Burial in Eretz Yisroel
“ואחרי כן קבר אברהם את שרה אשתו אל מערת שדה המכפלה על פני ממרא היא חברון בארץ כנען” (בראשית כ“ג,י“ט).
The Torah elaborates on the death of Sarah and the purchase of the Mearas Hamachpaila. The Ramban explains one of the reasons for this is to let us know the kindness that Hashem did with Avrohom, that Sarah passed away and was buried in Eretz Yisroel. There is a great benefit and importance to be buried in Eretz Yisroel. This week we will discuss whether being buried in Eretz Yisroel also pertains to someone who passed away in chutz l’aretz (outside of Eretz Yisroel)?
The Gemara in Kesubos (111a) speaks about the importance and benefits of being buried in Eretz Yisroel. Yet the Gemara says it is better if one lived there prior to his death instead of being brought there after he dies.
The Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 5,11) says that even though it is better to die in Eretz Yisroel rather than be brought there for burial, still great people would bring their relatives to Eretz Yisroel for burial, like we find by Yaakov and Yosef.
The Yerushalmi at the end of Kilayim brings an opinion that if one passes away outside of Eretz Yisroel it is not permissible for him to be buried in Eretz Yisroel. The Zohar as well says that people that come to be buried in Eretz Yisroel, on them the passuk says they have come to make my land impure. Yaakov Avinu was different since even when he was in chutz laretz he was unified with the shechina.
The Shulchan Aruch (YD siman 363) rules that it is even permissible to transfer a deceased person who was buried in chutz l’aretz to Eretz Yisroel.
The Satmar Rav zt”l was very bothered by the fact that tzadikim in the previous generations were not meticulous to be buried in Eretz Yisroel.
The Minchas Yitzchak (vol 7 siman 136) says that it appears from the words of the Divrei Yoel that the tzadikim took into account the words of the Zohar that one who dies in Chutz L’aretz should not be buried in Eretz Yisroel. However says the Satmar Rav that a Tzaddik who specified before he died that he wanted to be buried in Eretz Yisroel can be brought there for burial.
Even though the halacha is that a person can be brought to Eretz Yisroel to be buried, and there is definitely a great importance of being buried there, Rav Henkin zt”l
(Gevuras Eliyahu YD simanim 161-163) did not like this practice.
The Gemara in Kesubos (8b) says that originally the expense of burying the deceased was even harder on the relatives than his death, to the point that his relatives would leave him and flee. Until Rabban Gamliel came and treated himself lightly in instructing his attendants how his corpse should be treated and as per his instructions they buried him in plain linen garments. Following his example the entire populace buried their dead in plain linen garments. Rav Pappa said nowadays the people have adopted the custome to dress the dead even in coarse canvas worth just a zuz.
Many times the widow and orphans cannot afford the expenses involved but are embarrassed to protest. This can be a serious problem of stealing from them. He quotes the Yerushalmi in Shekalim (chapter 5 halacha 4) how one of the chachamim was boasting about how much money they put into building the shul of Lod. His friend told him look how many souls you have built it on. You could have given all that money to Torah scholars. This was said even on wealthy people. At the same time Rav Henkin says that for Gedolie Hador it may be different since we are dealing with Kavod Hatorah.
Therefor Rav Henkin says even someone who can afford the expense of being buried in Eretz Yisroel, should not do so just because everyone else is. He should rather use the money to support torah and Talmidie Chachamim.
There are many Tzadikim and Gedolie Hador whom passed away in chutz l’aretz and were buried in Eretz Yisroel. At the same time there are many who chose to remain in chutz l’aretz.
Prepared by R’ Avrohom Yehoshua Ziskind