Hi, I am writing an article on cemetery gatherings, sort of like a how-to piece. I was just reading an article on the site, by Maurice Lamm, that states it is inappropriate to bring a Torah into the cemetery as well as to eat/drink there. Why would doing those things be inappropriate, according to Jewish customs? I am not disagreeing, I am simply writing an article that includes the views of those who take an informal approach and those who take a more formal approach.


Throughout one's lifetime, the body partners with the soul, together performing G‑d's will in this physical world. As such, though the soul departs from the body upon death, the body deserves to be accorded appropriate respect. An object with which a mitzvah has been performed – e.g., a Torah Scroll or a mezuzah – assumes a degree of sanctity; how much more so the human body, which was instrumental in performing countless mitzvot.

(In addition, according to the Zohar1, part of the soul retains its connection with the body even after death.)

Jewish law, therefore, requires that we treat a cemetery – the final home to so many bodies – with utmost respect. Within the perimeters of a cemetery, frivolous or unfocused activity is not considered acceptable2. Furthermore, as a sign of respect, we derive no personal use or benefit from a cemetery.3 Eating or drinking in a cemetery would be considered: a) utilizing the cemetery grounds for personal benefit, and, b) not in accordance with expected decorum.4

As for bringing a Torah into a cemetery, this has to do with flaunting our mitzvahs before the dead. I'll explain:

The sages teach in the Mishnah 5, "One moment of the satisfaction of the World to Come is more beautiful than all the life of this world." There, the soul of the deceased can experience the joy and ecstasy of spiritual revelations unimaginable in our coarse material world. Nevertheless, none of that can compare to the ultimate experience, which can only be achieved in this world—as they also teach in that very same Mishnah, "One moment of return and good deeds in this world is more beautiful than all the life of the World To Come."

One way of explaining this: In that spiritual World-To-Come, full of light and wisdom, a soul sees the truth. In this dark world of ignorance, however, we may not see truth with any clarity at all—yet we are the workers who are piercing the darkness to bring that truth and light into this world and transform it. And though we, the living, may not fully feel the joy that this generates Above, it is this transformation which is G‑d's ultimate and deepest desire. After the soul has passed on from this world, it no longer can actively be a part of this. Indeed, the souls are envious of their counterparts still invested within physical bodies.

Considering the above, it would be hurtful and insensitive to taunt the dead by flaunting before them a Torah Scroll, a reminder of all the mitzvot they cannot perform while in their purely spiritual state.6