I recently attended a close friend’s funeral. When I asked why there was no eulogy, I was told that it is not the Chabad custom. I find this rather surprising. In my opinion, a eulogy honors the deceased and celebrates all the beautiful deeds and qualities he or she possessed. Why is this not done in Chabad?


You are correct. It is a mitzvah to eulogize a person who has passed away, for it brings great honor to the deceased.1 The custom dates back to Abraham, who eulogized his wife, Sarah,2 and throughout the ages eulogizing was considered an honor generally given to the most respected people in the community. In fact, Jewish literature includes eulogies of some of the greatest sages in our history. In recent times, however, many chassidic groups, including Chabad, refrain from delivering a eulogy at a funeral,3 for several key reasons:

1: Words Matter

Tradition tells us that when a person passes away, their soul is brought before the heavenly court. Before the deliberations begin, G‑d sends angels to earth to hear what is being said about the deceased.4 The angels’ report is examined to determine whether everything said about the person is in fact true. If their descriptions are found to be false, those very same angels turn into prosecuting forces against both the deceased and the eulogist.5

We are told that Rabbi Nachman strongly questioned the glowing description given in a certain eulogy. Why was he so insistent on questioning the eulogist? The Talmud explains, “Just as the deceased is punished, so are those who eulogize him and those who acknowledge the eulogy.”6

Rabbeinu Asher (Rosh) explains that by inflating or fabricating the good qualities of the deceased, we are actually uncovering and displaying their shortcomings, for which they are then punished. The eulogist, whose words caused the subject of his eulogy to be punished, is punished as well.7 Thus Jewish law mandates that one be careful not to exaggerate the qualities of the deceased when eulogizing.8

Because there is a natural tendency to overstate or even fabricate good deeds or qualities, many skirt the issue by not giving a eulogy at all.9

2: The Blessing of Modesty

G‑d showers blessings upon things done in a modest and discreet fashion.10 Conversely, matters which are done in a public and open setting can attract undue negative attention. In order to retain the element of modesty—and access the blessings that come along with it—many forgo the eulogy.

Moreover, by forgoing the honor of a eulogy, one achieves additional atonement for one’s sins.11

3: The Benefit to the Soul

It is a mitzvah to bury the dead as quickly as possible, because the soul cannot continue its ascent through the heavenly spheres until the body has been interred.12 To hasten this process, we skip the eulogy and bury the body immediately.13

It is important to not give a eulogy at the funeral of someone who follows this custom, even if the person is someone well respected whom people wish to honor.14 But after the third day of the seven-day mourning period, one may recount stories and memories of the deceased without concern for the above issues.15

May we merit the day when G‑d “will swallow up death forever; and the L‑rd G‑d will wipe away tears from all faces . . .”16

Wishing you much comfort for your loss.