Did Jews insist corpses be buried before sunset?

“Yes, after all…
  • Even the crucified weren't left overnight
  • Jews insisted on burying corpses ASAP

      Jews felt obligated to ensure that any corpse is buried without delay (unless it was one’s parents).

      • …Jews were obligated to hasten the burial.1
      • …The only exception was for parents1[2] (B. Sanh 47 a)
      1. The Tractate ‘Mourning’ (Semahot) 9.9: “…he should hasten the burial and not make the funeral elaborate.” [The Tractate ‘Mourning’ (Semahot) (Yale, 1966), 146. Cf. IX:9]
      2. The Tractate ‘Mourning’ (Semahot; Ebel Rabbathi) 9.9: “…he should hasten the burial and not make the funeral elaborate. In the case of his father or mother, he should make an elaborate funeral … In an emergency, however, or on Sabbath Eve, or if rain is coming down on the bier, he should haste the burial and not prolong the funeral.” [Cf. Yerushalmi Moed Qatan 3:8 [I.A.]][ • Yerushalmi Moed Qatan 3:8 [I.A.] -- For all other dead he should hasten the burial and not make the funeral elaborate. In the case of his father and mother, he should make an elaborate funeral and not hasten the burial, for whosever takes pains with his father and mother is praiseworthy. In an emergency, however, or on Sabbath Eve, or if rain is coming down on the bier, he should hasten the burial and not prolong the funeral. [Trans. by Zlotnick (Yale, 1966) 68-69.] • B. Sanh 47 a
        Talmud: “Come and hear! IF HE KEPT HIM OVER NIGHT FOR THE SAKE OF HIS HONOUR, TO PROCURE FOR HIM A COFFIN OR A SHROUD HE DOES NOT TRANSGRESS THEREBY… Come and hear! If he [the relative] kept him overnight for his own honour, so as to inform the [neighbouring] towns of his death, or to bring professional women mourners for him, or to procure for him a coffin or a shroud, he does not transgress thereby, for all that he does is only for the honour of the deceased!” • Isidore Epstein et. al. (team): “the longer the body remains exposed, the greater the disgrace; and even in the case of an ordinary person, if the funeral is delayed without cause, but simply out of neglect, it is likewise accounted a disgrace to the dead, therefore it is forbidden.” [{Commentary on b. Sanh 47a} Soncino Hebrew/English Babylonian Talmud, 30 vols. (Bloch Pub Co, 1990)]
  • Jews must sleep on the floor until its done

      Jews must sleep on the floor until the burial is done.

      • …The Tractate ‘Mourning’ (Semahot) 11.16: “So long as his dead lies unburied, a mourner may sleep neither on an upright bed nor on an inverted bed.”
  • Burying outweighed all Jewish priorities

      Burying the corpse was basically the most important Torah command (it outweighed reciting the Shema, saying the Tefillah, wearing phylacteries etc.)

      • …Semahot 10:1 says so.1
      • …Mishnah: Berakoth 3:1 10:12
      • …Mishnah: Moed Katan 3:5 (cf. Jerusalem Talmud 3:5[6.C]])3 • …Mishnah: Berakoth 31A4 • …Babylonian Talmud: Semahot5
      1. The Tractate ‘Mourning’ (Semahot) 10.1: “So long as his dead lies unburied, a mourner is exempt from reciting the Shema, from the Tefillah, from tefillin, and from all the commandments written in the Torah.”
      2. Mishnah: Berakoth 3:1 -- He whose dead lies unburied before him is exempt from reciting the Shema, from saying the Tefillah and from wearing phylacteries. They that bear the bier and they that relive them, and they that relieve these, they that go before and they that follow after the bier--they that are needful for the bier are exempt, but they that are not needful are not exempt [from reciting the Shema], Both alike are exempt from saying the Tefillah. [Trans. by Danby (Oxford, 1933) 4.]
      3. Mishnah: Moed Katan 3:5 -- If a man buried his dead three days before the Feast, the rule of seven [day's mourning] is annulled for him; if eight days before, the rule of the thirty days is annulled from him. For they have said: The Sabbath is included and does not interrupt; but Feastes interrupt and are not included. [Trans. by Danby (Oxford, 1933) 210.]Jerusalem Talmud: Moed Katan 3:5 [6.C] -- [M. Ber. 3:1: He who dead lies before him (unburied) is free of the obligation of saying the Shema and of tefillin.] "A mourner on the first day does not put on tefillin. On the second day he does put on tefillin. [...] If on the third day after death, the mourner does not put on tefillin, is it necessary to say that he whose dead lies unburied [does not put on tefillin]? [That is self-evident.] [Trans. by Neusner]
      4. Babylonian Talmud: Berakoth 31A -- He who is confronted by a dead relative is freed from reciting the Shema, from the Eighteen Benedictions, and from all the commandments stated in the Torah. [as quoted by Wilkins]
      5. 13:1 -- One who gathers or guards the bones is exempt from reading Shema, prayer, and all the precepts commanded in the Torah, and if he desires to be rigorous with himself, he must not do so, for the honor of the dead. R. Johanan b. Nuri, however, said: He should step outside a distance of four ells and read. Ben Azai said: If they were with him in a boat he should remove them to another place and read. R. Itzhak said: Only from the bones of relatives he is exempt; from strangers, however, he is not. R. Simeon said: He is exempt only on week-days, but not on Sabbath. R. Nathan, however, said: He is exempt only when the bundle (of the bones) is on his shoulders, because the duty of guarding it is on him, but not of prayer. [Trans. by Rodkinson]
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