever you would like other people to do for you, you should do for your comrade in the Torah and mitzvot.


מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁל דִּבְרֵיהֶם לְבַקֵּר חוֹלִים. וּלְנַחֵם אֲבֵלִים. וּלְהוֹצִיא הַמֵּת. וּלְהַכְנִיס הַכַּלָּה. וּלְלַוּוֹת הָאוֹרְחִים. וּלְהִתְעַסֵּק בְּכָל צָרְכֵי הַקְּבוּרָה. לָשֵׂאת עַל הַכָּתֵף. וְלֵילֵךְ לְפָנָיו וְלִסְפֹּד וְלַחְפֹּר וְלִקְבֹּר. וְכֵן לְשַׂמֵּחַ הַכַּלָּה וְהֶחָתָן. וּלְסַעֲדָם בְּכָל צָרְכֵיהֶם. וְאֵלּוּ הֵן גְּמִילוּת חֲסָדִים שֶׁבְּגוּפוֹ שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם שִׁעוּר. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁכָּל מִצְוֹת אֵלּוּ מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם הֲרֵי הֵן בִּכְלַל (ויקרא יט יח) "וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ". כָּל הַדְּבָרִים שֶׁאַתָּה רוֹצֶה שֶׁיַּעֲשׂוּ אוֹתָם לְךָ אֲחֵרִים. עֲשֵׂה אַתָּה אוֹתָן לְאָחִיךְ בְּתוֹרָה וּבְמִצְוֹת:


The reward one receives for accompanying guests is greater than all of the others. This is a statute which Abraham our Patriarch instituted and the path of kindness which he would follow. He would feed wayfarers, provide them with drink, and accompany them. Showing hospitality for guests surpasses receiving the Divine Presence as Genesis 18:2 states: "And he saw and behold there were three people."

Accompanying them is greater than showing them hospitality. Our Sages said: "Whoever does not accompany them is considered as if he shed blood."


שְׂכַר הַלְּוָיָה מְרֻבֶּה מִן הַכּל. וְהוּא הַחֹק שֶׁחֲקָקוֹ אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ וְדֶרֶךְ הַחֶסֶד שֶׁנָּהַג בָּהּ. מַאֲכִיל עוֹבְרֵי דְּרָכִים וּמַשְׁקֶה אוֹתָן וּמְלַוֶּה אוֹתָן. וּגְדוֹלָה הַכְנָסַת אוֹרְחִים מֵהַקְבָּלַת פְּנֵי שְׁכִינָה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית יח ב) "וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים". וְלִוּוּיָם יוֹתֵר מֵהַכְנָסָתָן. אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים כָּל שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְלַוֶּה כְּאִלּוּ שׁוֹפֵךְ דָּמִים:


We compel people to accompany wayfarers in the same manner as we compel them to give charity. The court would prepare agents to accompany people who travel from place to place. If they were lax in this matter, it is considered as if they shed blood. Even a person who accompanies a colleague for four cubits will receive a great reward.

What is the extent to which a person must accompany a colleague? A teacher must accompany his student to the outskirts of the city. A person must accompany a colleague to the city's Sabbath limits. A student must accompany his teacher for a parsah. If he was his master teacher, he must accompany him until three parseot.


כּוֹפִין לִלְוָיָה כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁכּוֹפִין לִצְדָקָה. וּבֵית דִּין הָיוּ מְתַקְּנִין שְׁלוּחִין לְלַוּוֹת אָדָם הָעוֹבֵר מִמָּקוֹם לְמָקוֹם. וְאִם נִתְעַצְּלוּ בְּדָבָר זֶה מַעֲלֶה עֲלֵיהֶם כְּאִלּוּ שָׁפְכוּ דָּמִים. אֲפִלּוּ הַמְלַוֶּה אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ אַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת יֵשׁ לוֹ שָׂכָר הַרְבֵּה. וְכַמָּה שִׁעוּר לְוָיָה שֶׁחַיָּב אָדָם בָּהּ. הָרַב לְתַלְמִיד עַד עִבּוּרָהּ שֶׁל עִיר. וְהָאִישׁ לַחֲבֵרוֹ עַד תְּחוּם שַׁבָּת. וְהַתַּלְמִיד לָרַב עַד פַּרְסָה. וְאִם הָיָה רַבּוֹ מֻבְהָק עַד שָׁלֹשׁ פַּרְסָאוֹת:


It is a mitzvah incumbent on everyone to visit the sick. Even a person of great spiritual stature should visit one of lesser stature. One may visit many times during the day. Whoever increases the frequency of his visits is praiseworthy provided he does not become burdensome. Whoever visits a sick person removes a portion of his sickness and relieves him. Whoever does not visit the sick is consider as if he shed blood.


בִּקּוּר חוֹלִים מִצְוָה עַל הַכּל. אֲפִלּוּ גָּדוֹל מְבַקֵּר אֶת הַקָּטָן. וּמְבַקְּרִין הַרְבֵּה פְּעָמִים בַּיּוֹם. וְכָל הַמּוֹסִיף מְשֻׁבָּח וּבִלְבַד שֶׁלֹּא יַטְרִיחַ. וְכָל הַמְבַקֵּר אֶת הַחוֹלֶה כְּאִלּוּ נָטַל חֵלֶק מֵחָלְיוֹ וְהֵקֵל מֵעָלָיו. וְכָל שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְבַקֵּר כְּאִלּוּ שׁוֹפֵךְ דָּמִים:


We do not visit the sick except from the third day onward. If, however, a person became ill suddenly and his illness became very severe, he should be visited immediately.

We do not visit the sick during the first three hours of the day, nor in the last three hours because his attendants are tending to the sick person's needs. We do not visit patients with stomach illnesses, eye illnesses, or headaches because the visits are difficult for them.


אֵין מְבַקְּרִין אֶת הַחוֹלֶה אֶלָּא מִיּוֹם שְׁלִישִׁי וָהָלְאָה. וְאִם קָפַץ עָלָיו הַחלִי וְהִכְבִּיד מְבַקְּרִין אוֹתוֹ מִיָּד. וְאֵין מְבַקְּרִין אֶת הַחוֹלֶה לֹא בְּשָׁלֹשׁ שָׁעוֹת רִאשׁוֹנוֹת בַּיּוֹם. וְלֹא בְּשָׁלֹשׁ אַחֲרוֹנוֹת. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֵן מִתְעַסְּקִין בְּצָרְכֵי הַחוֹלֶה. וְאֵין מְבַקְּרִין לֹא חוֹלֵי מֵעַיִם וְלֹא חוֹלֵי הָעַיִן. וְלֹא מֵחוֹשֵׁי הָרֹאשׁ. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהַבִּקּוּר קָשֶׁה לָהֶן:


When one comes to visit a sick person, he should not sit on a bed, nor on a chair, nor on a bench, nor on a high place, nor above the invalid's head. Instead, he should wrap himself in a tallit, sit below his head, entreat God for mercy on his behalf and depart.


הַנִּכְנָס לְבַקֵּר אֶת הַחוֹלֶה לֹא יֵשֵׁב לֹא עַל גַּבֵּי מִטָּה וְלֹא עַל גַּבֵּי כִּסֵּא וְלֹא עַל גַּבֵּי סַפְסָל וְלֹא עַל גַּבֵּי מָקוֹם גָּבוֹהַּ וְלֹא לְמַעְלָה מִמְּרַאֲשׁוֹתָיו. אֶלָּא מִתְעַטֵּף וְיוֹשֵׁב לְמַטָּה מִמְּרַאֲשׁוֹתָיו וּמְבַקֵּשׁ עָלָיו רַחֲמִים וְיוֹצֵא:


It appears to me that comforting mourners takes precedence over visiting the sick. For comforting mourners is an expression of kindness to the living and the dead.


יֵרָאֶה לִי שֶׁנֶּחָמַת אֲבֵלִים קוֹדֵם לְבִקּוּר חוֹלִים. שֶׁנִּחוּם אֲבֵלִים גְּמִילוּת חֶסֶד עִם הַחַיִּים וְעִם הַמֵּתִים:


When a person is faced with either tending to a corpse or a bride, he should leave the bride and occupy himself with the corpse. Thus Ecclesiastes 7:4 states: "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning."

When a corpse and a bride confront each other on a road, the corpse is turned aside before the bride. Both of these should turn aside before a king


מִי שֶׁהָיָה לְפָנָיו מֵת וְכַלָּה. מֵנִיחַ אֶת הַכַּלָּה וּמִתְעַסֵּק עִם הַמֵּת. וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר (קהלת ז ד) "לֵב חֲכָמִים בְּבֵית אֵבֶל" וְגוֹ'. מֵת וְכַלָּה שֶׁפָּגְעוּ זֶה בָּזֶה בַּדֶּרֶךְ. מַעֲבִירִין אֶת הַמֵּת מִלִּפְנֵי הַכַּלָּה. וְזֶה וְזֶה עוֹבְרִין מִלִּפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ:


We nullify Torah study for a funeral and for a wedding. When does the above apply? When there are not enough people to care for a corpse. If there are enough people to care for it, Torah study should not be nullified. Whoever does not occupy himself with Torah study is obligated to occupy himself with the corpse.


