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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 47a

Come and hear! In whose eyes a vile person is despised1  — this refers to Hezekiah, king of Judah, who had his father's remains dragged upon a pallet made of ropes.2  But if it [the respect paid to the dead] is in honour of the living, why [did he do so]?3  — It was in order that his father might obtain forgiveness. And for the sake of his father's atonement he disregarded4  the honour of Israel! — Israel itself was pleased to have its honour violated for his sake.

Come and hear! He5  said to them:6  Do not hold funeral orations over me in the [small] towns.7  Now, should you maintain that it is in honour of the living, what did it matter to him? — He wished that Israel might be honoured through him, in greater measure.

Come and hear! IF HE KEPT HIM OVER NIGHT FOR THE SAKE OF HIS HONOUR, TO PROCURE FOR HIM A COFFIN OR A SHROUD HE DOES NOT TRANSGRESS THEREBY. Now surely that [sc. FOR THE SAKE OF HIS HONOUR] means, for the honour of the dead?8  — No: for the honour of the living. And for the sake of the honour of the living the dead is to be kept overnight! — Yes When did the Merciful One say, His body shall not remain all night upon the tree,9  only in a case similar to be hanged, where it [the keeping of the corpse] involves disgrace;10  but here, where there is no disgrace11  it does not apply.

Come and hear! If he [the relative] kept him overnight for his own honour, so as to inform the [neighbouring] towns of his death, or to bring professional women mourners for him,12  or to procure for him a coffin or a shroud, he does not transgress thereby, for all that he does is only for the honour of the deceased!13  — What he [the Tanna] means is this: Nothing that is done for the honour of the living involves dishonour to the dead.

Come and hear! R. Nathan said: It is of good omen for the dead when he is punished [in this world] after death. E.g., if one dies and is not mourned, or [properly] buried, or if a wild beast drags him along, or if rain drips down on his bier, it is a good omen for him.14  We may infer therefore from this that the funeral rites are in honour of the dead.15  This proves it.

AND THEY DID NOT BURY HIM etc. And why such severity?16  — Because a wicked man may not be buried beside a righteous one. For R. Aha b. Hanina said: Whence is it inferred that a wicked man may not be buried beside a righteous one? — From the verse, And it came to pass as they were burying a man that behold they spied a band and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elishah, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elishah, he revived and stood up on his feet.17  Said R. Papa to him, Perhaps that was only to fulfil [the request], Let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me?18  — Thereupon he retorted: If so, what of that which was taught: [He only] arose on his feet, but did not return home?19  Then what of, Let a double portion of thy spirit etc. where is it found that he resurrected [two people]? — As R. Johanan said: He healed the leprosy of Naaman,20  which is the equivalent of death, as it is written, Let her not, I pray Thee, be as one dead.21

And just as a wicked person is not buried beside a righteous one, so is a grossly wicked person not to be buried beside one moderately wicked. Then should there not have been four graveyards?22  — It is a tradition that there should be but two.

'Ulla said in R. Johanan's name: If one ate forbidden fat23  and thereupon dedicated a sacrifice,24  abjured his faith, but subsequently returned, since it [the offering] has [once] been invalidated,25  it remains so. It has been stated likewise: R. Jeremiah said in the name of R. Abbahu in R. Johanan's name; If one ate forbidden fat and thereupon dedicated a sacrifice, became insane, but later recovered, since it [the sacrifice] has once been invalidated.26  it remains so. And both rulings are necessary. For had he taught us the first one only, [one might have assumed that] it is because he had rendered himself unfit [to offer a sacrifice] by his own action;27  but as for the latter case [insanity], where he was automatically unfitted, I might say that he is [merely] as a person who has slept [in the meantime].28  Again, had he taught us only the latter, [one might have thought that] it was because it was not in his power to recover; but there [in the case of apostasy], since it was in his power to return, one might say that it does not [remain invalidated]. Both rulings are therefore necessary.

