“You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)
The Sages Say PrePlan Your Funeral For A Long Life
During the strain of the COVID-19 crisis, many people are having a hard time planning for their funeral. The topic of death is something we are all dealing with on a day to day basis and in many ways, the issue raises raw emotions among many of our community.
Like many other things in modern life that we have to deal with, it turns out that Jewish traditions, Talmud, and Torah give us guidance as to what to do during this time of uncertainty.
It is well established in Jewish tradition that it is a mitzvah to preplan your funeral or the funeral of a loved one and that one should pay the costs of their funeral and not leave it to their friends or relatives to bear this burden.
The tradition of purchasing a gravesite, and planning for eventual death, started when Abraham insisted on purchasing the cave of Machpelah in order to bury his wife Sarah. According to the Torah, Abraham preplanned his burial and that of his family. He did not leave it to chance of his children to bear the burden of honoring his memory. Abraham took it upon himself to make the plans, pay for the gravesite, and plan for the future; even though the future wasn’t one that anyone looks forward to.
It is in this cave, located in the Old City within Hebron, that Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah are thought to be buried.
Later Talmudic sages commented on funeral preplanning and prepaying. The Midrash advises us that we should purchase our burial plot while still alive.
The Talmud further teaches that payment for burial should come from the personal money of the deceased and not from a friend or relative who is paying on his behalf. It is thought to be best if payment is made before death rather than leaving these pecuniary transactions to the grieving family.
And, according to Kabbalists, it is even considered a Sequla (or a thing of good luck) to purchase your grave and funeral while still alive. Kabbalists taught that preplanning and prepaying your funeral and burial is like a good luck charm for long life rather than a harbinger of an early death.
Even in Jerusalem, there are long-standing traditions relating to the purchase of cemetery plots. Over the generations, it was a tradition for the parents of newly married couples to give as a wedding gift burial plots in Har HaZeitim (Mount of Olives).
No one likes to speak of death or consider our own mortality. But, even during the COVID-19 crisis, it is still a Segula to preplan and prepay for your funeral.