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I found out that a friend (who is Jewish) has a piece of her grandmother's hair as a keepsake. Isn't this assur?

I felt it was not right, but I have no source. Are there sources prohibiting this?

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    was it cut before she passed away, or after? – Menachem Nov 15 '16 at 7:05
  • I am not sure, is there sources permitting it before or after death. – Aryah Nov 15 '16 at 7:08
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From the Gemara, if it is a keepsake only, not for any profit, it seems suitable. There is a Suggia in the Gemara which says that to profit from a dead is not allowed, see this post.

See Gemara Berachot 5b which can teach us something about the question:

והא א"ר יוחנן דין גרמא דעשיראה ביר

Did not R`Johanan himself say: This is the bone of my tenth son?!

ראבי"ה = יש מפרשים ביר כמו בר ושן בנו היה שאינו מטמא, ויש מפרשים מלשון להברות שהברוהו באבלו ועצם זה משל בהמה היה שכבר י׳ פעמים הברוהו והי׳ נוטל תמיד העצם לזכרון.

Raaviah concluded that it was a tooth wich doesn't make unclean, or a "symbolic bone" and the bone was an animal's bone.

ספר הערוך = דין גרמא דעשיראה ביר פי׳ י׳ בנים היו לו ומתו, ומצער ומרוב החביבות היה נושאו, ואדם קדוש כר׳ יוחנן היאך היה נושא עצם המת ומיטמא בכל שעה, אלא אותו עצם שן היה, ושן המת אינו מטמא, דתנן בפ״ג באהלות (מ״ג) ובפ׳ כה״ג בנזיר בגמ׳ מלא תרווד רקב (נזיר נא.) כל שבמת טמא חוץ מן השינים והשער והצפורן, ובשעת חבורו הכל טמא, וזה תלוש היה. ומפורש בר״ג דם הנדה (נא.) כל דבר שהוא עם אדם כשנולד ואין גזעו מחליף, מטמא, לאפוקי שן אע״פ שאין גזעו מחליף אין נולד עמו, השיער והצפורן אע״פ שנולדו עמו גזען מחליף, לפיכך אינן מטמאין, אבל רמ״ח אברים טמאין במת אפי׳ כשנפרשו לפי שנולדו עמו, ואם תחתוך אחד מהן אין גזעו מחליף. פ״א: כשהיה הולך לבית האבל מוליכו עמו כדי לנחמם, כלומר ראו מה אירע בי, דין גרמא דעשיראה ביר וצערי גדול משלכם. [הערוך ערך גרם].

Sefer Haaruch said also that it was a tooth or hairs which grow (nails also) and are not present at birth, they don't have uncleaness when separated from the body.

The problem with a bone for Rishonim is that bone make unclean, and Rabbi Yochanan did surely not intentionally make himself unclean. But some hairs from the grandmother seems to not be a problem.

You can see than Rishonim are not astonished if someone keep a tooth or hair.


Hairs which were cut from someone before his death are permitted to be used for profit. RMA hagahot Shulchan Aruch YD 349, 2

  • todah rabbah, I appreciate the information, although her custom seems strange to me, it evidently is not assur and that is a relief. – Aryah Nov 20 '16 at 19:42
  • The only problem is tumah? So if you keep a bone in something that blocks tumah (kli cheres with a sealed lid) it's ok? (Not that I would want to, too weird) – Heshy Dec 11 '16 at 12:36
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    @Heshy The rishonim addressed Tum'a, you can read inside the Sefer Haaruch. I have not said that I know that the only problem is Tum'a. There are perhaps additionnal problems, e.g. a mitsva to burry each member. You know? I will search. I used the Gemara as a testimony of such a practice, but I did not search deeply in the Halachot Kevura – kouty Dec 11 '16 at 12:52
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Strictly speaking, it is against Jewish Law to keep the hair or items of the dead. This is "assur" (English: not permitted). That is why we say the "Kaddish" prayer as a start. The "Kaddish" celebrates the eternal life of the soul (i.e. the spirit). One must by strict Jewish Law bury the dead with a funeral within 24 hours after the death of that individual. All the belongings of that person must be taken out of your home, for one example only. The "Kaddish" never once mentions death. It is a praise of life itself and of G-d. So, it seems that the dead are not physically part of the world of the living. Is this because the soul never dies, but the body dies? Perhaps that is the true meaning of the "Kaddish".

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    please sight sources supporting your statement? – Aryah Dec 12 '16 at 8:08
  • Ok, Aryah. I have rehearsal today, so I will do the research & site sources from the Torah in the coming days - so this week. Thanks for responding & for your patience. This is an interesting problem - keeping hair (or ashes, for example) of the dead. It is forbidden by very strict Jewish Law as assur. – Amadea Leonore-saxophone Dec 12 '16 at 8:35

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