We learn in Sanhedrin 48a:

ת"ש נפש שבנאו לשם חי מותר בהנאה הוסיף בו דימוס אחד לשם מת אסור בהנאה הכא במאי עסקינן דרמא ביה מת

Come and hear! A tomb built for a man still alive, may be used. If, however, one added a single row of stones for a dead person, no [other] use may be made thereof. This deals with a case where the corpse had actually been buried there.

Soncino translation

Based on this the Beit Yoseif (Yoreh Deah 364) cites the Hagahot Asheri that one should not sell broken tombstones, lean against them or step on them. However, over the centuries the enemies of the Jews found creative ways to desecrate Jewish cemeteries. We have seen reports from Ger (Poland), Lemberg (Ukraine), Brest (Belarus) and more recently it turned out that the Wenceslas Square of Prague was cobbled with stones stolen from Jewish cemeteries.

Should Jews avoid going to such places, as by walking on these roads they are clearly benefitting from the desecrated tombstones? Alternatively, does the ruling only forbid Jews to sell tombstones, but if gentiles steal them we shouldn't be concerned?

  • While having a quick look I surmise that the answer lies closer with that bedek habais I read in 364: ב"ה) כתב הרשב"א בתשובה סימן רצ"ו שאלה אם מותר לישב על המצבה שעל הקברות שרוב ב"א אינם נזהרין בכך והשיב מסתבר שהוא מותר לפי שאין מניחין אותם מצבות עכשיו אלא לכבוד בעלמא ומה שנוהגים לישב עליהם מוכיח על כך והרי אלו כמתנין עליהם שלא יהא נאסר לישיבה אלא לכבוד בעלמא ע"ש: Meaning, perhaps there is a different meaning in the usage of the wod 'kever' over the generations. But I could be entirely misjudging this, because I am uniformed in the subject and just read a random thing.
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 18:41


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