מְבַטְּלִין תַּלְמוּד תּוֹרָה לְהוֹצָאַת הַמֵּת וּלְהַכְנָסַת הַכַּלָּה. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּשֶׁאֵין לוֹ כָּל צָרְכּוֹ. אֲבָל יֵשׁ לוֹ כָּל צָרְכּוֹ אֵין מְבַטְּלִין. וְכָל שֶׁאֵין מִתְעַסְּקִין בַּתּוֹרָה חַיָּבִין לְהִתְעַסֵּק עִמּוֹ:


If there is one corpse in a city, all the inhabitants of the city are forbidden to perform work until they bury him. If there is a person responsible for tending to the needs of funeral, the others are permitted.


מֵת אֶחָד בָּעִיר. כָּל בְּנֵי הָעִיר אֲסוּרִין בַּעֲשִׂיַּת מְלָאכָה עַד שֶׁיִּקְבְּרוּהוּ. וְאִם יֵשׁ לוֹ מִי שֶׁיִּתְעַסֵּק בִּצְרָכָיו מֻתָּרִין:


When a Torah scholar dies, unless there are 600,000 to accompany him, we nullify Torah study for his funeral. If there are 600,000, we do not nullify Torah study. If he would also teach others, there is no limit. Instead, we nullify everyone from their ordinary activity for his funeral.


תַּלְמִיד חָכָם שֶׁמֵּת. אֲפִלּוּ הָיוּ עִמּוֹ עַד שִׁשִּׁים רִבּוֹא מְבַטְּלִין תַּלְמוּד תּוֹרָה לְהוֹצָאָתוֹ. הָיוּ שִׁשִּׁים רִבּוֹא אֵין מְבַטְּלִין. וְאִם הָיָה מְלַמֵּד לַאֲחֵרִים אֵין לוֹ שִׁעוּר אֶלָּא מְבַטְּלִין הַכּל לְהוֹצָאָתוֹ:


We bury the dead of the gentiles, comfort their mourners, and visit their sick, as an expression of the ways of peace.


קוֹבְרִין מֵתֵי עַכּוּ''ם וּמְנַחֲמִין אֲבֵלֵיהֶם וּמְבַקְּרִין חוֹלֵיהֶם מִפְּנֵי דַּרְכֵי שָׁלוֹם:


It is forbidden to benefit from a cemetery. What is implied? We do not eat or drink, perform work read the Torah or study the Oral Law within them. The general principle is: We do not benefit from them nor act frivolously within them.

A person should not walk within four cubits of a grave with tefillin in his hand or a Torah scroll in his arm, nor should he pray there. At a distance of four cubits, this is permitted.


בָּתֵּי הַקְּבָרוֹת אֲסוּרִין בַּהֲנָאָה. כֵּיצַד. אֵין אוֹכְלִין בָּהֶן. וְאֵין שׁוֹתִין בָּהֶן. וְאֵין עוֹשִׂין בָּהֶן מְלָאכָה. וְלֹא קוֹרִין בָּהֶן וְלֹא שׁוֹנִין בָּהֶן. כְּלָלוֹ שֶׁל דָּבָר אֵין נֵאוֹתִין בָּהֶן. וְלֹא נוֹהֲגִין בָּהֶן קַלּוּת רֹאשׁ. לֹא יֵלֵךְ אָדָם בְּתוֹךְ אַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת שֶׁל קֶבֶר וּתְפִלִּין בְּיָדוֹ וְסֵפֶר תּוֹרָה בִּזְרוֹעוֹ. וְלֹא יִתְפַּלֵּל שָׁם. וּבְרִחוּק אַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת מֻתָּר:


When a person is transporting the bones of a corpse from one place to another, he should not put them in a leather sack, place them on a donkey and ride upon them, because this is treating them contemptuously. If he was afraid of thieves or robbers, this is permitted.


הַמּוֹלִיךְ עֲצָמוֹת מִמָּקוֹם לְמָקוֹם לֹא יִתְּנֵם בְּדִיסְקִיָּא וְיַנִּיחֵם עַל גַּבֵּי חֲמוֹרוֹ וְיִרְכַּב עֲלֵיהֶם. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁנּוֹהֵג בָּהֶן מִנְהַג בִּזָּיוֹן. וְאִם הָיָה מִתְיָרֵא מִפְּנֵי הַגַּנָּבִים וּמִפְּנֵי הַלִּיסְטִים מֻתָּר:


We do not move a corpse from one grave to another, even from a denigrating site to an honorable one. If the grave was located in another person's property, the corpse may be moved even from an honorable site to a denigrating one.


