All summaries below are done to the best of my abilities and are for the purpose of informing and not paskening. In all cases, a posek should be consulted.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Clothing of the Deceased - Mima'amakim 1:3

Rav Oshry was asked about a case where the Jews in the Kovno Ghetto were ordered daily to provide 1,000 people to work on a nearby airport for the Nazis. One erev Rosh HaShana, they failed to produce the requisite number of workers, and the Nazis entered to ghetto to find Jews to force into labor, and along the way they killed a number of individuals (including one who was holding his machzor). The Nazis then demanded that the Jews dig graves for their deceased brethren and offered the clothes of the deceased to those digging the graves. The question asked was whether those clothes could be worn by the living (insofar as they had no blood stains on them).

Rav Oshry began his response by citing the halacha in the Shulchan Aruch that when a person is found killed he should be buried as is, with his clothes left on. He then discusses a distinction made by the Shach between one who is killed and one who dies several days after sustaining a fall, where the former should be buried as is while the latter should receive a normal tahara. In the case under discussion, since there was no blood absorbed into the clothes, Rav Oshry ruled that the clothes could be taken off the bodies and used. However, since the individuals were killed in cold blood, there exists an idea of burying them in their clothes in order to increase the anger of others against the murderers.

(The latter portion of the teshuva discusses other cases concerning clothing of the dead, including some cases that Rav Oshry dealt with in America after the war.)

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