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    Immediate burial – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why do Jewish funerals take place so soon after the person has died? Wouldn’t it be respectful to wait a little longer?

    A. On the contrary, keeping a body unburied is considered an act of disrespect unless there are serious reasons for waiting. These reasons must be “for the honour of the deceased: to bring mourners or to make the death known to communities” (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 357).

    The principle of early burial comes from Deut. 21:22-23, which requires that a criminal must be buried as soon as possible. All the more so must a respectable member of society not be left unburied. According to the Zohar (Vayikra 88b), as long as the body remains unburied the soul feels pain as it can neither enter the afterlife nor (if one believes in reincarnation) be relocated elsewhere.

    In Jerusalem, funerals take place as soon as possible, even at night, because of the holiness of the city.

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