Does Judaism require burial of the dead? What Biblical passages mandate that?

Can grave sites be reused after some time (e.g. 200 years) ? I am asking this because the practice of burying the dead in dedicated 25 sq ft of space, with the growing world population, yet ever more scarce arable land, seems like a wasteful practice, to say the least.


2 Answers 2


The basic source is Deuteronomy 21:23, "You shall bury him on that day." (Whether it also applies to non-Jews is not so simple. The Ramban there mentions that Joshua took care to bury the bodies of the Canaanite kings (Joshua 10:27), though he says maybe that was more so as not to contaminate the land of Israel. Another relevant source is the long description of the burial of the dead of the war of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 39, though the same point would be true there too.)

(The context of Deuteronomy 21:23 is talking about executed criminals, but the Talmud (Sanhedrin 46b) derives from the dual wording kavor tikb'renu ("bury you shall bury him") that it applies to all dead.)

Graves: as long as the body is there, they're forbidden for any other use, and according to some opinions even if the body was moved (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 364:2). If there's no more land available for graves, then a new layer can be placed on top of the old one as long as there are at least 6 handbreadths (about 2 feet) between them (ibid. 362:3).


There is an interesting article about burning the dead in Jewish tradition.
With reference to rabbis who asked for there bodies to be burnt!!
In this link (Hebrew)

  • why is this answer not useful? burning the body is so much less space wasteful, and here are example of a chief rabbi that asked to be burnt because he thought it was halachacky OK
    – eliavs
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 8:09
  • I didn't downvote, but two reasons why this answer is not useful are because it basically consists of just a link (1) to an article in a language that many or most of our users are not fluent in (2). Please consider excerpting and translating the relevant parts here.
    – HodofHod
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 15:40

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