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Q&A from the Bais HaVaad Halacha Hotline

Flight Plan

May 5, 2022

Q I am going to accompany the body of my father a.h. on a plane to Eretz Yisrael for burial. Will I be considered an onein while in flight?

 

Between death and burial, immediate relatives of a niftar are in the halachic state of aninus, in which three halachos apply:

  • They are exempt from almost all positive mitzvos, because a) an onein is required to attend to the burial, and ha’oseik bemitzvah patur min hamitzvah (one who is involved with one mitzvah is exempt from others); and b) even if others are attending to the niftar, in the eyes of onlookers unaware of that, doing mitzvos would appear disrespectful to the niftar.
  • They may not eat meat or drink wine, so that these indulgences not distract them from the burial arrangements.
  • According to many Rishonim, onenim may not do things that are forbidden during aveilus (e.g., washing, cutting one’s hair, greeting people), because an onein is no better than an aveil. The Rama rules this way.

The Shulchan Aruch rules that in certain cases where the relatives are not involved in burial (e.g., where authorities will not release the body), some of the laws of aninus are inapplicable (see Y.D. 341:3-4). The Levush writes that even in those cases, the relatives are no better than aveilim, so aveilus-like restrictions apply.

The poskim discuss whether your case is like those cited by the Shulchan Aruch, given that you cannot do much to further the burial arrangements while en route. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and R’ Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg are quoted as ruling that it is, but Rav Elyashiv and R’ Yisrael Yaakov Fisher are cited as saying it isn’t. It would seem that one may be lenient. All agree that if you are in fact preparing while on the plane, e.g., working on a eulogy or making arrangements via email, you are an onein.

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