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Past the Graveyard
May 26, 2022
Q While driving to work, I sometimes take a route that passes two Jewish cemeteries. Do I make the bracha twice?
A Chazal instituted that one recites a bracha upon seeing Jewish graves (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 224:11). This applies not only when entering a cemetery, but even when just passing by (Aruch Hashulchan 244:8).
Similar to other birchos hare’iyah, this bracha is only made if you haven’t seen a grave in thirty days. So if you often pass those cemeteries, you don’t recite the bracha. If it is only once in a while that you take that route, you do.
When one sees a different cemetery within thirty days, the majority of poskim seem to agree that a new bracha is required. Since birchos hare’iyah are for sights, each sight demands another bracha (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 60:12, Aruch Hashulchan ibid.). But the Mishnah Brurah (ibid. 17) cites others that suggest that a different cemetery is not considered a new sight, because most graves look similar. Because safek brachos lehakeil (a bracha is not recited when in doubt), don’t make a bracha on the second cemetery.
Note that the Igros Moshe (O.C. 5:37) writes that one does not make the bracha upon seeing a tombstone, only the ground where the body is buried. If you only catch a fleeting glimpse of the cemetery while driving, and you don’t see the ground, a bracha is not recited.