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In another question, Chalutznahal cites Yoreh De'ah 40:5, which says that when I witness a fellow Jew die, I must rend my shirt out of sadness. And British Rabbi Dr. Moshe Freedman brings this down as practical Jewish law.

Is this really the prevalent practice among Ashkenazim nowadays?

Please do post an answer; if you don't, at least please post a comment about what you've seen people do.

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Just to be clear that halacha is only if the deceased is not a habitual sinner even if he occasionally sins (if he didn't even occasionally sin, Sefardim would tear even if not present at the moment of death). Also, one must tear for a talmid chacham (for Ashkenazim only if you had learned some of his teachings) even if not there at the moment of death. (The above is all based solely on Maran and Rama; it is just meant to augment the question.) – Double AA Dec 11 '12 at 1:15
@DoubleAA Interesting that Ashkenazim have much stricter limits on this. I am guessing this is due to the Crusades. – Charles Koppelman Dec 11 '12 at 1:23
@CharlesKoppelman: Why would the Crusades affect Ashkenazi practice? – unforgettableid Dec 11 '12 at 1:27
@unforgettableid That's like asking why German and Polish practices differed during the Holocaust. – Double AA Dec 11 '12 at 1:29
@unforgettableid the Crusades were a major thing for Ashkenazim. Lots of people died from Crusaders stomping through Central and Eastern Europe. We get a whole set of halakhot out of it - topics including redeeming captives, martyrdom, and dealing with non-Jews. Sephardim weren't as affected since they were not in the path of most Crusaders. But this is all a theory side note on this practical question. :) – Charles Koppelman Dec 11 '12 at 1:34

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