Friday, March 31, 2006

Cemetery Visits During the Month of Nisan

Q: I know there is a general prohibition of hespedim (eulogies) during the month of Nisan. I was wondering if there is also a minhag (custom) not to visit a bet kevarot (cemetery) this month. I was told that there might be, at least in Israel. Is this true? If so, is there any exception for bnei Hutz Laaretz (Jews who live outside of Israel) who might only be in Israel for the Pesach season?

M. W.
Riverdale, NY


A: Delivering eulogies on a holiday - such as Pesah, Purim or even Rosh Hodesh - is halachically prohibited. As such, we avoid visiting the cemetery on these days so as not to encourage eulogizing, weeping, and other behaviors that might detract from the spirit of the holiday in violation of Jewish law. By contrast, the restriction on eulogizing during the month of Nisan is only a custom. Since the prohibition against delivering eulogies throughout the month of Nisan does not have the force of law, the rabbis did not broaden it to include an additional restriction on cemetery visits. Visiting a cemetery is permitted, then, throughout the month, with the obvious exception of the eight days of Pesah.

The individual who suggested that one is not permitted to visit cemeteries in Israel during Nissan may have been confused by another Israeli custom - namely, the common practice of visiting graves on the day before Rosh Hodesh Nisan. This may have been taken as a sign that such visits are prohibited during the upcoming month; however, this is clearly not the reason for the custom. Indeed, this practice is also observed on the day before Rosh Hodesh Elul - a month which includes no restrictions on mourning whatsoever!

Rabbi Maroof

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