Respecting Jewish Traditions | Suspending the Requirement of Burial within 24 Hours

In the Jewish tradition, after the death of a practicing member of the faith, the deceased should be buried as soon as possible, customarily within 24 hours of death. The admonition to do so stems from the book of Deuteronomy, which says that unnecessarily failing to bury a body in a timely manner may be considered an “affront to God.” Of course, when many Jewish laws and customs originated, we were not the mobile society that we are today. What happens when a loved one of the Jewish faith dies while traveling away from home, or moves away from family members and then passes away? Is there latitude to delay the burial to allow for the body to be transported home, or for mourners who live some distance away to travel for the funeral and burial?

Are Exceptions Allowed to the 24-Hour Burial Rule?

As a general rule, a rabbi may give a family permission to suspend the 24-hour burial requirement to comply with government requirements related to the transport of a body. Out of respect for the body, the rabbi typically won’t suspend the burial service indefinitely, but will determine an appropriate time for the funeral and burial after consulting with the family and learning what arrangements have been made to transfer the body.

When your loved one dies in a location that prevents the immediate transport of the body to the funeral home, you will nonetheless need to have the body picked up and held at a funeral home in preparation for transport. The best way to accomplish that is to contact the funeral home where you plan to have the memorial service. In many instances, they will have relationships with other Jewish funeral homes near where your loved one died. If not, they will typically have the resources to secure those services for you. Your funeral home director will usually make all arrangements with the distant funeral home, ensuring that the body is prepared and shipped by a “known shipper” in compliance with all TSA requirements. It’s also customary for a representative of the distant funeral home to accompany the body to the airport, and for a representative of your local funeral home to meet the casket on arrival.

It’s also becoming more common for rabbis to permit minimal delays to accommodate travel requirements for mourners. As a practical matter, though, such delays are only granted when those traveling are close relatives, such as spouses, parents, children, or siblings.

Gutterman’s—Providing Comprehensive Funeral and Burial Services to the Jewish Community for More than 125 Years

At Gutterman’s, with chapels in New York and Florida, we provide compassionate and caring service to members of the Jewish faith after the death of a loved one. We understand the intricate details of Jewish funeral and burial customs and traditions, and will provide guidance on all issues that arise after the death of a loved one, from the order and structure of the memorial service and burial to the choice of monument/marker or the creation of a Yahrzeit calendar.

We understand the uncertainties caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, but we also know that funeral and burial services are an integral part of the grieving process. We are committed to helping you find ways to pay proper respect to the deceased, allow for grieving and remembrance, and stay safe. We strictly follow all state and federal recommendations governing social distancing and mask etiquette, so that we can do our part to protect customers and employees and minimize the spread of COVID-19. To see a statement of the safety measures we currently have in place, visit our website.

To ask any questions about our services or to begin the funeral and burial process, call us at one of the numbers provided below. We are currently available to consult with you by phone, text message or videoconferencing. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.