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Wikipedia notes that R' Mordochai Benet, the Mähren Landesrabbiner (Chief Rabbi of Moravia) notes that was temporarily interred in Lichtenberg prior to being re-interred in Nikolsburg, according to his will.

Growing up, I had always been told that re-interment of a person's remains should only be done when they are being brought to Israel or when they would come to be desecrated otherwise. A friend of mine who is a rav with the United Synagogue chevra kedisha is opposed to re-interment in Israel, as he finds that invariably there is some form of ignominy to the body.

What was the reasoning brought in the wake of R' Benet's death to justify moving his remains, especially after their initial interment ?

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R. Benet's son, R. Naftali, wrote in a letter (Misped Gadol Ve'kaved Meod, here) to the Nikolsburg community that his father died in Carlsbad while there for therapeutic reasons (ibid, note). He then goes on to report that his father asked that he be buried in Nikolsburg, his home town, or at least in Prague, however, the city authorities did not permit the transfer of a corpse unless it was embalmed or if it was immediately transferred which, understandably, they needed some time to first render the Jewish ritual preparations. Consequently, they hurried to have the body taken to nearby Nikolsburg.

Upon receiving the letter, the Nikolsburg rabbinate moved to fulfill R. Benet's wishes and have the body buried in Nikolsburg. However, due to the uncommon practice at the time to re-interment a body the question was sent to greater authorities.

The question asked to R. Moshe Sofer (Resp. Chasam Sofer vol. 6 no. 37) was if the community can follow in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch (YD 363:1), which permits re-interment if such was the wish of the deceased, despite the fact that it was uncommon and strange to do so. In CS's reply, he dealt with the issue of who is reliable regarding the true wishes of RMB. Ultimately, once it was established (through the dream*) that RMB wished to be buried in his home-town it was then decided upon the basis of the SA (ibid) to re-interment the body.

*See also the version of R. Hillel Lichtenstein in his Mikra Dardeki (vol. 1 pg. 63b no. 419).

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R Ben Zion Sobel wrote about this, quoting from the sefer Chayim Sheyaish Bahem - it is a more incredible story I would have expected when reading your question !

In a nutshell the Chatam Sofer was asked if the remains of R Banet could be moved and saw him in a dream asking to delay the move as a tikun for a mistake he made (other version: he saw him after 6 months asking to now allow the move). The mistake was either a shidduch he broke or a shidduch he allowed to be broken.

On the thirteenth of Menachem Av, 5589, Rabbi Mordechai Banet ztvk"l, the Chief Rabbi of Nikohlsburgh, passed away. Since it was during the summer months, he was at the baths in Karlebad when he died, and he was buried in the town of Lichtenshtatt, which was nearby. When the community of Nikohlsburgh heard of the tragedy which had befallen them, they insisted that their great Rabbi be moved to their town immediately, to be buried in honor in the grave of his ancestors. However, the community of Lichtenshtatt argued that they had been privileged to receive the Holy Rabbi's body and it should remain by them. The dispute was brought before the greatest Rabbis of the generation, including the Chasam Sofer, who said that it would be permissible to move the grave, but did not rule decisively what to do.

About six months later, the Chasam Sofer dealt with the issue again and this time he wrote to the Judges of Nikohlsburgh that now he had definitely decided that they should move their Rabbi back to their town and bury him there. That is exactly what they did and he was buried there with honors on the twelfth of Adar, 5590.

This is the version that is recorded in the book Chut Hameshulash where it is explained that Rabbi Banet came to the Chasam Sofer in a dream and asked him to allow them to move his body to Nikohlsburgh. He revealed that when he was a bachur (an unmarried boy) he was engaged to the daughter of the Rabbi of Lichtenshtatt and he broke the shidduch, causing shame to the family of his betrothed. Therefore, he was punished that for half a year he would have to lie in their cemetery, far from his home town and from the graves of his ancestors. However, his penalty was over now and therefore he requested that the Chasam Sofer see to it that he be returned home where he belonged.

However, the author of the book Pe'er Mordechai, who wrote the biography of Rabbi Mordechai Banet, argues that the Rabbi never broke a shidduch in his life. He maintains that there is a mistake in the way the story is written in the Chut Hameshulash and brings another version from the son of the Chasam Sofer who heard it from his father.