אֵין מְפַנִּין אֶת הַמֵּת מִקֶּבֶר לְקֶבֶר אֲפִלּוּ מִבָּזוּי לִמְכֻבָּד. וְאִם הָיָה בְּתוֹךְ שָׂדֵהוּ מְפַנֵּהוּ אֲפִלּוּ מִמְּכֻבָּד לְבָזוּי:


We do not bury one corpse on top of another, nor do we bury two corpses together, for this is denigrating. A baby who sleeps with his mother may be buried with her.


אֵין קוֹבְרִין מֵת עַל גַּבֵּי מֵת וְלֹא שְׁנֵי מֵתִים כְּאֶחָד שֶׁבִּזָּיוֹן הוּא. וְקָטָן הַיָּשֵׁן עִם אִמּוֹ נִקְבָּר עִמָּהּ:


It is not forbidden to benefit from the earth of a grave. For ordinary earth never becomes forbidden. It is, by contrast, forbidden to benefit from a building which is a grave.


עֲפַר הַקֶּבֶר אֵינוֹ אָסוּר בַּהֲנָאָה שֶׁאֵין קַרְקַע עוֹלָם נֶאֱסֶרֶת. אֲבָל קֶבֶר הַבִּנְיָן אָסוּר בַּהֲנָאָה:


When a person builds a grave for a deceased person, the grave does not become forbidden until the corpse is placed inside. Even if one places a stillborn infant in a grave, the prohibition against benefiting from it takes effect.


הַבּוֹנֶה קֶבֶר לְמֵת לֹא נֶאֱסַר עַד שֶׁיִּכָּנֵס בּוֹ הַמֵּת. וַאֲפִלּוּ הֵטִיל בּוֹ נֵפֶל נֶאֱסַר בַּהֲנָאָה:


The following rules apply when a monument is built for the sake of a living person and a corpse is placed within. If one row of bricks was added for the sake of the deceased person, it is forbidden to derive benefit from the entire monument even after the corpse was removed from there. If one recognized the addition, one may remove it and then the remainder is permitted. If the monument was made for the sake of the deceased, once the corpse was placed in it, it becomes forbidden even though the corpse was removed.


נֶפֶשׁ שֶׁנַּעֲשָׂה לְשֵׁם חַי וְשָׂם בּוֹ הַמֵּת. וְהוֹסִיף בּוֹ דִּימוֹס אַחֵר לְשֵׁם הַמֵּת. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁפִּנָּה הַמֵּת הַכּל אָסוּר בַּהֲנָאָה. וְאִם הִכִּיר אֶת הַתּוֹסֶפֶת חוֹלֵץ אוֹתָהּ וְהַשְּׁאָר מֻתָּר. נַעֲשָׂה לְשֵׁם הַמֵּת כֵּיוָן שֶׁהֻטַּל בּוֹ הַמֵּת נֶאֱסַר אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁפִּנָּהוּ:


When a person builds a grave for his father and then buries his father's corpse in another grave, he should never bury another corpse in that grave. Instead, it is forbidden to benefit from this grave forever as an expression of respect for his father.


הַבּוֹנֶה קֶבֶר לְאָבִיו וְהָלַךְ וּקְבָרוֹ בְּקֶבֶר אַחֵר. הֲרֵי זֶה לֹא יִקָּבֵר בּוֹ מֵת אַחֵר עוֹלָמִית. וְהַקֶּבֶר הַזֶּה אָסוּר בַּהֲנָאָה מִפְּנֵי כְּבוֹד אָבִיו:


It is forbidden to benefit from a corpse with the exception of its hair. One may benefit from hair, because it is not his body. Similarly, it is forbidden to benefit from the coffin and the shrouds. There is no prohibition against benefiting from garments prepared to be used as shrouds. Even if one knitted a garment to be used for a corpse, they are not forbidden until they reach the bier which is buried with him. For designation of an article to be used for a corpse does not cause it to be forbidden.


הַמֵּת אָסוּר בַּהֲנָאָה כֻּלּוֹ. חוּץ מִשְּׂעָרוֹ שֶׁהוּא מֻתָּר בַּהֲנָאָה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵינוֹ גּוּפוֹ. וְכֵן אֲרוֹנוֹ וְכָל תַּכְרִיכָיו אֲסוּרִין בַּהֲנָאָה. אֲבָל כֵּלִים הַמּוּכָנִים לְתַכְרִיךְ לֹא נֶאֶסְרוּ בַּהֲנָאָה. אֲפִלּוּ אָרַג בֶּגֶד לְמֵת לֹא נֶאֱסַר עַד שֶׁיַּגִּיעַ בַּמִּטָּה הַנִּקְבֶּרֶת עִמּוֹ. שֶׁאֵין הַהַזְמָנָה אוֹסֶרֶת:


It is forbidden to benefit from all the garments thrown upon the deceased on the bier which is buried with him, so that because of them, confusion will not arise with regard to shrouds.


