CARR 147-148




Contemporary American Reform Responsa


88. Widower’s Rights


woman has died and been buried. Now her parents wish to move her grave to another location.

The widower, who was left with young children and is now remarried, has objected to this request

and denied it. According to Jewish law, who has the ultimate authority and obligation in

connection with the deceased wife? (Rabbi M. Staitman, Pittsburgh, PA)


The ketubah stipulates that the husband must support his wife in every way. This includes

normal obligations of food, shelter and clothing (Ket. 47b; 65a ff; Yeb. 66a). Furthermore, if his

standard of living rises, he is obligated to provide for his wife an increased level. If it diminishes,

he can not, however, decrease her maintenance (Ket. 48a, 61a). He is obligated to take care of

her medical expenses (Ket. 51a ff; Yad Hil. Ishut 14.17; Shulhan Arukh Even

Haezer 79), to ransom her (Ket. 52a ff) and to bury her (Gen. 23.19, 48.7, 49.31; Ket. 46b ff;

Yad Hil. Ishut 12.2; Shulhan Arukh Even Haezer 111). If he is poor, he must

provide a decent funeral (Ket. 46b), and otherwise make provisions in accordance with local

custom (Ket. 28a).

These obligations grant him complete authority to make final

determination in each of these matters. The remarriage of the widower has no bearing on this.

Such remarriage is encouraged as soon as an adequate mourning period has passed. That is

normally considered to be the passage of three pilgrimage festivals, but if there are young

children, remarriage may take place sooner (Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah


According to rabbinic tradition, and according to the practice of Reform

Judaism, the widower has absolute and complete rights in this matter.

January 1985


If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.