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  • Family and Society
  • Burial and the Cemetery



Rabbi Jonathan Blass

1 Tevet 5763
Recently, I volunteered to perform a Tahara for the very first time. I noticed that the Chevra Kadisha did what is called a Taharas P’nim, an internal purification. For close to ten minutes, they used a hose to do an internal cleansing. The stench was unbearable. The Torah Temimah on the words ’V’Nikla Achicha L’Eynecha’ says that if while whipping the offender, he becomes soiled, they stop whipping him because "there is no greater disgrace then this." The Ohr Chaim HaKodesh on Parashat Cha’yeh Sarah says that until the burial, the deceased knows everything that is happening to him or her. If so, shouldn’t we stop doing a Taharat P’nim and only do an external Tahara? I would greatly appreciate your answer.
It is important to do the tahara in a way that minimizes dishonor to the deceased- in other words: as privately and as respectfully as possible. The tahara is the accepted custom in Eretz Yisrael and its purpose is to return the body of the deceased to the ground in as clean and pure a state as when it arrived in this world at birth.This in itself is a service- rather than a disservice- to the deceased. Sources for the minhag- including Shabbat 118b and the Tosefot there and the Yerushalmi Megilla1,9- are cited in Gesher HaChayim II,6. Although objections to the custom have been raised (see Gesher HaChayim), these were either in places where the custom had not been accepted or where the purification was done in a way that displayed disregard for the deceased. Where the tahara is the accepted minhag, it should not be changed (again- see Gesher HaChayim).
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