BURIAL ON THE HOLIDAY AFTER A STRIKE
The San Francisco gravediggers have been on strike for many weeks. Over a hundred bodies have piled up in the Sinai Memorial Chapel. There are good prospects that the strike may be settled Sunday, October 3, 1971. May the bodies be buried the next day which will be the first day of Succos? (Asked by Louis J. Freehof, San Francisco, California)
THERE IS ABSOLUTELY no question that the bodies may be buried on the first day of Succos. The Shulchan Aruch, Orah Hayyim 526:1-3, says that the only days forbidden for burial are Sabbath and Yom Kippur. If a body is ready for burial (and these stored bodies are more than ready) it must be buried on the first day of the holiday if it is ready then. The only restriction is that certain preparations may be made only by non- Jews. It is non-Jews who must sew the shrouds and make the coffin. But to put the body into the ground i.e., inter) Jews may do it even on the first day of a holiday. The Shulchan Aruch specifically prohibits keeping the body over to the second day of the holiday, so that Jews may be permitted to do the complete task.
Some rabbis might raise an objection that this applies to a person who died on a holiday, but that these bodies that have waited for weeks might as well wait another day. But this is a mistaken argument; there is no Jewish permission to delay the burial of a body once there is the possibility of burying it. But in the case that such a mistaken objection is raised, then for the sake of communal peace, those bodies should be buried first whose rabbis raise no such objection.
One more caution: There is no requirement for any type of mourning at the reinterment of a body. This must be considered a reinterment since the formal closing of the coffin after the funeral service weeks ago was deemed the formal burial after which mourning could begin. There is a short mourning required when a body is disinterred, not when it is reinterred. But some people may imagine that some sort of mourning is required. Therefore it is good to follow the procedure of the great Hungarian authority, Moses Sofer (in his Responsa Yore Deah 353) when at the time of a mass disinterment from a cemetery commanded by the government, he forbade anyone telling the relatives of the dead the time of the disinterment, so that the whole community should not sit in mourning. His example guides us. When the interment takes place, you are not in duty bound, in fact I would say you are discouraged, from informing the relatives.