R. Joseph said: We too have learnt similarly: If there are holy objects therein,29  that which is dedicated to the altar [i.e.. sacrifices] must die;30  to the Temple repair, must be redeemed.31  Now we pondered thereon, Why should they die? Since they [the inhabitants of the condemned city] are executed, they obtain forgiveness: should they [the sacrifices] not then be offered to Heaven!32  Surely then is it not so because we hold that once invalidated, they remain so? Abaye retorted; Do you then think that he who dies in his wickedness obtains forgiveness [by his death]? Nay, he who dies in his wickedness does not obtain forgiveness, for R. Shemaiah learnt: One might have thought that even if his [the priest's] parents had dissociated themselves from the practices of the congregation,33  he [the priest] may defile himself:34  but Scripture states, among his people35  teaching, that it is so provided he [the parent] has followed the practices of his people.36  Said Raba to him: Dost thou compare one who was executed in his wickedness to one who died in his wickedness? In the latter case, since he dies a natural death, he attains no forgiveness;37  but in the former, since he does not die a natural death, he obtains forgiveness [by the mere execution]. In proof thereof, it is written, A Psalm of Asaph, O God, the heathen are come into Thine inheritance; they have defiled Thy Holy Temple… They have given the dead bodies of Thy servants to be food unto the fowls of the heaven; the flesh of Thy saints onto the beasts of the earth.38  Who are meant by 'Thy servants,' and who by 'Thy saints'? Surely 'thy saints' means literally, saints, whereas, 'thy servants' means those who were at first liable to sentence [of death], but having been slain, are designated 'servants'.39  Abaye retorted: Would you compare

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Ps. XV, 4. in answer to the question in verse 1: Who shall sojourn in Thy Tabernacle?
  2. A rude bed made out of ropes so depriving him of a kingly burial, his object being to show that the deceased deserved contempt because of his wickedness in spreading heathendom in Israel. The act could not be viewed as transgression of the fifth commandment, as the latter does not apply to a father who is wicked. — V. Yeb. 22b on the verse, Nor curse a prince among thy people (Ex. XXII, 27). — Again, he did not consider his own honour, as is deduced from the verse quoted above.
  3. Surely he had no right to deprive the living of their due.
  4. Lit., 'delayed'.
  5. R. Judah, the Prince (135-220 C.E.), who died in Sepphoris and was carried to Beth She'arim for burial. V. Keth. 103a.
  6. His sons. So Rashi. From the context in Keth. it appears that the request among other testamentary wishes, was made to the Sages.
  7. But only in the more important towns where there would be larger audience.
  8. Hence it follows that anything done in connection with the dead is for the honour of the dead.
  9. Deut. XXI, 22, in connection with the criminal from whom this procedure has been deduced for all other dead.
  10. I.e., the longer the body remains exposed, the greater the disgrace; and even in the case of an ordinary person, if the funeral is delayed without cause, but simply out of neglect, it is likewise accounted a disgrace to the dead, therefore it is forbidden.
  11. The delay not being due to neglect (v. preceding note), but to the needs of the living.
  12. V. Jer. IX, 16, and cf. M. K. III, 9.
  13. Hence it follows that funeral orations are for the deceased's honour.
  14. That his sins will be forgiven.
  15. For otherwise why should any such disgrace have an atoning effect?
  16. As to have two burial grounds.
  17. II Kings XIII, 21. According to tradition, the man buried was the old prophet of Beth-El (I Kings XIII, 1; v. infra p. 312, and note a.l.). Hence it is seen that it is not the Divine Will to have a wicked man buried with a righteous.
  18. II Kings II, 9. This was Elishah's request of Elijah. Hence, since the latter had restored one person from death (cf. I Kings XVII, 22), Elishah should have restored two, whereas he had as yet restored but one — the son of the Shunamite (II Kings IV) Thus this incident does not prove that a wicked man may not be buried beside a good man.
  19. I.e., he did not live for more than a few minutes: surely that is not a fulfilment! Hence the reason of the man's momentary resurrection must have been because the wicked must not be buried beside the righteous.
  20. V. II Kings V.
  21. Num XII, 12, with reference to Miriam, who was stricken with leprosy.
  22. One for each mode of execution since these varied in severity.
  23. V. Lev. III, 17.
  24. To atone for his sin. Cf. Lev. IV, 27-28.
  25. Lit., 'repelled'. Sacrifices are not accepted from apostates Cf. Hul. 5b.
  26. Because he lacked the intelligence to be cognisant of his doing. v. 'Ar. 21a.
  27. In becoming a apostate.
  28. Where no suspension is caused by the normal intermediary gap in one's intelligent consciousness.
  29. The condemned city, all the property of which save holy things, have to be destroyed. Deut XIII, 16.
  30. Even though not destroyed, they cannot he offered, v. infra 112b.
  31. Just as all other objects intended for the repair-fund.
  32. Lit., 'the (most) High'. Since after death their offerings cannot be classed as offerings of the wicked
  33. E.g., if they (the parents) had been apostates.
  34. Through their dead bodies, attending in their funerals, etc.
  35. The whole passage reads: 'Speak unto the priests the sons of Aaron, and say unto them, There shall none be defiled for the dead among his people. But for his kin, that is near unto him, that is, for his mother, and for his father etc. Lev. XXI, 1-2. By linking 'among his people' (as interpreted here) with the following verse, 'But for his kin, etc.' it is deduced that only then may a priest defile himself, but not if his parents were, e.g., apostates.
  36. Hence death does not bring forgiveness if one had died in his wickedness.
  37. By mere death without repentance.
  38. Ps. LXXIX, 1-2.
  39. Having attained expiation through execution.

