May 3, 2009

Seperate burial coming to Bet Shemesh

A recent debate in the local Bet Shemesh press has been the issue of the dead. That would be, where to bury them.

The local BS cemetery has been around for a long time. Since the beginning of Bet Shemesh. All local residents automatically get designated a plot upon death in the BS cemetery. if you want a specific plot, you have to pay extra, and that includes if you wish to reserve the spot next to your plot for your spouse, or if you want to be buried in a certain area, etc. if you don't want to take the chance of where you might be buried, you might purchase a plot in a different cemetery in the area of your choosing.

City Councilman Shmuel Greenberg (UTJ) recently proposed the concept of establishing either a separate section in the BS cemetery for those who are shomer shabbos, or establishing a new cemetery for shomrei shabbos.

Greenberg's proposal was not well received by all. It started a battle in the local press. Without dealing directly with the issue, David Louk, perhaps the most widely read columnist in Bet Shemesh who writes for the Tmura newspaper, wrote about how the haredi have come and divided the city and have now proposed a divisie proposal. now not only in life do we have to be seperate but also in death. He described how the haredim are the least unified of all people, with each sub-group requiring their own schools, styles of dress, etc. They come to a city that was unified and peaceful and have divided it in life and now try to divide us in death as well.

Another point I remember from the column was that until now none of the rabbonim of Bet Shemesh have ever found it necessary to work to designating seperate burial for shomrei shabbos, so what right does someone have to come to the city and push such an agenda where previous great rabbis did not deem it necessary. One more point was where will it end? Who will decide who is shomer shabbat [enough] and who is not? After shmirat shabbat, they will then find other ways to seperate even further....

Shmuel Peppenheim wrote a response this week in the Chadash (haredi) in which he spent something like 2000 words making just two points. 1. That the halacha mandates it. 2. "Unity" or "peace" is not the ultimate goal. Bringing honor to hashem's name is, and peace/unity is one method of acheiving that, but not the only method - sometimes disagreement is necessary as well.

The truth is that in this whole debate it is highly likely Greenberg is right and perhaps a seperate section should be designated for shomrei shabbos. the halacha and our tradion both mandate it. If you look in any of the large cities in Israel, there will be sections in the cemetary for shomrei shabbos (along with sometimes further distinctions as well). As well, I agree with Peppenheim that "unity" does not trump everything else. If something is being done just for the sake of unity, but is not correct, it should be corrected.

Is it absolutely necessary? Probably not. Does halacha absolutely require it? no. Does the halacha prefer it and mandate it? yes.

Perhaps Greenberg should have proposed it differently. Maybe he should have waited longer so as not to give the impression he is trying to immiediately turn the city around against the old-timers. Perhaps there are other ways he could have broached this subject. But at the end of the day there is room for this proposal, whether previous rabbis pushed it or not.


  1. I think this is a disgrace. They purport to know what a person dies with in their heart?

    Either that or they don't believe chazal that teshuva can recreate a person even on their deathbead.

    Shame and disgrace.

  2. And, at the risk of asking a silly question, who decides who is shomer shabbos or not?

    Or, alternatively, if a shomer shabbos cemetary is establish, will people who aren't chareidim be excluded on other grounds (i.e. their level of tznius, how many minutes after shkiah they wait on Saturday night, whether or not they keep cholov yisrael, etc...)?

  3. I just hope there are seperate sections for men and women. and seperate times for visiting hours

  4. There are separate sections in Givat Shaul? Where are they?

    IMO burials should be privatized anyway, possibly with Bituach Leumi handling the basic costs. If the frum have to have their sections then there is no reason why secular can have their own as well; sections where they can pick and choose which part of masoret yisrael they want.

  5. sorry that should be:

    there is no reason why secular can't have their own as well;

  6. not G.

    Wolf, it's obvious, they are properly shomer shabbat, everyone else isn't. In any case I hope that all sane people will continue to have their loved ones buried in the egalitarian section and shun the elitist area.

    BTW, there are shomer shabbat sections in Givat Shaul as well, but most people healthily ignore them.

    Rafi, can you enlighten us with the halakhic background for this demand.

