A Shabbat guest told me that he had heard that there is a custom to put a cracked egg shell on a dead person's eyes and a piece of pottery in the dead person's mouth prior to burial.

I'm completely unfamiliar with this custom if, in fact, it is one. My guest didn't recall where he had heard this, and, of course, I couldn't confirm this either way.

Is there such a custom, and, if so, what is its origin?

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    I never heard of such a thing, either. I've heard of various non-Jewish customs, like including a couple of coins to pay to ferry the dead person across the Styx(?). Also, on the more modern side, there seems to be "standard" body mutilations that organized crime victims receive, depending on why they were executed. Those might be partially legendary, but one of the guys who welcomed Donnie Brasco/Joe Pistone into the alleged organized crime group was found with his hands cut off, the same hands that welcomed the FBI Agent into the group.
    – Gary
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 21:23

2 Answers 2


Eggs The Minhag to crack an egg on the head is a Kol Bo mentioned by the Beit Yosef and Rama (Yoreh Deah 352:4). Don't know about the pottery.

מעצימין עיניו של מת; ואם נפתח פיו, קושרין לחייו. ופוקקין נקביו אחר שמדיחין אותו במיני בשמים. וגוזזין שערו. הגה: וצפרניו. ומדיחים אותו היטב בכל מקום, שיהא נקי מכל טומאה (בנימין זאב), וטחין ראשו בביצים טרופים בקליפתן, שגלגל הוא שחוזר בעולם (כל בו).

Pottery Just found the Perishah and Shach (Yoreh Deah 362:8 and 1, respectively) quote this Minhag to substitute for burial with dirt in an aron.

(ח) ונותנין עפר על פניו. פירוש שהוא מקום מגולה בלא בגדים לאפוקי על שאר כל גופו שהוא מכוסה בבגדים אז נותנין עפר על בגדיו וכדמסיק ונראה דבזמנינו שנותנין חרסים על פיו ועיניו הוי במקום עפר דבזמנם:


As a member of the chevra kadisha in my community, we would put a shard of broken pottery on the eyes and mouth of the mais before covering the head with the hood of the tachrichim. I have been given different explanations which include a symbol of teshuva as well as showing that the earth has closed the eyes and mouth with the departure of the neshama. However, I was not given an original source for this custom.

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