Friday, January 22, 2021

Jewish Burial Law and Exhumation of Mass Graves

Over at the cesspit, our old friend Hannover tends to repeat himself a fair bit. One of his "greatest hits" is the claim that the idea that Jewish law generally forbids the exhumation of mass graves is a ruse designed to hide the "fact" that there are, in reality, no mass graves. Most recently, the Sage of CODOH wrote, "That [the idea that that Jewish law forbides exhumation] is a lie and has always been a way to dodge the fact that there are NO excavations which show the alleged millions upon millions of Jew human remains claimed to be located in know [sic] locations."

Putting aside for the moment that mass graves have been demonstrated time and again, it's worth considering what Jewish law actually has to say about these things. It's been nearly a decade since we've discussed the matter, and maybe it's time to get a little more specific.

There are two Talmudic texts of the topic. These quotations are taken from the William Davidson Talmud, which is provided online at sefaria.org.

Bava Batra 154a
Rabbi Yoḥanan raised an objection to Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish from a baraita: There was an incident in Bnei Brak involving one who sold some of his father’s property that he had inherited, and he died, and the members of his family came and contested the sale, saying: He was a minor at the time of his death, and therefore the sale was not valid. And they came and asked Rabbi Akiva: What is the halakha? Is it permitted to exhume the corpse in order to examine it and ascertain whether or not the heir was a minor at the time of his death? Rabbi Akiva said to them: It is not permitted for you to disgrace him for the sake of a monetary claim. And furthermore, signs indicating puberty are likely to change after death, and therefore nothing can be proved by exhuming the body.

Yevamot 63b
Apropos the Ḥabbarim, the Gemara cites the following statement of the Sages: The Ḥabbarim were able to issue decrees against the Jewish people with regard to three matters, due to three transgressions on the part of the Jewish people. They decreed against meat, i.e., they banned ritual slaughter, due to the failure of the Jewish people to give the priests the gifts of the foreleg, the jaw, and the maw. They decreed against Jews bathing in bathhouses, due to their neglect of ritual immersion. Third, they exhumed the dead from their graves because the Jews rejoice on the holidays of the gentiles, as it is stated: “Then shall the hand of the Lord be against you and against your fathers” (I Samuel 12:15). Rabba bar Shmuel said: This verse is referring to exhuming the dead, which upsets both the living and the dead, as the Master said: Due to the iniquity of the living, the dead are exhumed.

More authoritative is the Shulchan Aruch (also available at sefaria.org), the 17th century compendium of Jewish law considered authoritative for eastern European Jewry.

Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah, 363
One should not remove a corpse and bones[1] from a dignified grave to [another] dignified grave, nor from an undignified grave to [another] undignified grave, nor from an undignified one to a dignified one, and needless to say [that it is forbidden] from a dignified one to an undignified one. 

[1] Two reasons are advanced for this prohibition: a) The disturbance of removal is hard on the dead — TaZ, ShaK. Cf. I Sam. XXVIII, 15; Job III, 13; b) Removal is considered a disrespectful treatment of the dead — RIDBaZ to Yad, Ebel XIV, 15. One who was buried in a non-Jewish cemetery may be removed to a Jewish one — P.Tesh., G.Mah. 

Two possibilities emerge here. The first is that international Jewry, cognizant of the grand hoax to be perpetrated some 1,500 years in the future, conspired to draft pages of Talmud to which Rabbi Yosef Karo could refer some 1,100 years later when compiling an index of Jewish law for the masses of Ashkenazim.

The second possibility is that Jewish law actually does have something to say about the topic.

Let's be clear: We are under no illusions here that the folks over at CODOH will stop lying just because this blog post has appeared. However, with any luck, people curious to know whether their claims have any merit will find this post. That, after all, is sort of the point of what we're doing here.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for this, Andrew. Some more pertinent information is at these links:

    https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/disinterment

    https://www.ccarnet.org/responsa-topics/disinterment/

    https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/281579/jewish/The-Grave-in-Judaism.htm#Disinterment

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  2. As a rule, jews are not supposed to be moved from their grave except for reinterment in the Land of Israel.

    That presupposes--as do the talmudic passages--that the body is in a Jewish cemetery. One not buried in a Jewish cemetery can definitely be reinterred, so the notion that this wld be a hindrance is both absurd and, as you suggest, untrue. Father Patrick Desbois makes it his mission to find mass graves, for which jews are quite thankful

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