What are the earliest sources (i.e. Chazal or Rishonim) for washing one's hands after visiting a cemetery?

Is this mentioned by the Rambam?


1 Answer 1


A Geonic responsum (T'shuvos HaGeonim Shaarei Tzedek chelek 3 shaar 4 siman 20) cited by the Ritz Geius (Hil. Avel), the Ramban (Toras Haadam: Shaar Haavel; inyan hahaschala), the Ran (chiddushim to Moed Katan; dinei kvurah: aveilus uminhagim), and the Tur (YD 376) mentions a custom of washing ones hand after returning from a cemetery before entering ones house and says that it is unnecessary but appropriate/permissible if one has the minhag. The Ritz Geius identifies this Gaon as R. Platoi (פלטואי) Gaon.

The Machzor Vitry (280) too rules that it is unnecessary.

Hagahos Ashri (Moed Katan 3:86) quotes the Or Zarua that some mourners wash their hands upon returning from a cemetery and that this is permissible but isn't mandatory.

The Rambam doesn't appear to quote it.

  • I don't have a source, but I was taught to wash my hands after leaving a cemetery if there was an open grave, i.e., for a funeral. But just to visit, and there was no open graves, it was not necessary. I was also taught if there was no water at the cemetery, it was ok to wait till you got home and washed your hands before entering your house.
    – Dennis
    Apr 15, 2015 at 18:42
  • Why it's not mentioned by the Rambam is quite interesting. Since he holds a cemetary is a place of tumah like that of a bathhouse or bathroom. I suppose it would depend on what he holds in those cases as well.
    – Yehoshua
    Aug 12, 2015 at 13:13
  • @Dennis as per your comment, if one didn't wash by the cemetery and plans on washing at home would he be allowed to study Torah?
    – Sye510
    Mar 18, 2018 at 19:01

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