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Where does the funeral tradition of burial within 24 hours originate? A Google search result pointed me towards this passage from the Torah as being the reason:

Deuteronomy 21:22-23

And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree; his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt surely bury him the same day; for he that is hanged is a reproach unto God; that thou defile not thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

As you can see, when looking up the referenced passage and seeing the additional context it makes no sense.

I always understood it to stem from living in a hot country where bodies would decompose if left for too long. However, if it's just a tradition, you'd expect it to not remain any more due to modern cryogenics and the likelihood of family having to travel long distances in order to attend.

Where did it come from and why is it still prevalent today?

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The Mishna (Sanhedrin 6:5) rules that one must bury someone before daybreak. There is no rule of 24 hours that I know of.

The Talmud there (Bavli 46b) derives this rule from the double language in the verse you cite קָבוֹר תִּקְבְּרֶנּוּ "bury you shall bury him". The extra word comes to include an extra case.

This prohibition is hence Biblical and not subject to change with advancements in preservation technology.

  • If it is a biblical commandment, how do people delay their burial for a few days to be flown to Israel? – Clint Eastwood Apr 20 '15 at 14:00
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    @ClintEastwood There are also Biblical rules for when the rule doesn't apply and you can delay burial. See YD 357. Is that a problem? – Double AA Apr 20 '15 at 14:03
  • Thanks for the answer. I'm still struggling to comprehend the crucial part though. How do we get to the interpretation that applies this passage to everyone and not just those on the receiving end of the death penalty? I'm not following the double language explanation. – bcmcfc Apr 21 '15 at 3:00
  • @bcmcfc I think what's happening here is in Judaism there's the concept that the Oral Torah says something, and that it's something that is hinted at in the written torah. I wouldn't call it "biblical". But there's a concept of d'oraisa vs d'rabannan i.e. if it's from the Torah itself (That's oral torah or written torah, or, drabbanan if it's from the rabbis). In this case it's the oral torah (said to be hinted at in the written). But since it's from the oral torah not from the rabbis, it's not something that jews would be flexible with changing.. (cont) – barlop Mar 23 '17 at 16:58
  • @bcmcfc (cntd) though even for rabbinical rulings, when the rule no longer applies, religious jews often wouldn't change it.. (some examples may include snake poison risk with cheese, as one reason why cheese needs supervision to be kosher, or some say that technically electricity is ok on shabbat and the idea that it wasn't was down to a misunderstanding of scientists of the time and rabbis of how electricity functioned, in the early days of electricity, or some reasons re the kosherness of wine like the risk of it being used for idolatrous purposes is often almost nil nowadays) – barlop Mar 23 '17 at 17:08
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This is the logic -If we must bury even a criminal quickly, surely we must bury a regular person quickly. 24 hours is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule.

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