He told that even the first time the Chasam Sofer dealt with the question, he wrote that they are obligated to return the body to Nikohlsburgh. However, before he could send his decision away, he fell asleep and Rabbi Banet came to him in a dream and asked him to delay his ruling for a while. He explained that he is being punished and must be buried in Lichtenshtatt for half a year because he once gave someone permission to break a shidduch. The Rabbi stressed that "although my decision was correct according to the Torah, nevertheless, since people's honor is a very serious matter and I caused pain and embarrassment to the girl and her family, therefore I am being punished!" In order to prove that his words were true, Rabbi Banet told the Chasam Sofer that they can check and see that the betrothed girl is buried right next to the grave where he is lying now. The Chasam Sofer did so and found his words to be true. Therefore he waited six months before having the Rabbi's body returned home.

We must learn from this how careful we must be never to cause pain or embarrassment to anyone, even if he or she deserves it. Then we will be truly happy in this world and in the World-to-Come.

The story is told elsewhere incl. here quoting the sefer Siach Nechamah by Rav Chaim Kanievsky, page 192.


As to the halachic permissibility of the re-interment, dinonline notes here it is permissible if the person is being relocated to the Land of Israel, or to the family burial plot (kever avos) (but see Igrot Moshe YD 3:153 who writes that decisions of relocation the grave can only be taken by the children of the deceased, and not by the general Jewish community).

The Sridei Eish writes (vol. 2, no. 100) the highest halachic authorities gave their permission to move R Banet's remains

The removal of bones from one gravesite to another … is a matter that our rabbis and decisors in all generations have treated with great severity, for we find that Chazal were very insistent on the proper respect to be paid to the dead…. And therefore we observe that time after time when a question concerning the disinterment of bones came before the great masters, they would apply themselves to this halachah with great gravity and seriousness, and they would preoccupy themselves in the clarification and meticulous examination of all possibilities, and they would not rush to permit even under circumstances where the basis for leniency was clear and obvious. It is well known how the gedolei hador were filled with fear and trepidation when they had to decide whether to permit the disinterment of the pure body of the Gaon Rabbi Mordechai Benet from Lichtenstaut to Prague.

For further analysis, you could search for the the tshuva from the Seridei Eish or look for the relevant tshuva from the Hatam Sofer. See for instance article here and its footnotes, particularly #2, 9, 32, 37 and 42 who refer to relevant tshuvot from the Hatam Sofer.

  • This addresses why he was originally buried elsewhere, but does it address what the justification for moving him was, in light of what the questioner was taught growing up? – Alex Jun 28 '18 at 18:41
  • I believe it says so: "When the community of Nikohlsburgh heard of the tragedy which had befallen them, they insisted that their great Rabbi be moved to their town immediately, to be buried in honor in the grave of his ancestors." This being said, it would be really great to find the tsuva from the Hatam Sofer, to understand what really went on – mbloch Jun 28 '18 at 18:45
  • @Alex I further extended to mention the halachic justifications and sources for further research – mbloch Jun 28 '18 at 19:02
  • I have the teshuva of the Seridei Eish. He quotes the Ketav Sofer (not Chatam Sofer) and only deals with one point, and does not mention R. Banet. Unless the other edition of Seridei Eish has a different teshuva as number 2:20 which just so happens to also be about relocating bodies, and discusses more. – Alex Jun 28 '18 at 19:06
  • @Alex it becomes more mysterious, you also noted that the last quote mentions Prague wherever he was apparently re interred in Nikolsburg. Ultimately it would be interesting to scan the tshuvot of Hatam Sofer I mention at the very end but I feel the question is already answered – mbloch Jun 28 '18 at 19:12
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While it is true that generally speaking we don't re-inter, there are a number of exceptions:

Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 363:1

אין מפנין המת והעצמות לא מקבר מכובד לקבר מכובד ולא מקבר בזוי לקבר בזוי ולא מבזוי למכובד ואצ"ל ממכובד לבזוי ובתוך שלו אפילו ממכובד לבזוי מותר שערב לאדם שיהא נח אצל אבותיו וכן כדי לקוברו בארץ ישראל מותר ואם נתנוהו שם על מנת לפנותו מותר בכל ענין ואם אינו משתמר בזה הקבר שיש לחוש שמא יוציאוהו עובדי כוכבים או שיכנסו בו מים או שהוא קבר הנמצא מצוה לפנותו

  • Moving to be buried with ancestors is allowed.
  • Moving to be buried in Israel is allowed.
  • If the body was buried on condition to be moved, it can be moved.
  • If the grave is not guarded to the extent that there is a concern of non-Jews taking the body or of water entering the grave, or if it is a stolen grave, it is a mitzvah to move the body.

It would seem likely that in the case of R. Mordechai Banet they would have been able to justify it using one or more of the above exceptions.

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