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Are there any methods necessary to make a cemetery Jewish, or can one just start burying people wherever one legally can?

  • Based on the gemara in the beginning of nedarim, we talk about whether there are yados to a cemetary. It seems that one can simply designate an area intended for use as a graveyard, no special preparation is necessary... – Isaac Kotlicky Jun 1 '15 at 17:08
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+200

Kehilas Menachem page 203 quoting Shaagas Aryeh Hachadoshos page 61 says the first step is to set up a group of people that will bury the dead - also known as a Chevra Kadisha. They should fast on a Monday & Thursday, say Selichos, pray for Rachamim. Then they should purchase property specifically for the purpose of a Bais Hakvoros.

Later he talks about expanding a cemetery, where he says there is a procedure of Hakafos around it, with Tehilim, Ana B'koach. Although this is only mentioned regarding expanding a Bais Hakvoros, I have heard that there are those who do so upon setting up a Bais Hakvoros also.

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The Melamed LeHoil 136 says that according to Rabbi Yitzhak Elchonon Spektor, the day of the first funeral in the new cemetery, all the city's dwellers fast, and add in charity and prayers, and the the Maharam Shik says that one walks around the cemetery saying Yoshev BeSeser and Pitum HaKetores.

He suggests that:

  1. The day someone passes away G-d Forbid, ten citizens should fast and say the Selichos of the second Monday of Behab, with the 13 attributes.
  2. A large group should walk around the cemetery seven times (before the funeral), saying chapter 16 and 49 in Tehillim, and if they still have time, they should say chapter 90 and the letters Kra Satan from 119. They should also say the Ketores and chapter 91.

    The one who asked the question said that he had a tradition to say one letter of Ana Bekoach every time they encircle the cemetery, along with certain chapters. The Melamed LeHoil said that he has no such tradition, but it could be.

  3. The Kohanim should dig the first grave.

  4. A Rov should say words of rebuke.
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According to this site - which does not quote its source - the ritual is as follows:

ביהדות לא די בהקצאת שטח קרקע כדי לייעדו לבית קברות. על מנת לחנוך בית קברות חדש, יש צורך בעריכת טקסים מסורתיים, המלווים בתפילות ואמירת פסוקים שונים.‏

It's insufficient to declare the land the a cemetery. For a parcel of land to have the law of a cemetery, a certain declaration ceremony is required.

יש הסוברים כי אין לסיים את המקח (המשא ומתן) על קרקע בית הקברות, עד שלא ימות אחד מן החבורה וייטמן בקרקע. אך האחרונים ביטלו את דבריהם‏.‏

There are opinions that one should not finalise the purchase of the land until somebody has died and needs to be buried. Later day authorities have dismissed this option.

ביום בו חונכים את בית הקברות מתענים אנשי החברה הקדישא, ובתפילת שחרית מרבים באמירת סליחות ומבקשים שיבולע המוות לנצח, כדברי הנביא ישעיהו: "בִּלַּע הַמָּוֶת לָנֶצַח, וּמָחָה השם אלוקים דִּמְעָה מֵעַל כָּל-פָּנִים"‏. כאשר מגיעים לבית הקברות החדש אומרים כולם את מזמור צ"א בתהילים המכונה שיר של פגעים.‏

On the day the cemetery is to be inaugurated, the Chevra Kadisha (burial society) members all fast. During the morning prayers extra Selichot are added, as well as prayers that death be a thing of the past.
Once the Chevra Kadisha arrive at the new site, they all say together Psalms 91.

At this point the allotted land has the law of a cemetary.

  • These things are more about us than about the cemetery. We want to distance ourselves from it and not invite the idea that we are making room and sending invitations for customers. – HaLeiVi Jun 3 '15 at 16:35
  • I wonder if any of these laws have been gleaned from how Abraham purchased the Cave of Machpela, and there was a whole negotiation and purchase "ceremony". – DanF Jun 3 '15 at 20:57
  • @HaLeiVi - possibly, but without a source, that's conjecture. But it does sound sensible. – Danny Schoemann Jun 4 '15 at 12:16
  • @DanF - I can't think of any, but keep in mind that the "field" in question was already a cemetery; since Adam and Chava were buried there, according to the Midrash (as Rashi already taught us.) – Danny Schoemann Jun 4 '15 at 12:17

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