כָּל הַכֵּלִים שֶׁזּוֹרְקִין עַל הַמֵּת עַל הַמִּטָּה הַנִּקְבֶּרֶת עִמּוֹ אֲסוּרִין בַּהֲנָאָה. שֶׁלֹּא יִתְחַלְּפוּ בַּתַּכְרִיכִין:


If a person's father or mother were throwing garments on the bier in their extreme aggravation, it is a mitzvah for others to save them. If they reached the bier which is buried with the corpse, we do not save them.


הָיוּ אָבִיו וְאִמּוֹ מְזָרְקִין כֵּלִים בַּחֲמָתָן עַל הַמֵּת. מִצְוָה עַל אֲחֵרִים לְהַצִּילָן. וְאִם הִגִּיעוּ לַמִּטָּה הַנִּקְבֶּרֶת עִמּוֹ אֵין מַצִּילִין אוֹתָן:


We teach a person that he should not recklessly destroy property and throw it to oblivion. It is better to give it to the poor than to throw it to maggots and worms. Whoever casts many articles on a deceased person violates the commandment against destroying property.


מְלַמְּדִין אֶת הָאָדָם שֶׁלֹּא יְהֵא חַבְּלָן וְלֹא יַפְסִיד אֶת הַכֵּלִים וְיַשְׁלִיכֵם לְחַבָּלָה. מוּטָב לְתִתָּם לַעֲנִיִּים וְאַל יַשְׁלִיכֵם לְרִמָּה וְתוֹלֵעָה. וְכָל הַמַּרְבֶּה כֵּלִים עַל הַמֵּת עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַשְׁחִית:


When a king dies, we ruin the horse that he would ride upon and the calf that pulls the wagon in which he would sit. We cut off its hooves from below the knee, a place that does not render it trefe.

We convene a yeshivah at his grave for seven days, as II Chronicles 32:33 states: "They honored him in his death." Our Sages interpret this as meaning: they convened a yeshivah at his grave. When a nasi dies, we do not nullify his yeshivah for more than 30 days.


מֶלֶךְ שֶׁמֵּת עוֹקְרִין סוּס שֶׁהָיָה רוֹכֵב עָלָיו. וְעֶגְלָה שֶׁהָיְתָה מוֹשֶׁכֶת בַּקָּרוֹן שֶׁהָיָה יוֹשֵׁב בּוֹ מְנַשֵּׁר פַּרְסוֹתֶיהָ מִן הָאַרְכֻּבָּה וּלְמַטָּה מָקוֹם שֶׁאֵין עוֹשֶׂה אוֹתָהּ טְרֵפָה. וּמוֹשִׁיבִין יְשִׁיבָה עַל קִבְרוֹ שִׁבְעָה יָמִים. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברי הימים ב לב לג) "וְכָבוֹד עָשׂוּ לוֹ בְמוֹתוֹ" זֶה שֶׁהוֹשִׁיבוּ לוֹ יְשִׁיבָה עַל קִבְרוֹ. וְנָשִׂיא שֶׁמֵּת אֵין מְבַטְּלִין יְשִׁיבָתוֹ יֶתֶר עַל שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם:


When a king or a nasi dies, one may burn his bed and all his personal utensils. This is not considered as an Amorite or destructive practice. For Jeremiah 34:5 states: "You shall die in peace, and as they made pyres for your ancestors, the earlier kings..., they will make pyres for you."


מֶלֶךְ אוֹ נָשִׂיא שֶׁמֵּת יֵשׁ לָהֶן לִשְׂרֹף מִטָּתוֹ וְכָל כְּלֵי תַּשְׁמִישׁוֹ. וְאֵין בָּזֶה דֶּרֶךְ הָאֱמוֹרִי. וְלֹא מִשּׁוּם הַשְׁחָתָה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ירמיה לד ה) "בְּשָׁלוֹם תָּמוּת וּבְמִשְׂרְפוֹת אֲבוֹתֶיךָ הָרִאשֹׁנִים" (ירמיה לד ה) "יִשְׂרְפוּ לָךְ":

Blessed be God who grants assistance.

בְּרִיךְ רַחֲמָנָא דְּסַיְּעָן

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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The text on this page contains sacred literature. Please do not deface or discard.