  7. I seem to remember it from hilchos kevura at the end of yoreh deiah along with the gemara. I can only check the kitzur shulchan aruch right now and there he writes, I think it is a quote from the gemara, in siman 199, paragraph6 - "we dont bury a tzaddik next to a rasha.... nor a rasha lite next to a more serious rasha, and not a tzaddik, or a beinoni, next to a chassid muflag.."

    There are other people who also do not get buried together as well...

    the real roblem is determining who is shomer shabbos... especially in a very traditional town like Bet Shemesh, where most people keep shabbos at some level. Maybe they will determine it by who drives on shabbos. I think that is common. But that is really the difficult and sensitive part.

  8. I feel I left something out. I did not say it is a good idea, nor one that will be easy to implement in a place like Bet Shemesh.
    I just said that the argument against it was made in a way that is irrelevant.
    Just because previous rabbonim did not see it as their battle, does not mean future ones should not.
    Just because it is not "unity" does not mean it should not be done.

    Fighting it should be based on the fact that Bet Shemesh is masorati and who will determine who is more or less shomer shabbat.

  9. spelling policeMay 03, 2009 7:57 PM


  10. My brother and I got into a huge argument on Pesach about the issue of whether charedim care about the rest of Klal yisrael or not and I think your perspective on the importance of unity pretty much sums up the charedi attitude towards the rest of klal yisrael. This attitude frustrates me enormously and contributes to a lot of needless friction between Jews.

    I don't think halacha always trumps unity, certainly not when you're living in a heterogeneous society like beit shemesh. Why does a charedi "need" to keep a clearly uncritical halacha (uncritical because no rav until now has felt it necessary to keep) trump kavod hadam, kvod habriyot, not embarrassing your fellow Jew, v'ahavta l'reacha kamocha or any numerous other important bein adam l'chavero mitzvot and concepts. Are these only kiddie mitzvot, nice for gan but not really necessary once you get the really important stuff?

  11. not G.

    I disagree. I think that in all places the argument is the same. As Simon pointed out, how do we know thatthe mehallel shabbat did not have hirhurei teshuva on his death bed? Do we not believe that there are people who koneh olamo be-shaah ahat?

    The problem is not one of unity but of hillul hashem. It is one of people coming with a message of uncompromising division, judgment and hatred in the name of God and his Torah.

    In any place where there is a plot for distinguished rabonim (like in BS) no-one complains. Similarly noone complains that they can't get buried in the helkat kohanim and when in Jm there is a helkat shomrei shabbat, noone complains there either. Let the haredim bury in their own plot and who cares.

    When newcomers come along and start telling people what to do they resent it. When they come in the name of halakha and claim that the local respected rabonim don't know the right thing to do, they resent it even more. When they come in the name of halakha (she-kol deracheiha darkei no'am) and claim that their tzadikim are too tzadikim to be buried next to the locals, they get incensed.

    And so do I.

    Don't they understand that Lo ba-esh hashem? How long will it take for these sikrikim to understand that their way leads to more hurban?

  12. Who Appointed the Judges?May 03, 2009 9:36 PM


    How correct you are! I served on a charedi chevra kadisha. Once a member of the Chevra Kadisha mentioned in the name of a very prominent posek that one doesn't have to do a tahara on a non Shomer Shabbos. I reacted in the same way as you did in your post. This person didn't realize that I had a close kesher with that posek.
    When I told him what was being quoted in his name he said"how can one know what a person does on his death bed? who says he didn't do teshuva?

    There is also a well known story with Rav Kook. Eliezer Ben Yehuda (the father of modern Hebrew) frequently asked the Rav about the origins of words. On Erev Shabbos Ben Yehuda came to the Rav's house while he was learning with his chavrusa (I think it was Rav Areiel). Ben yehuda asked the Rav about several words and turned to leave.
    Ëliezer, he said, you have done so much for Klal Yisroel don't you think it's time to do teshuva?

    "perhaps"replied Ben Yehuda and left the Rav's house.

    This(answering perhaps) could be considered a hirhur teshuva said the Rav.

    10 hours later Ben Yehuda was niftar.

    One can never underestimate a Jewish neshama.

  13. correct me if I am wrong, but once you are in the cemetery- is there any way in the world you are still being mechalel shabbat?

