Delaying Funeral for Relatives to Arrive

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January 6, 2018

1 min read

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This may but hopefully will not be relevant to my family situation. If an older person dies, how long can the funeral be delayed to give the relatives time to arrive?

The Aish Rabbi Replies

As you wrote, I hope your question is only theoretical for quite some time.

It is much better to do the burial right away, on the day the person died. The Torah forbids leaving a dead body overnight (Deuteronomy 21:23). In addition, it is considered a terrible cause of suffering for the deceased for his burial to be delayed.

A burial may only be delayed if it is for the sake of the deceased himself – such as to properly prepare the funeral or to allow family members to arrive.

In practice, a funeral is only delayed so that the immediate relatives of the deceased can attend (parents, siblings, spouse, and children), not siblings-in-law, children-in-law or any more distant relatives. Even for children a funeral is delayed only for 1-2 days and almost never longer, especially if some of the relatives are already present. In fact, in Israel the custom is not to wait even for the children but to bury as soon as possible.

(Sources: Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 357:1, Aruch HaShulchan Y.D. 357:2, Shevet HaLevi IV 154:2, Teshuvos V’Hanhagos I 687.)

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