Sanhedrin 47b

those who are slain by a [Gentile] Government,1  to those who are executed by the Beth din? The former, since their death is not in accordance with [Jewish] law, obtain forgiveness; but the latter, whose death is justly merited, are not [thereby] forgiven. This can also he proved from what we learnt: THEY DID NOT BURY HIM IN HIS ANCESTRAL TOMB. And if you should imagine that having been executed, he attains forgiveness: he should be buried [with his fathers]! — Both death and [shameful] burial2  are necessary [for forgiveness].3

R. Adda b. Ahabah objected: THEY OBSERVED NO MOURNING RITES, BUT GRIEVED FOR HIM FOR GRIEF IS BORNE ONLY IN THE HEART. But should you think that having been [shamefully] buried, he attains forgiveness, they should observe mourning rites! — The decay of the flesh too is necessary.4  This also follows from what he [the Tanna] teaches: WHEN THE FLESH WAS COMPLETELY DECOMPOSED, THE BONES WERE GATHERED AND BURIED IN THEIR PROPER PLACE.5  This proves it.

R. Ashi said: When do the mourning rites commence? From the closing of the grave with the grave stone.6  When is atonement effected? After the bodies have experienced a little of the pains of the grave.7  Therefore, since they [the mourning rites] have once been suspended,8  they remain so. If so, why must the flesh be consumed?9  — Because it is impossible [otherwise].10

It was the practice of people to take earth from Rab's grave and apply it [as a remedy] on the first day of an attack of fever. When Samuel was told of it,11  he said: They do well; it is natural12  soil, and natural soil does not become forbidden, for it is written, And he cast the dust thereof13  upon the graves of the common people:14  thus he compares the graves of the common people to idols. Just as [the use of] idols is not forbidden when they are 'attached,'15  for it is written, [Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations] that ye are to dispossess served their gods, upon the high mountains,16  their gods which are upon the high mountains [are forbidden for use], but not the mountains which themselves are their gods;17  so here too, what is 'attached' [i.e., what belongs to the dead] is not forbidden.

An objection is raised: 'If one hews a grave for his [dead] father and then goes and buries him elsewhere, he himself may never he buried therein'?18  — The reference here is to a built grave.19  Come and hear! 'A fresh grave20  may be used. But if an abortion had been laid therein, it is forbidden for use'?21  — Here too, the reference is to a built grave.

Come and hear! 'Thus we see22  that there are three kinds of graves:23  A grave that has been found;24  a known grave;25  and one which injures the public.26  A grave that has been found may be cleared;27  when cleared, the place thereof is [levitically] clean and permitted for use.28  A known grave may not be cleared; if it has been, the spot is unclean and forbidden for use.29  A grave which injures the public may be cleared; if it has been, the place thereof is clean but may not be used'?30  — Here too, the reference is to a built grave. But may a grave that was found be evacuated? Perhaps a meth-mizwah was buried therein; and a meth-mezwah takes possession of his place of burial!31  A meth-mizwah is quite different, since its existence is generally known.32