  14. No, no. This is good. Really! We'll be able to keep out of our cemeteries all those black garbed Jews who violate Shabbos by throwing rocks, trampling gardens, and beating up defenseless teenage girls.

    And why stop at non-shomrei Shabbos? Why we could have another section for those who steal others sleep by yelling "SHAAABAS", those who steal others' property (e.g. flags), those who cause Sinat Chinam and Loshon Hora by behaving in a way which is completely antithetical to the very core of how the Torah wants us to live.

    Maybe there's a dog cemetery over near the manure fields of Tzora we can find to bury all of these evil-doers.

    Thank you UTJ for finally bringing a proposal to Beit Shemesh that we all can live...err I mean die with.

  15. we dont bury a tzaddik next to a rasha.... nor a rasha lite next to a more serious rasha, and not a tzaddik, or a beinoni, next to a chassid muflag.."
    Which of course implies that a shomer shabbat section would be insufficient. Why is this halacha ignored? Lulei dmistifina I would say that they hadn't historically reached our level of being able to judge everyone else's tzidkut.

    Joel Rich

  16. Abbi - to play devils advocate - why is the need for unity always used against the haredi point of view and in favor of the non-haredi? i.e. we need to favor unity so the haredim should give up their "requirements" for the sake of unity? why not point to the masorati or secular or whoever and say to them give in a bit for the sake of unity. They are the majority after all, and they should be forthcoming to promote unity...

  17. "...why is the need for unity always used against the haredi point of view and in favor of the non-haredi?..."

    Because, Rafi, more and more often it's Chareidi actions, not just their point of view, that is causing disunity. It's also a general lack of consideration for the feelings of others. The goal here could have been accomplished in a much more menschlike fashion, for example, they could have quietly established a sect-based cemetery. It is very common to have cemeteries related to groups, shuls, etc. and would probably have raised few, if any, eyebrows.

    But a common thread of behavior in the Chareidi community (and you point this out often) is a fundamental lack of consideration. And, yes this is a problem in Israeli society in general, but Torah Jews have a specific obligation to act otherwise.

  18. True, you never know who does teshuva on the deathbed, but there is a din - rafi quoted it - that differentiates a rasha from a tzaddik. How do you work with that halacha?

    If the chilonim hate the chareidim anyways, and the chareidim just drive teh chilonim crazy, why do the chilonim care that the chareidim dont want to be buried with them? The chilonim dont usually care about what the chareidim think / do anyways?

    Have there been many chareidim buried in the BS cemetary until now? I have been to around 10 funerals in BS, but ALL of them in Eretz haChaim - which is private, and NONE in the BS cemetary. Maybe it is bc there was not a shomer shabbos area that chareidim were looking to get buried elsewhere. Now that chareidim are holding around 40% of the population in BS, they want to establish a shomer shabbos area in the BS cemetary, so that they will have an additional option to be buried there.

    True, the chareidim sometimes make a lot of noise, sometimes a lot more than they need to, but why do the MO and the chilonim rush to match them with as much (worthless) noise? Why is this the issue you want to take up with them? Why does it bother you so much that they want their own part?

    And btw, they ARE acting to unify - they are not asking for a chelkat chareidim - they are willing to INCLUDE anyone who is shomer shabbos. Dont look for only the bad, and you might see some good.

  19. Rafi G,

    chiloni recognize ortho rabbis and not vica versa, chilonim dont throw stones to make you drive on shabat, chilonim dont insist that your wife dress immodestly when you walk through their neighbrhood or force you to take off your kipah...

    the chilonim dont seperate themselves from the rest of society.

    so yes unity must come from the charedim, they are the ones who have walked away and reject non-charedim.

    just look at the fact that david believes shaya is mochel shabbat for using the eruv and they could not attend michael's bris because he was carried, using the eruv, across the street.
    the chiloni offered unity by having a brit and making it orthodox, just to show a personal anecdote.

  20. i wonder what will be considered shomer shabbos? if you use a tea bag? or what about timers on air conditioners? or what about letters on a cake? who will determine the smaller details?

    essy to say he drove, what about tinok shenishba? who willing to be mevazeh a meis and their families b'rabim for this issue?

    good for you though. keep telling us how wonderful rbs really is. yes, people as individuals may be great, as a group, they are as devisive as any other group.

