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This may be a duplicate, but if so I didn't see the original.

Recently, unfortunately, this question has become very realistic: If there is someone who knows a close relative is dead but won't be able to bury them for a while; possibly months or even years (for example, the body was kidnapped in to Gaza), does he act like an Onen? Is he Pattur from all Mitzvos, and whatever other rules apply to an Onen?


Note: I can't think of a halachic reason to think it'd be different than a normal Onen. But for some reason my common sense says that he wouldn't be Pattur from all Mitzvos for months or years.

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  • See tosfos brochos 18a
    – אילפא
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 22:48
  • 1
    This is not a new case for Judaism.... see Yoreh Deah 341:4
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 22:56
  • Thanks, @DoubleAA !
    – Lo ani
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 23:02
  • The halachic point is -- is there anything this fellow could be doing now to help procure the remains and arrange for proper Jewish burial? In a lot of cases like this, the answer is "no." (Or even if negotiations are ongoing, they're generally left to the professionals.)
    – Shalom
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 23:32
  • 1
    @Shalom if they're going to protests and speaking at rallies and such, does that count?
    – Heshy
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 23:43

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Answering your question, R Chaim Binyamin Goldberg writes (Mourning in Halacha, p. 81)

If a person was killed in a distant land, or in combat [and the body has not been returned], or was dragged off by a wild animal, or drowned in a river, and the like, the family members are subject neither to the laws of aninus nor to the laws of mourning (aveilus) as long as they have not given up hope of finding and burying the body. This applies even if some of the limbs are found, as long as the head and most of the body have not been found, and they have not given up hope of finding them.

On the day they give up hope of finding and burying the body, they are required to tear their garment (perform kri’ah), and to begin observing shivah and shloshim. This applies even if they do not give up hope until more than thirty days after the death.

If the body is found after they had given up hope, the same halachos apply as for reinterment (likut atzamos); i.e., they observe mourning only on the day the body is buried.

See as well SA YD 341:4 and commentaries.

Of course, someone in these circumstances should consult their rabbi before implementing anything they learn here.

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