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I had heard from a rabbi that items used for part of a Jewish grave receive some type of "holiness" and may not be used for other purposes. E.g. - one can't take dirt already used to cover the coffin and use it for his garden.

If this is true, what about the planks that are used on top of the grave pit to temporarily rest the coffin upon before lowering it in the grave? It doesn't seem to be part of the grave itself, but it was used as part of the burial service. Does it have any holiness status, or can one use it for any purpose whatsoever? Or, can one use it only for other "holy" purposes such as support for the succah?

  • Why do you mention supporting the succah as a "holy" purpose and not using it as skhakh? After all, the skhakh is the ikkar of the succah. – Daniel Sep 9 '15 at 17:47
  • @Daniel fair enough. See the sentence above. I said "such as...". I mean ANY holy purpose. Could be to build an Ark for the Sifrei Torah, as well. – DanF Sep 9 '15 at 17:52
  • I just mentioned this question because I'm not so sure that supporting the succah would be considered a "holy purpose," and there is a clearly holier thing that you could use the wood for. I assume you are asking about the concept of "ma'alin b'kodesh v'ein moridin"? – Daniel Sep 9 '15 at 17:57
  • @Daniel I assume you are asking about the concept of "ma'alin b'kodesh v'ein moridin"? - I wasn't considering that concept at all, so no, not really. I am just curious if the grave plank has any holiness at all that requires it to be used for any other spec. holy purpose, regardless of its level. – DanF Sep 9 '15 at 18:00
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Graves do not have any holiness.

The Gemara in Sanhedrin 47b teaches us that graves - once they are used - are Asur BeHana'a - they are forbidden to be used for mundane purposes, similar to the way idols are forbidden for use.

This is learned from Pesukim (verses). Rashi says it's a Torah prohibition.

פינהו מקומו טהור. דלא גזור עליה מפני הנזק ומיהו אסור בהנאה דאיסורא דאורייתא הוא ולא פקעא:‏

The Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh De'ah 364 - סימן שסד - אסור הנאה של קבר והאבן והבנין- says that this does not refer to the earth, (unless it is being relocated - Remo), only to the building, or other structures constructed for the deceased.

The Remo says that burial accessories - may be used for mundane purposes, but only with permission from the Burial Society, since they are probably bought with charity funds.

In the original:

א: קֶבֶר שֶׁל בִּנְיָן, אָסוּר בַּהֲנָאָה; אֲבָל קַרְקַע עוֹלָם שֶׁל קֶבֶר, אֵינוֹ נֶאֱסָר.‏
הגה: וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים דְּהַקַּרְקַע שֶׁלָּקְחוּ מִן הַקֶּבֶר וְחָזְרוּ וְנָתְנוּ עָלָיו, דְּהָוֵי תָּלוּשׁ וּלְבַסּוֹף חִבְּרוֹ, אָסוּר בַּהֲנָאָה (טוּר בְּשֵׁם הר''ר יְשַׁעְיָה) . וְיֵשׁ אוֹסְרִין עוֹד לֵישֵׁב עַל הָאֶבֶן שֶׁנּוֹתְנִין עַל הַקֶּבֶר לְמַצֵּבָה (גַּם זוֹ בִּשְׁמוֹ וכ''כ הַגָּהוֹת אֲשֵׁרִ''י בְּשֵׁם אוֹר זָרוּעַ פֶּרֶק אֵלּוּ מְגַלְּחִין) . וְיֵשׁ חוֹלְקִים וּמַתִּירִים (טוּר בְּשֵׁם הָרֹא''שׁ) . הַכֵּלִים שֶׁחוֹפְרִים וְקוֹבְרִים בָּהֶם, מֻתָּרִים בַּהֲנָאָה, וְאֵין לְהִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶן אֶלָּא מִדַּעַת הַגַּבַּאי, כְּמוֹ בִּשְׁאָר צְדָקָה (תְּשׁוּבַת הָרַשְׁבָּ''א סִימָן צ''ז).‏
וְהָא דְּקֶבֶר שֶׁל בִּנְיָן אָסוּר לְעוֹלָם, דַּוְקָא שֶׁבְּנָאוֹ לְשֵׁם מֵת, וּנְתָנוֹ בּוֹ אֲפִלּוּ עַל דַּעַת לְפַנּוֹתוֹ, וַאֲפִלּוּ לֹא נָתַן בּוֹ אֶלָּא נֵפֶל. אֲבָל אִם בְּנָאוֹ לִשְׁמוֹ, וְלֹא נְתָנוֹ בּוֹ, מֻתָּר. וְכֵן אִם נְתָנוֹ בּוֹ אַדַּעְתָּא לְפַנּוֹתוֹ, וְלֹא הִזְמִינוֹ מִתְּחִלָּה, מֻתָּר לְאַחַר שֶׁפִּנָּהוּ. אֲבָל אִם נְתָנוֹ בּוֹ עַל דַּעַת לִהְיוֹת בּוֹ עוֹלָמִית, אָסוּר אֲפִלּוּ לְאַחַר שֶׁפִּנָּהוּ, אֲפִלּוּ לֹא בְּנָאוֹ לִשְׁמוֹ. וְאִם לֹא בְּנָאוֹ לִשְׁמוֹ, וּנְתָנוּהוּ בְּתוֹכוֹ וְהוֹסִיף בּוֹ דִּימוֹס (פֵּרוּשׁ נִדְבָּךְ, וְהוּא שׁוּרַת בִּנְיַן הַחוֹמָה) לִשְׁמוֹ, כֻּלּוֹ אָסוּר, אֲפִלּוּ לְאַחַר שֶׁפִּנָּהוּ וַאֲפִלּוּ שֶׁקְּבָרוֹ שָׁם עַל דַּעַת לְפַנּוֹתוֹ. וְאִם מַכִּיר הַדִּימוֹס שֶׁהוֹסִיף לִשְׁמוֹ, מְסִירוֹ, וְהוּא לְבַדּוֹ אָסוּר, וּשְׁאָר הַקֶּבֶר מֻתָּר. ‏

So, to your question:

The planks that are used on top of the grave pit to temporarily rest the coffin upon before lowering it in the grave are not part of the structure of the grave and are not forbidden to be used.

However, they probably belong to the Burial Society - you would need their permission to use them.

  • Is there a problem that it could become tamei because of goleil/dofeik, which would disqualify it as schach? (My knowledge of those halachos is very limited.) – Heshy Jun 18 '18 at 14:33
  • @Heshy - IIRC the goleil/dofeik needs to be part of the monument. These planks are Chevra Kadisha props. I also have in mind that a goleil/dofeik lose their Tumah once disconnected - would need to check that. – Danny Schoemann Jun 18 '18 at 15:00
  • I was just thinking that if they were ever goleil/dofeik, does that make them mekabeil tumah (not tamei) for the purpose of sukkah? – Heshy Jun 18 '18 at 15:09
  • @Heshy, if planks are used as a cover for a grave or to support the cover (Golel/Dofek) then they cause/transmit Tumah but only DeRabanan and they aren't actually Tameh. Rambam הלכות טומאת מת in Ch. 2:15 that says: אֲבָל הַמַּעֲמִיד כֵּלִים אוֹ אֲבָנִים וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן בְּצִדֵּי הַמֵּת וְכִסָּה עָלָיו מִלְּמַעְלָה בְּכֵלִים ... זֶה הַכִּסּוּי הַמֻּטָּל מִלְּמַעְלָה נִקְרָא גּוֹלֵל וְאֵלּוּ הַצְּדָדִין הַמַּעֲמִידִין אֶת הַגּוֹלֵל שֶׁהוּא נִשְׁעָן עֲלֵיהֶן נִקְרָאִין דּוֹפֵק. וּשְׁנֵיהֶם הַגּוֹלֵל אוֹ הַדּוֹפֵק מְטַמְּאִין בְּמַגָּע וּבְאֹהֶל כְּקֶבֶר וְטֻמְאָתָן מִדִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים – Danny Schoemann Jun 19 '18 at 9:06

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