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Burying a meis mitzvah on Yom Tov

There is a mitzvah for all people (including a kohein) to involve themselves in the burial of a meis mitzvah (a person found deceased who does not have any family members to tend to his kevurah). A person who passes away under the watch of a non-Jew (e.g. in a non-Jewish hospital or nursing home) is also a meis mitzvah, since he may be buried in a way that is not in accordance with the halacha. A meis mitzvah may be transported on Yom Tov Sheini from outside the techum in order to bring him to a Jewish burial. Under some circumstances, traveling on Yom Tov Sheini is permitted in order to retrieve a meis mitzvah, even when the kevurah will not take place until after Yom Tov.

[שו"ע תקכו, ח, משנ"ב מא-מב, וביה"ל ד"ה מותר; וראה שעה"צ נה; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 42]

The proper place to bury a meis mitzvah

According to the basic halacha, a meis mitzvah must be buried wherever his body is found, unless the burial would be an issue for kohanim who pass by that area. In practice, though, this rule is no longer followed; the body is transferred to a cemetery instead. The poskim explain that outside of Eretz Yisroel it is not feasible to bury a meis mitzvah in his location, since the government will not permit a burial outside of a cemetery. There is also a concern that non-Jews may uncover the grave and degrade the body. Regarding Eretz Yisroel, contemporary poskim say that the body should be transferred to a cemetery because there is no central authority available to certify places where tumah may be an issue.

[ביאורים ומוספים דרשות תקכו, 42 ;ב"ק פא, א]

Traveling by car to a cemetery on Yom Tov

Although traveling outside of the techum is permitted for a burial on Yom Tov Sheini, it is forbidden to travel by boat or ride on an animal. It is also forbidden to drive a car. If the cemetery cannot be reached on foot, and pushing off the burial until after Yom Tov would be degrading to the deceased, some poskim allow people who are needed for the burial to travel in a car driven by a non-Jew. People who are not needed for the burial may not travel in a car under these circumstances, even if their intention is to show kavod hameis.
[שו"ע תקכו, ז; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 38 ו־41]
  • Melachos mid’rabonon may be done on the first day of Yom Tov for the sake of kevuras hameis. Nonetheless, it is forbidden to escort the deceased past the boundaries of the techum.

  • If a person leaves his techum on Shabbos or Yom Tov, he is constrained (for the rest of Shabbos or Yom Tov) to an area of four amos. If one leaves the techum for kevuras hameis (when it is permitted), however, he may return home after the completion of the burial. Paid members of the burial crew and family members may not return home (past the techum).

  • In certain communities in Eretz Yisroel, it is customary for descendants of a male niftar not to escort his body to burial.

  • Burying a nefel on Yom Tov

  • Circumcising a nefel

  • Eating before a burial 
PLEASE NOTE: The information in this email is for learning purposes only. Please review the Mishna Berura and Biurim U'Musafim before making a halachic decision. Hebrew words are occasionally transliterated to enable a smoother reading of the text. Common Ashkenazi pronunciation is generally used in these cases.
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