From the Rav’s Desk: Mourning a non-Frum relative

Question: [Monday, 14th Kisleiv 5781]

Am I obligated to mourn for a relative who passed away who was not religious? Not only was he not religious but he was actually very antireligious and was an acclaimed atheist. I really don’t think that he deserves to be mourned, as he caused me and my parents a lot of suffering and honestly, I really don’t feel like mourning him.


The widespread custom is to mourn him even in such a case, and so is my suggestion to you, although technically you may choose not to do so, so long as it is with consent of the rest of your family and it will not cause any family members any shame.

Explanation: From the letter of the law, the relatives of a heretic are not required to mourn his passing and actually should not do so. A Jew who desecrates Shabbos in public is under this definition. Nonetheless, there are few caveats to this ruling:

  • Some say that if the relative who died is defined as a Tinok Shenishba than he is to be mourned as usual.
  • The parents of the relative should mourn regardless
  • Even the other relatives may choose to mourn his passing out of sadness that the relative died without Teshuvah, or if not doing so will infringe on the families honor.
  • Practically, the widespread custom today is for relatives to mourn the passing of nonreligious relatives.

Bottom line, based on all this, I would direct you to mourn his passing as a tikkun for his soul. However, technically, if you choose you may abstain, so long as it is with consent of the rest of your family and it will not cause any family members any shame.

Sources: See Michaber Y.D. 345:5-6; Rama 340:4; Chasam Sofer 326, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 345:3; Maharshag 1:25; Tzitz Eliezer 13:94; There he references to: Mordechai Moed Katan 886 [regarding Tinok Shenishba]; Maharam Rothenberg 544; Radbaz 3:558; Levush 345:6; Chochmas Adam 156:6; Chasam Sofer 202; Shevet Sofer 108; Nitei Gavriel 126:10-14; My teacher Harav Yaakov Yosef z”l would regularly direct people in the above situation that they do not have to mourn at all and may be lenient in all the mourning laws. Nonetheless, the widespread custom is as I stated above. See here for further details on this matter:


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