Contemporary American Reform Responsa
112. Prayers at Reinterment
The parents of a member of our congregation are buried in a cemetery in New York City much
plagued by vandalism. He would like to transfer these caskets to our cemetery. When the
caskets are reinterred, need any kind of service be conducted? (Rabbi M. Silverman, Albany,
NY)ANSWER: Although Judaism generally frowns upon disinterment and reburial in
a new site, it permits it for several reasons, including the one cited in this question. In fact, under
some circumstances disinterment and the movement of a body to another grave is obligatory
(Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 363; Haham Z’vi Ashkenazi, Responsa #50).
When such reinterment occurs, no ritual of any kind is required, although some pious
commentators suggest that mourning rites (qeriah, qaddish, etc.) be carried out for one
hour (Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 403). This might be done either at the site of the
reinterment itself or just as appropriately in another setting, i.e. at home or in the synagogue.
When Moses Sofer, in the last century, was faced with the government’s confiscation of a large
cemetery, he prohibited anyone from informing close relatives when the disinterment and
reinterment would take place, so that they would feel no obligation to mourn even for one hour
(Responsa Yoreh Deah #184). We, of course, are concerned both with
tradition and with the feelings of respect and honor of the individuals involved. Obviously, if the
children wish to have the bodies of their parents transferred to a safer site, there is a strong
feeling about the memory of these parents. It would be appropriate to recite a few psalms and
qaddish at the synagogue, at home or at the cemetery. This should be done at some time
on the day of the reinterment, or a few days after it has taken place. While this is not obligatory,
it reflects the respect of children for their parents.October 1985
If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.