CCAR RESPONSA

Contemporary American Reform Responsa

94. Burial of a Woman Twice Married

QUESTION: A woman was married to her first husband for twenty-three years, and had children by him. She subsequently became widowed, moved across the country, and now has been married to her second husband for more than twenty years. When she dies, should she be buried together with her first or her second husband? (L. B., Pittsburgh., PA)

ANSWER: There is custom (minhag), but no clear law on this matter. The general custom is that an individual is buried with that spouse with whom she had children, especially if that has been requested by the children (J. Greenwald, Kol Bo Al Avelut, p. 188 f). Some traditional authorities have felt that some special ties with that spouse continue even after her death. For example, according to them, it would be her duty to commemorate the yahrzeit, although in a fashion which will not sadden the second spouse (W. Leiter, Bet David, #134). On the other hand, the Hungarian Moses Sofer (Hatam Sofer Yoreh Deah #55) has stated that no further relationship exists with the first husband and there is no need to commemorate the yahrzeit (see also M. K. 21b and Rashi; Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 385.2; Menuhat Mosheh #114).

If there are no children by either marriage, then generally burial is recommended with her first husband, as in that marriage she became "one flesh" with her husband (Lev. 21.2; Yeb. 55b; (Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 300). In most discussions of this problem, it is assumed that the graves are in the same city or at least in close proximity. Here the two burial sites are quite distant from each other. Greenwald, under those circumstances, feels that burial should take place in the city in which she died and has lived for the last years (J. Greenwald, op. cit., p. 188). We would add that in our highly mobile society, it is important that burial take place close to some relatives who may be able to visit the grave (W. Jacob, American Reform Responsa #102).

Tradition, in this instance, gives preference to burial with the first husband, but it is clear that other options may be followed. This woman who would like to plan in advance should consult her children, and be buried wherever her grave can be visited by some surviving family members.

March 1984

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