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At my great-uncle's funeral today, all of the participants (except the mourners) were told to rip out a blade of grass and say a passuk (I don't remember which).

Is this a Jewish minhag? If so, what is the source for it? What does it mean?


Torah learned from this post should be a זכות for the נשמה of חיים בן יחזקאל

  • Yes, I checked -- this has not been asked on this site before ;-) [at least not under funeral-burial-levaya] – MTL Nov 20 '14 at 0:47
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You asked: Is this a Jewish minhag? If so, what is the source for it?

Yes. it is mentioned in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 199:10 - סימן קצט - דין הקבורה ובית הקברות

"The custom - when leaving a cemetery - is to pluck some grass and throw it behind one's back, and say זָכוּר כִּי עָפָר אֲנָחְנוּ - remember that we are dust."

You asked: What does it mean?

Meaning #1, mentioned by the Kitzur:

"This is a reminder of לִתְחִיַת הַמֵּתִים - when the dead will come alive at the end of days - that the dead will row from the barren ground and suddenly peek up like grass."

Meaning #2, mentioned by the Kitzur:

"After leaving one washes one's hands. All this hints at the way one is purified from impurity caused by death: (1) water, mixed with (2) dust [ashes of the red heifer] and (3) grass representing the hyssop with which it was sprinkled on the impure one."

סעיף י': נוֹהֲגִין שֶׁכְּשֶׁהוֹלְכִין מִבֵּית הַקְּבָרוֹת, תּוֹלְשִׁין עֲשָׂבִים וּמַשְׂלִיכִין אַחֲרֵי גֵוָם וְאוֹמְרִים, זָכוּר כִּי עָפָר אֲנָחְנוּ. וְגַם הוּא רֶמֶז לִתְחִיַת הַמֵּתִים, שֶׁיִחְיוּ מֵעֲפָרָם, עַל דֶּרֶךְ, וְיָצִיצוּ מֵעִיר כְּעֵשֶב הָאָרֶץ. וִיכוֹלִין לַעֲשׂוֹת כֵּן גַּם בְּחֹל הַמּוֹעֵד (מבי"ט חלק א סִימָן רג). וְרוֹחֲצִין יְדֵיהֶם. וְיֵשׁ רֶמֶז, שֶׁאֵין טֻמְאָה זֹאת נִטְהֶרֶת אֶלָּא בִּשִׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים אֵלּוּ, מַיִם וְאֵפֶר פָּרָה וְאֵזוֹב.‏

It is also mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch in 376:4 סימן שעו - מנהג המנחמין, ודין מת שאין לו מנחמים

  • Awesome answer, thanks! +1 and accepted. You'll have to show me how to use Torat Emet for direct links like that -- thus far I haven't been able to figure it out myself. – MTL Nov 23 '14 at 4:47
  • Never mind -- found this page; I'm good now. Thanks again for your answer! – MTL Nov 23 '14 at 4:48
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On chabad.org it says the following:

On the way out of the cemetery, it is customary to pull out some grass, throw it back over the shoulder, and recite the passage below. This symbolizes the Resurrection of the Dead in the era of Moshiach, when the body will awaken and return from the dust of the earth, as it is written, "And may they blossom out of the city like grass of the earth" (Psalms 72:16). As you toss the grass back over your shoulder, say the following verse three times: ויציצו מעיר כעשב הארץ Some say this instead: זכור כי עפר אנחנו

So, it is definitely a Jewish Minhag. As for the source and what it means besides for the above quote, the באר היטב in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 224 explained that the custom of plucking grass from the ground is in order to show honor the the deceased - that you visited him (although I think that he is referring to a visit later on).

  • My pleasure! BTW if i am not mistaken the Lubavitcher Rebbe would rip out some grass and toss it over his shoulder – EHS Nov 20 '14 at 1:55
  • how do you make that yellow line (i was trying to figure out how to do that?) – EHS Nov 20 '14 at 1:58
  • There's two (or three) ways to do that -- either highlight the paragraph and click the " button on top of the page; put a > symbol at the front of the line; or highlight a paragraph and hit ctrl-Q ....all end up doing the same thing, it's just whatever's easier for you to use ( I use ctrl-Q ) – MTL Nov 20 '14 at 2:01

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