NASCK COVID-19 Protocols for Levayahs and Cemeteries

Among the many trying challenges we face in these dire times is the sorrow of isolation from one another, added to the deeper one of personal loss, as we accompany those beloved to us to their resting places. Just as the current times demand that we now pray and study at home, the way to give honor to the dead during this pandemic is by staying at home. That is what the niftar (departed) would have wanted and what Jewish law, which warns us to be extremely careful to guard our health, demands of us. We therefore must not congregate at funeral homes, shuls, residences, or on city streets to pay our respects to the niftar and their families. While we honor the departed through proper Jewish burial despite the challenges entailed, we must maintain a balance. We must remain sensitive and committed to serving our bereaved families as fully as possible, while working to ensure their health and safety, along with the health and safety of the funeral home and cemetery staff. We recognize that the burial may provide the only opportunity for family to say Kaddish and be offered proper nichum aveilim (comforting of the mourners). As such, the following suggested policies and procedures should be followed at the cemetery to minimize the risk of exposure and to ensure the safety of all. B’virchas kol tuv v’chag kasher v’sameiach, Rabbi Elchonon Zohn 1. PARTICIPANTS a. Crowd size should be limited to the greatest extent possible. A minyan for Kaddish is not required at every levayah. Nevertheless, when requested, a proper minyan for Kaddish at the burial should be accommodated. b. Participating relatives should be limited to the surviving spouse, children of the deceased and their spouses, as well as siblings and parents, G-d forbid. c. If an experienced chevra kadisha, known to the cemetery, is directly overseeing the kevurah (burial), they should be permitted to do so with adherence to proper safety procedures regarding PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). See #2b, below, for details of safety procedures. d. In any case, no more than 20 people should be present; this includes all family, chevra kadisha, funeral directors, and clergy. Of course, we must comply with state and federal regulations, taking into account any exemptions they allow for such gatherings. 2. INFECTION CONTROL PROTOCOL a. All visitors who intend to exit their cars (to carry the aron, shovel, or to recite Kaddish) shall wear masks, and preferably gloves (to be provided by the family or funeral home). b. Active participation in the carrying of the aron (coffin) or kevurah requires wearing the following PPE, and adherence to the following procedures: · Face mask · Disposable gloves · Protective gown (if available) · One shovel per individual — no sharing of shovels · All shovels to be sanitized by those using them 

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Igud Halacha Challenge, Adar 1 5779

Approbations: Who Goes First?

Should a kohen’s approbation to a sefer go first?

Enclosed are this month’s she’eilah about honoring an entering rabbi during another rabbi’s speech and answers to she’eilos of the last two months regarding the precedence of kohanim and weddings in and out of Jerusalem. Please send answers to this month’s question to [...Click headline above for more...] 

Psak Halacha on Cremation

Authored by Rabbi Yaakov Spivak
Presidium Member RAA/IGUD & Rosh Kollel Ayshel Avraham Rabbinical Seminary

As the Nazis shoved the Jews of Mir toward the freshly dug pit to be used as a grave, the Rabbi of Mir, Rav Avraham Tzvi Kamai — may the Lord avenge his death — walked fearlessly toward his death. According to an eyewitness account, he had but one request of his German butchers: he asked that they not shoot him at the edge of the pit, but rather let him climb down to the bottom where they could shoot him. Why? Despite the obvious fear of impending death, this eighty-two-year-old Rav and Rosh Yeshiva had but one thing on his mind: not to transgress the religious prohibition of leaving unburied any body part or fluid, in this case the blood and tissue, outside the pit. A Jew must be buried whole. The elderly rabbi’s presence of mind in the face of the massacre, his care to ensure that none of his blood go unburied, emphasizes to us the revered stature of the human body. Even in death, the body is the kli hamachzik, the container of the Soul, which must be treated with respect. [...Click headline above for more...]