  21. i don't know rafi. you are too quick to discount what people consider chilul shabbos. take Chicago. According to some, If you follow R' cohen and use the eruv, you are mechalel shabbos bifarhesya. does that count? who decides? who has the right to decide and who has the right to say they have the right?

  22. Rafi,
    Thanks for bringing this issue to light, it's completely news to me.
    If as you say the halacha is that you should not bury a tzadik next to a rasha, who says that this is judged by shabbat observance?
    In Bet Shemesh there are many traditional sefardi ladies who make sure to go to the mikveh, (you see them coming in all kinds of clothes) but may not be totally shomer shabbat.
    Is it only shabbat observance that makes you a tzadik? What about a shomer shabbat guy who evades taxes and beats his wife? Is he a tzadik?
    No-one here on earth is qualified to to decide who is a tzadik or not.

  23. Rafi, my point has already been made by Menachem and Dan G.

    I will add, though, why does it have to be a matter of "giving up"? Why can't it be a matter of simple tolerance and respect, to use icky PC American words?

    In my argument with my brother, we focused on heter mechira. Why did the charedim have to make every effort under the sun to cancel heter mechira, when this was a halchically acceptable kula that actually prevents thousands of chilonim from eating kedushat shviit? No one is forcing charedim to eat heter mechira. But why must they make every effort to PREVENT others from keeping a halachically valid kula.

    More importantly, why doesn't the charedi community even care whether chilonim eat shviit or not. Why is it always "my way or the highway"? This is what I mean about how charedim just have no sense of ahavat yisrael or klal yisrael and I believe it's this attitude that's so destructive for the whole community at large (not to mention preventing moshiach from coming, but that's another issue altogether).

  24. rw - I think traditionally that shmirat shabbat has always been the barometer.

  25. i have often wondered where are the non jewish russians buried.

    people are not checked after they die as they are before marriage to check their halachic status

  26. In the middle of the BS cemetery there is a section for non-Jewish people. The cemetery is built in terraces on a hill, so there is a wall on one side of it only to separate as the other sides have mehitzot by virtue of the topography.

  27. Heter mechira is a bad example - since the poskim nowadays say that EVEN those that held of heter mechira in the past would reject it as a bunk / fake sale now, and therefore does not count at all. It is their love of their secular bretheren, and their desire to prevent their doing aveiros which pushes them to act in such a strong manner

  28. not G.

    Interesting point I just found. The Shulhan Arukh in siman kuf-tzadi-tet writes:
    אין קוברים רשע אצל צדיק, שנאמר אל תאסוף עם חטאים נפשי. ואפילו רשע חמור אצל רשע קל, אין קוברים. וכן אין קוברין צדיק ובל שכן בינוני וכשר אצל חסיד מופלג. שנים שהיו שונאים זה לזה, אין לקברם יחד, שגם במותם, אין להם מנוחה יחד:

    However the Aruch HaShulhan (siman shin-samekh-bet) says:
    ואין קוברין רשע אצל צדיק, אפילו רשע חמור אצל רשע קל. וכן אין קוברין צדיק, וכל שכן בינוני, אצל חסיד מופלג. אבל קוברים בעל תשובה אצל צדיק גמור.וכן שנים שהיו שונאים זה לזה – אין לקוברם יחד, שאף במותם אין להם מנוחה ביחד.

    Here is Simon's Baal Teshuva.

    From what I have been able to glean online, the whole issue is learned from Harugei Beit Din who cannot be buried together with regular dead becauase either they have no kapara or didn't do teshuva before they died.

    From this the halakha has evolved to separate people of diffrent levels of tzaddikut and not to bury Jews and goyim together on the assumption that all goyim are resha'im and all yidden are tzaddikim.

    To me it seems perverse to separate people in death to different levels of tzaddikut. There are those who have hirhurei teshuva, those who are koneh olamo be-shaah achat, there are tzaddikim nistarim and there are just plain ameikh kulam tzaddikim.

    Hessed shel emet is to bury the dead because they can never thank you. How can anyone justify disgracing a person in his burial when he cannot answer back and relegate him to the second league because of hearsay and one-sided judgment.

