CARR 153-154


Contemporary American Reform Responsa

93. Burial of a Divorced Wife


A man was married, had a child by his wife; he was then divorced. He remarried and the

second marriage led to no further children. Subsequently he died after a considerable number of

years of marriage to his second wife. Both the first wife and second wife are elderly women. The

question of their burial sites has now arisen. The only child of the family wishes to have his

mother, in other words the first wife, buried alongside his father. On the other hand, the second

wife feels that it is her prerogative to be buried there. Which woman should be buried next to this

man? (Rabbi R. Benjamin, Davenport, IA)ANSWER: All formal relationships

between this man and his first wife were broken by the divorce as you indicated. The two may

even have been enemies for some time. The Shulhan Arukh states that two individuals

who are enemies should not be buried alongside each other (Yoreh Deah 362.6; Ezekiel Landau,

Nodah Biyehudah II Even Haezer 79). This general statement has been applied to a

husband and wife who continually quarrel with each other and never bothered to get a divorce.

They, too, should not be buried next to each other (Aaron Meir Gordon, Shaarei Daat, p.

95, #5). Some confusion may have arisen in the mind of the child who may remember

some discussion about a similar question when dealing with a widow. In that case, in contrast to

divorce, there is some discussion as to whether a second marriage completely annuls any

relationship which existed previously. Moses Sofer certainly thought so (Hatam Sofer

Yoreh Deah #355). However, there are other authorities who disagree (J. Greenwald, Okh

Letzarah, p. 145 ff). As this question deals with divorce, it is completely

different. According to the spirit of tradition, the second wife should be buried with her

husband, and the first wife should be buried somewhere else. However, there is nothing which

would prevent burial in the same cemetery so that the child of these two individuals may readily

visit their graves.August 1982

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.