Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Aveilus, Chapter 1: The Mitzvah to mourn

Hilchos Aveilus

Number of mitzvahs in this section:

Four. There is one positive commands and thee negative commands.

The mitzvahs:

  1. To mourn for the death of a loved one.
  2. For the high priest not to defile himself to a dead relative.
  3. For a priest not to enter into a tent with the corpse.
  4. For a priest to not defile himself to the dead.


Chapter 1: The Mitzvah to mourn

Halacha 1: The Mitzvah to mourn

  • It is a positive command for one to mourn the death of a relative.
  • The biblical obligation-The first day: Biblically, one is only required to mourn on the day of the death and burial.
  • The Rabbinical obligation-The remaining days: The remaining six days of mourning are rabbinical.
  • In total there are seven days of mourning with the first day being biblical and the rest of the seven days being rabbinical.
  • An institution of Moshe: Moshe instituted for the Jewish people the seven days of mourning after the death of a relative, as well as the seven days of rejoicing for a newly married couple .

Halacha 2: When is one to begin the mourning laws?

  • The mourning laws only begin after the completion of the burial which starts from when the grave is covered.
  • Prior to this point, one is not obligated in any of the mourning laws.
  • It is for this reason that King David bathed his body and smeared it with oil after his child die, prior to his burial.

Halacha 3: When to begin mourning if the burial is delayed

  • By relatives which were executed by the government, which are not permitted to be buried, one is to begin the seven and 30 days of mourning after he gives up hope in getting permission from the king to bury them.
  • He is to begin mourning even if he has not given up hope in trying to steal the body and bury it himself.

Halacha 4: When to mourn for a relative whose body is lost

  • If the body of the relative is not able to be buried, such as if he drowned at sea, or was eaten by wild animal, then one is to begin mourning after he gives up hope in retrieving the body.
  • Even if limbs of the body were found, one is not to begin mourning until he gives up hope in retrieving the head or majority of the body.
  • If majority of the body, or head, has been found, then one is to begin mourning after its burial.

Halacha 5: When to begin mourning if body sent for burial overseas

  • If the body is being sent overseas for burial, then the moment that the relatives turn their faces from escorting the body they begin counting the seven and 30 days of mourning.

Halacha 6: Mourning a Nefel/stillborn

  • One does not mourn the death of a Nefel/stillborn.
  • The definition of a stillborn: So long as the child has not yet lived for 30 days, it is considered a stillborn in this regard.
  • Even if the child died on the 30th day, one does not mourn.

Halacha 7: The law by full-term pregnancy

  • If the baby was carried to a full term of nine months, then even if he dies on the day of birth, he is to be mourned.

Halacha 8: Other definitions of a stillborn

  • The following other infants are defined as stillborns and the parents do not mourn the death.
    • If the child was born dead.
    • If the child was born after being carried for only eight months. In such a case he is considered a stillborn and is not to be mourned even if he dies after 30 days.
    • If the child was born in a cut or crushed state, he is not to be mourned even if he was carried for nine months.

Halacha 9: Mourning for relatives who were executed

  • Mourning for relatives executed by the king: People who were executed by the king, are to be mourned regularly. This applies even if they were executed by a Jewish king following Torah law.
  • Such individuals are to be buried in the family plot.
  • Their estate, however, is to be given to the king.
  • Mourning for relatives executed by the Jewish court: People who were executed by the Jewish court, are not to be mourned, although one is to be in a state of sadness over their death.
  • Such individuals are not to be buried in their family plot until their corpses have decomposed.
  • Their estate is inherited by their heirs.

Halacha 10: Mourning heretics and informers

  • One is not to mourn for the following individuals who died, and on the contrary one is to rejoice for the death of the enemies of God by wearing white clothing and having festive meals:
  • People who have removed themselves from the Jewish community and do not follow Jewish custom or tradition and act like Gentiles.
  • Heretics
  • apostates
  • informers

Halacha 11: Mourning for a relative who committed suicide

  • One is not to mourn an individual who committed suicide.
  • Likewise, one is not to eulogize him.
  • The definition of suicide: If one saw an individual in a stressed or angry state go up to the roof of the building after stating that he will do so, and he then jumped off, then one is to assume that he committed suicide.

If, however, he was found hung on a tree or slane with the sword, then he is to be treated like any other dead person and is to be mourned.

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