Are there any halachos pertaining to how one should or should not give a hesped?
If so, what are they?
If not, are there general guidelines based on what the goal of a hesped is?
R Yirmiyohu Kaganoff has an essay on this question.
A few relevant quotes from there
- “It is a great mitzvah to eulogize the deceased appropriately. The mitzvah is to raise one’s voice, saying about him things that break the heart in order to increase crying and to commemorate his praise. However, it is prohibited to exaggerate his praise excessively. One mentions his good qualities and adds a little… If the person had no positive qualities, say nothing about him (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 344:1)
- The eulogy should be appropriate to the purpose and extent of the tragedy. For example, a young person should be eulogized more intensely than an older one, and a person without surviving descendants should be eulogized more intensely than someone who had children (Meiri, Moed Katan 27b). Also, the crying of every hesped should not be to excess (Meiri, ad loc.).
- “I have heard eulogies where the speaker seemed more interested in demonstrating his speaking prowess or saying clever divrei Torah than in commemorating the departed. Is this the proper way to eulogize?” Despite its frequency, such eulogies are halachically wrong. This sin of eulogizing for one’s own self aggrandizement or exaggerating excessively, is so serious and apparently is so commonplace that there were places that developed a custom never to eulogize and to forgo the mitzvah altogether, despite its importance (see Gesher HaChayim 1:13:4).
See the full essay for more.