More Discussions for this daf
1. Myrtle for the dead; Hotza'os of Talmud Torah 2. the Livi'im's shrah 3. Mes b'Yom Sheni, and Hachanah d'Rabah
4. The movement of the ladder 5. Matir Atzmo bi'Shechitah 6. Forgot to make Eruv Tavshilin on Erev Rosh Hashanah
7. Ho'il u'Matir Atzmo b'Shechitah 8. Mai d'Chazi l'Inish Lo Shadi l'Kelavaim 9. Kovod ha'Meis

Albert asked:

(a) page 6- what is the koved giving to a dead person by putting myrtle branches on his death bed-, also what is the source, this seems to be a non Jewish customs as Jews put stones to remember the dead which is similar to honor of the dead - what is the source of that if it is true why not mention this in the gemara

(b) page15- Talmud Torah is not part of ones income - halachicly how do we view tuition for elementary and high school which has Torah and English

The Kollel replies:

(a) The purpose the myrtle branch was merely to give a pleasant smell (and offset the possible stench from the corpse). This was a way of giving respect to the dead, as we find in the Gemara in Berachos (53b) which says, "The Besamim of the dead... is in order to take away the bad smell." (While it is possible that the non-Jews also had such a practice, there is no reason to prohibit it for that reason. Only something which the non-Jews did as part of their religious ritual is prohibited for us to do, but a utilitarian practice such as removing the bad odor from the environs of the corpse is certainly not prohibited just because it is also done by non-Jews.)

I heard from Rav Dovid Cohen, shlit'a, that the reason for placing the myrtle branch was to allude to the departing of the Neshamah, for the olfactory sense is that from which "the Neshamah takes pleasure" (Berachos 43b).

A stone, in contrast, was never placed directly on the coffin (other than as a sign that the person was in Niduy and needed "stoning" as an atonement, as we find in Berachos 19a). Today it is placed on the gravestone of the dead. The source for this practice is unclear. Although the custom is cited by the ELYAH RABAH in the name of TESHUVOS MAHARASH, as a way of showing that one visited the grave, no reason is given for placing specifically a stone (see TA'AMEI MINHAGIM #1069). Perhaps it is because a stone is a sign of death, since it did not come from a growing object.

(b) It seems that you are asking about the secular studies that are included in the tuition. It would seem that the amount of tuition which one is paying extra for the Talmud Torah part of the studies should be determined by comparing the cost of such a school to the cost of a school which has only secular studies. Since one has chosen the school with Talmud Torah, the extra costs incurred through that choice are considered to be Hotza'os of Talmud Torah.

M. Kornfeld

Mark Levin, MD notes:

I read that the custom of placing stones on the grave stems from one of the Rabbonim of Yerushalaim who commanded that a stone be placed on his grave as Kapporah. In order not to embarass him, the Jews of the city undertook to do so for all graves. Unfortunately, I cannot recall where I saw this but I believe that was in biography or story book in English.