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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin
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
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:
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