16

Recently, the news has been talking about sending people on a 1-way trip to Mars.

AFAIK, no Jews have applied or are scheduled to make the trip. B"H, because I see all sorts of interesting halachic problems that may arise.

One of them - if a Jew dies on Mars, may they be buried there? Mars does have soil, after all. Or is there a specific requirement that Jews be buried only in Earth soil?

(For purposes of this question, assume that NASA or someone else can arrange a ship to get the body and bring it back. Granted, there may be other issues regarding how to preserve the body, etc. until the spaceship arrives and the return flight. Separate issue.)

  • 1
    Just a guess Dan. Factoring in how many hours make a day on Mars, the body probably should be buried on that planet as it is unlikely that it could be returned to Earth in time for a proper Jewish burial. Once the other spaceship arrives, the body can be exhumed and brought back to Earth for burial. I am rather retain that the body does not necessarily have to be buried in the ground as some Jews (including rabbis) have been buried in tombs/caves. This is just a guess. – JJLL Mar 2 '15 at 0:16
  • @JJLL - As Mr. Nimoy would have said, "Sounds logical". I like the idea of temporarily burying on Mars. My guess - the body is probably less likely to decompose there as it does here. I think oxygen may be the main contributory decomposer. – DanF Mar 2 '15 at 0:24
  • I think you are right about th oxygen. I wonder if there are regulations/health concerns transporting a corpse in such closed quarters (as would be the case in a spaceship) over an extended period of time. – JJLL Mar 2 '15 at 0:44
  • There is a discussion by a mes mitzvah a about bringing them to kever avos that may be relevant. In those cases, you would bury the body immediately in place, and then transport them back to earth when the opportunity arises – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 2 '15 at 1:06
  • To add to my previous comment, a Mes is koneh it's makom. Why would this be any different? The requirement is to respectfully handle the body, not "bury them." They used to have crypts dug into caverns to place the dead, but those were technically open air. No reason burying someone on Mars is somehow worse (unless we take the discussions of bodies travelling underground after moshiach at their literal interpretation)... – Isaac Kotlicky Jul 7 '15 at 17:49
12

Although rabbinic literature has yet to discuss death on Mars, the issue of being wholly buried underground, and the various complications to that happening (e.g., state requirements for burial in a coffin, a corpse under water, a buried corpse with limbs above ground, etc.), have been discussed. My theoretical answer depends on the work of the Rambam, the only rabbinic authority I'm familiar with that discussed both the halakhot of burial and that of Mars.

The halakha demands being buried in the ground (cf. Mishneh Torah, Evel, 4:4; Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 362), a mitzvah derived from the Torah:

בזעת אפיך תאכל לחם עד שובך אל־האדמה כי ממנה לקחת כי־עפר אתה ואל־עפר תשוב

By the sweat of your brow shall you get bread to eat, until you return to the earth--for from it you were taken. For dust you are, and to dust you shall return. (Gen 3:19)

Additionally, Ecc. 3:20 states:

הכל הולך אל־מקום אחד הכל היה מן־העפר והכל שב אל־העפר

Everything goes to the same place; everything is from the dust and everything returns to the dust.

Rabbinic literature significantly connects the land on Earth with the body of the individual; AFAIK, rabbinic literature does not equate the land on our planet with that of others. For example, in Mishneh Torah, Yesodei HaTorah 3:1, the Rambam explicitly refers to Mars as one of the nine spheres:

וגלגל חמישי שבו מאדים

And the fifth sphere contains the planet Madim (Mars)

Later (3:10), the Rambam distinguishes between these spheres and the forms of matter on Earth:

ברא האל למטה מגלגל הירח גולם אחד שאינו כגולם הגלגלים, וברא ארבע צורות לגולם זה ואינן כצורת הגלגלים ונקבע כל צורה וצורה במקצת גולם זה ... וצורה רביעית צורת הארץ נתחברה במקצתו ונהיה משניהם גוף הארץ

Below the sphere of the moon, God created a type of matter which differs from the matter of the spheres. He created four forms for this matter, which differ from the forms of matter of the spheres. ... The fourth of these forms is the form of earth. When it became connected to a portion of this matter, from the two there came into being a body of earth.

With this reasoning, Rambam makes a direct connection between the four elements found on our planet and the obligation of burial (4:4):

הואיל וכל הנפסד יפרד ליסודות אלו למה נאמר לאדם ואל עפר תשוב, לפי שרוב בנינו מן העפר

Since every entity will decompose and separate into these four fundamental elements, why was Adam told: "You will return to dust" [implying that man alone] will return to dust? Because the major part of man's composition is from dust.

Thus, Adam is derived from adamah (cf. Guide to the Perplexed, 1:14), as man is connected to the element of earth (an element he claims only exists on the planet Earth).

Obviously, the inaccuracy of the Rambam's Aristotelian physics should be accounted for in any practical decision-making (CYLOR). Nevertheless, it appears that the Rambam would argue that one cannot be buried on the planet Mars.

  • 1
    Ingenious answer. I think the Rambam held it is actually impossible to be buried on mars. – HaLeiVi Jul 7 '15 at 3:14
  • In other words, since all the particles of man are physically derived from Earth, he is required to decompose back into Earth, and not into Mars from which none of his particles originated. – HaLailah HaZeh Feb 19 '17 at 6:26
  • Somehow I have a feeling to check Yalkut Yosef in addition to the abovecited works - but I don't have access to the English version. Anyone? – Yerushalmi Mar 22 '17 at 2:42
  • Who derives from Gen. 3:19 the mitzvah to bury in the ground? – Oliver Aug 23 '19 at 4:21
  • one thing is for sure -> instead of rolling to israel hashem will have to make you fly! am I right? – OB7DEV Aug 23 '19 at 5:35
0

אִם־יִהְיֶ֥ה נִֽדַּחֲךָ֖ בִּקְצֵ֣ה הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם מִשָּׁ֗ם יְקַבֶּצְךָ֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ וּמִשָּׁ֖ם יִקָּחֶֽךָ׃

Even if your outcasts are at the ends of the world, from there the LORD your God will gather you, from there He will fetch you.

still applies although my answer may not directly answer your question.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .