I'm looking for sources discussing the religious aspect of the Tahara done on deceased Jews.

I recall someone mentioning that the religious aspect of it was a practice we picked up from the Muslims while living in their countries. The lack of mention in Talmudic sources would corroborate this.

Although the Mishna in Shabbos on the bottom of 151a does mention washing the deceased, and Rambam codified this in the beginning of Hilchos Avel chapter 4, that washing was simply a way of preserving the body from further decay along with plugging up of airways, tying the jaw if necessary etc. This is obvious from the Gemara and commentaries on the Mishna.

Nowadays however, it is treated as a spiritual ritual. The Chevra Kadisha treat this washing and preparation as a full blown mitzvah. Funds are collected. Volunteers choose between this and other Chessed. (Should I join Hatzala or the Chevra Kadisha? Depends how fast you drive)

So, any articles or links?

  • 2
    This may of course be comparable to Metzitza, where the Talmud discussed it as a health concern and later authorities attributed other meanings to the act.
    – user6591
    Feb 5 '16 at 16:05
  • @newcomer I have friends and relatives that do taharos for various communities and taharos are always done to everyone. Unless of course the families of the deceased don't allow it. Very rare.
    – user6591
    Apr 13 '16 at 19:38
  • First of all just because it's fine doesn't make it correct is the premise of my question. Second of all your source is discussing doing melacha on Yom Tov, not a regular day.
    – user6591
    Apr 13 '16 at 23:10
  • the nitei gavriel mentioning a practice does not give it any more credence or historical accuracy than us witnessing society doing it. And just because you can't be mechalel Yom Tov to do something doesn't mean you can't do it on a weekday. You are allowed to cook for a mechalel Shabbos on a weekday. You may not cook for them on Yom Tov.
    – user6591
    Apr 13 '16 at 23:20

You want “sources discussing the religious aspect of the Tahara done on deceased Jews”.

1) Wikipedia has an article listing the sources under three headings, mishnaic, talmudic and from the poskim. I do not see in the article a distinction between a practical mitzva and a spiritual one as you ask.

2) Zaka have an article in what appears to be publicity material, which covers similar material and deals with the question of Tahara where the deceased has not been available for Tahara because of state rules. The Halocho seems to be that the Tahara should be as near as possible to the interment because that is the honour of the dead. The “honour of the dead” seems to be the deciding principle. You must decide if this is a practical or spiritual principle.

3) There is a Teshuva published by “Response for Today” of the Conservative/Masorti movement which reviews the sources under the headings, Tannaitic era, Era of the Amoraim, Era of the Geonim, Era of the Rishonim, Era of the Acharonim and practical Halocho.

  • Nothing in these sources adds to help understand if the washing is anything more than a practical way to keep the body from decaying which was already mentioned in the question as the explanation in the mishna.
    – user6591
    Jan 24 '17 at 16:15
  • @user6591 The last source quotes a number of important early sources discussing the goals and process of a Tahara, with plenty of footnotes and references too. What exactly are you looking for?
    – Double AA
    Jan 24 '17 at 17:06
  • @user6591 Agreed - Source 2 suggests that the critical issue is the state of the deceased at the moment of burial - not before. Might this give an idea of the reason? Jan 24 '17 at 17:07
  • @Double I didn't see anything in the footnotes giving a better insight than the Mishna. Perhaps you noticed something I didn't? Cleaning your clothes for shabbos is a practical physical act for the honor of shabbos. Going to the mikva is a different kind of washing. Is Tahara akin to the former or the latter. That is what I am looking for.
    – user6591
    Jan 24 '17 at 17:21

You must log in to answer this question.

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