It has been stated: If one wove a shroud for a dead person: Abaye rules, it is forbidden;33  Raba says, It is permitted. 'Abaye rules, It is forbidden;' [he holds,] designation is a material act.34  'Raba says, It is permitted;' designation is not a material act. What is Abaye's reason? — He deduces [identity of law] from the use of 'sham' [there] both here [with reference to the dead] and in connection with the broken-necked heifer.35  Just as the broken-necked heifer becomes forbidden through designation,36  so this too37  becomes prohibited through designation. But Raba makes his deduction from the use of sham both here and in connection with idol-worship.38  Just as in idol-worship mere designation imposes no prohibition,39  so here too, it does not become forbidden through designation. But why does Raba not make his deduction from the broken-necked heifer? — He answers you:

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Such as that referred to in the Psalm.
  2. I.e., in the criminals' graveyard.
  3. The inhabitants of the condemned city, therefore, having undergone both punishments, obtained forgiveness on this view, and their offerings could have been accepted, but for the reason that, having been once invalidated, they remained so.
  4. For forgiveness.
  5. Proving that only then is the crime fully expiated
  6. [H] from [H] 'to roll,' so called because it can be rolled away. This is not to be confused with the modern tombstone, but was a stone placed on top of the grave immediately it was filled in.
  7. The process of decay in the earth was believed to be painful to the body. Cf. Ber. 18b, 'The worm is as painful to the flesh of the dead, as the needle to the flesh of the living.
  8. In the interval between the covering of the grave and the experiencing of pains in the grave. Since forgiveness had not yet been obtained, the dead are yet accounted wicked, and therefore no mourning rites are necessary.
  9. Before they can bury him in the family vault.
  10. I.e., owing to the decomposition of the body, it is impossible to remove the remains before the flesh is completely destroyed.
  11. Thus calling his attention to their use of an object belonging to the dead, which is forbidden. Cf. A.Z. 29b.
  12. Lit., 'world'.
  13. Of the Ashera.
  14. II Kings XXIII, 6.
  15. The technical term for soil, mountains, etc., and things growing therein.
  16. Deut. XII, 2.
  17. I.e., only detached idols are forbidden for use, but if natural earth (which includes mountains) is worshipped, it is not thereby forbidden for use.
  18. Because having been prepared for a particular corpse, it may not be used for anyone else. Now, it is assumed that this holds good even if it was dug for any corpse, 'father' being mentioned merely because that is the usual thing. Thus we see that even natural soil is under the same prohibition.
  19. [A grave erected within the excavation (Yad Ramah).] Such a grave is not regarded as part of the soil, and, had it been prepared for any other person, would not have been forbidden. The prohibition here, however, is on account of filial respect.
  20. One just dug and not yet assigned to any dead body.
  21. The argument is that even natural soil must be forbidden.
  22. Lit., 'it is found that thou sayest.
  23. I.e., which are separate and distinct in the laws pertaining to them.
  24. One in which a dead body had been buried by stealth, and without the consent of the owner of the ground, i.e., it has only now been found to be a grave.
  25. In which a body was buried with the consent of the owner.
  26. E.g., which lies in a thoroughfare.
  27. I.e., the bones may be transferred elsewhere.
  28. Since the burial took place without the knowledge of the owner of the ground, the dead man does not 'take possession of the place' (v. infra for the meaning of that phrase).
  29. This is a precautionary measure against the unwarranted transference of bones.
  30. This proves that natural soil can also be prohibited.
  31. I.e., it becomes his, whether it had a right to the soil in the first place or not. This is one of the ten enactments of Joshua on entering the land. Cf B.K. 81a.
  32. Lit., 'he has a voice'. I.e., the discovery of such was broadcast, and his burial was not really a secret unknown to the owner.
  33. To be used for any other purpose.
  34. I.e., mere designation for the dead subjects it to the same law as though it has been employed for the purpose.
  35. In connection with the dead: And Miriam died there and was buried there ([H]) (Num. XX, 1); with reference to the heifer, And shall break the heifer's neck there (Deut. XXI, 4).
  36. Even the mere bringing it down to the valley renders it forbidden for any other purpose (Rashi: cf. Kid. 57a)
  37. Sc. a shroud woven for the dead.
  38. Ye shall surely destroy all the places there ([H]) where the nations which ye are to dispossess serve their gods. (Deut. XII, 2).
  39. I.e., if one dedicates an object for idol-worship, it does not become forbidden, unless actually used so, because 'The laws of dedication do not operate in connection with idol worship.' A.Z. 44b.