QUESTION: The widow of a man very fond of music would like to bury him with his baton. Is this appropriate? (Regina Rosen, Greensburg PA)
ANSWER: The main emphasis with our funerals has been simplicity and helping the mourners overcome their sorrow. Rabban Gamliel already stressed simplicity by having himself buried in a plain shroud although he was wealthy (Ket 8b; M K 27b). Normally nothing was buried with the deceased with the exception of sacred writings which could no longer be used (W. Jacob Contemporary American Reform Responsa 108). Such books were buried not to honor the deceased, but to guard the name of God from improper use.
Often some items normally associated with the deceased such as a ring or glasses have been buried with the individual, so it would be permissible to bury a baton which meant a lot to him. This should be done especially if it provides some additional comfort to his family.