CCAR RESPONSA

New American Reform Responsa

187. Isaiah Verse on a Tombstone

QUESTION: May a verse from Isaiah which has also been used in the New Testament be inscribed on a tombstone? It was the favorite verse of the deceased who was a convert to Judaism. (Saul Nathanson, Dallas IX)

ANSWER: Except for the fact that this woman converted to Judaism we would have absolutely no hesitation about using any Biblical verse, irrespective of the later use of such a verse as that is irrelevant for us. The only restriction for us is that we would not put anything on a stone which would mock the inability of the dead to praise God (Ber 18a; Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 367.2). In this instance we must ask ourselves whether the Biblical verse carried Christian connotations for the woman in question. It may very well be that her first acquaintance with this verse came through the New Testament, and so it may have childhood memories, however, she has virtually lived her whole adult life as a Jewess, participated in the synagogue, raised her children as Jews and in every way was part of the Jewish community. We should, therefore, treat her wish to have this verse inscribed on her tombstone as the wish of any other Jew and ignore the fact of her conversion many years ago. The verse from Isaiah is appropriate and we should use it without hesitation.

February 1989

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