  29. Since this "strong desire to prevent aveiros" only produces more sinat chinam and divisiveness, and since most chilonim won't be keeping charedi-ism (let alone regular Jewish halacha) any time soon, I still don't buy this attitude. (btw, it's charedi rabbis who decided the law was bunk; there are Orthodox rabbis who still hold that it's fine; and once again, no one is forcing charedim to eat heter mechira. The issue is whether it be used by the Chief Rabbinate (which the charedim don't hold by anway) altogether).

    This is another example of the refusal to acknowledge that halacha functions in the real world, populated by real people, not simply herds of sheep you can fence in with random chumras and mind control.

  30. Abbi - some things I understand even if I don't agree, but from their viewpoint it is reasonable. Some things I don't understand at all. hetter mechira is one of those things I don't understand their position at all on.

  31. Rafi- just for clarity "their" refers to the charedi or the D'l position?

  32. You really dont understand it ?
    They hold that the sale is not worth the paper its written on. They hold that a) its assur to sell land to non jews in EY, and b) the chilonim think the sale is a joke and never intend to sell it anyways c) they work the land like its theirs d) its no longer pikuach nefesh like it was in the times of Rav Kook e) if the aram tried to hold the land at the of the year, do you think he would actually keep it?
    There are more reasons, there are books written about it.
    Based on the above and more, and perhaps also bc the Mishna says that bc of lack of observance of shmitta, the punishment it galus, the chareidi rabbonim dont want to see ANYONE being oiver on issurim left and right for the whole year, with the "sanction" of halahca

  33. without getting into a big debate about it, as that is not the topic of this post, I see a difference between a purely halachic debate and between implementation.

    If rabbonim are against it on halachic grounds, that is fine and they can say they do not see it as a solution, even l'kula, etc.
    But when it comes to implementation, I do not see why they are so against it. There are plenty of rabbonim who accept it and say the hetter can be used. So there is a machlokes.
    In implementation, especially when it is hardly relevant to them, I see no reason why they have to oppose it so strongly considering other rabbonim allow it. Let those who want rely on those other rabbonim.

  34. Seperate cemetaries: One for Yissacher, one for Zevulun.

  35. If shmirat shabbat is the only criteria for haredim to be buried among one another, perhaps the local Beit Yaakov schools in Bet Shemesh will now agree to lift their longstanding ban on accepting Sefardi girls!

  36. David - they can be buried together, but who said they can live together?

  37. Even in death the Jew is special. In America for instance, Jews are buried in the Jewish part of the cemetery and this was done for my father, may his memory be for a blessing. He wasn't a religious man by any means but he still received a burial according to Jewish custom. The Jew is different from the nations and in Eretz Israel some Jews are more in status than other Jews - but my caveat would be only G-d can see into the heart and know the true value of a human being.

  38. "why is the need for unity always used against the haredi point of view and in favor of the non-haredi?"

    There is a basic asymmetry between what charedim and secular people ask for. Charedim ask for secular people to become religious. Secular people don't ask that charedim become secular, just that charedim stay out of their own lives. When charedim ask for secular people to become religious, they are asking the secular people to make a huge sacrifice in terms of their personal priorities. In return for this sacrifice, one would expect the charedim to do some kind of favor for the secular people. A gesture at unity would be one such favor. But when such gestures never come, do the charedim really wonder why people remain secular?

  39. Shlomo - interesting perspective. thanks. I don't think though that religious look for the non-religious to become religious. But still the sacrifice for unity towards the haredi side is still great.
    good point.

  40. "Heter mechira is a bad example - since the poskim nowadays say that EVEN those that held of heter mechira in the past would reject it as a bunk / fake sale now, and therefore does not count at all."

    Not true, most poskim hold that it is a valid sale nowadays, for example R' Shlomo Zalman zt"l. Not to mention that anyone who sells chametz in Israel violates "lo techanem" to the same extent as with heter mechira (since you also sell the location of the chametz as a mechanism for kinyan agav). And as is well known every charedi grocery store sells chametz. The objection to heter mechira is political not halachic, basically, "moridin ve'ein maalin" applied to every person who does not dress like me.


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