In the town I live in there are several organized kehillah bodies. The burial organization associated with one of these kehillos is relatively widely used even by people who belong to shuls that are not full members of the kehillah body, and, when signing up to this burial organization (which can be done without joining the kehillah itself), they make no demands beyond general shmiras hamitzvos.

Somebody told me that according to halacha, once I elect to be buried in a kehillah’s beis hakvaros, then I am obligated to adhere to all the halachic positions of the rabbinate of that kehillah. He based this claim on the words of the Sma in Choshen Mishpat 14.11.

However, I understood the Sma to be referring specifically to civil disputes and not to piskei halacha in Yoreh Deah or Orach Chaim. Additionally, I was unsure if the words of the Sma could be applied to the case referred to above, where the burial organization itself is run, at least somewhat, as a separate entity (that kehillah’s official documents even list shuls that are “burial society affiliates only”). I also thought that perhaps the situation is different nowadays, the piskei halacha that one follows will often not automatically be those even of the rav in the shul in which one davens.

Is my understanding correct and are there any sources in the recent poskim that discuss the underlying principles of this question?

Thanks in advance.

Answer:

There is no general principle stating that a person must follow the halachic rulings of the rabbinate belonging to a particular Beis Ha-Chaim.

The ruling of the Sema, which is based on the Terumas Ha-Deshen (65) and the Darchei Moshe citing him, relates to the issue of jurisdiction: The question of which town a person belongs to for purposes of Beis Din can be decided based on his affiliation with regards to burial.

However, this has no bearing of other halachic rulings of the rabbinate affiliated with the Beis Ha-Chaim, and only with the matter of jurisdiction for Beis Din purposes.

Even for this matter, there are other factors that can influence the question of jurisdiction; see Shut Shema Shlomo, Vol. 2, no. 1.

Best wishes.

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2 Responses to “Affiliation with Beis Ha-Chaim (Burial Society) for Halachic Rulings”

  1. Many thanks for this response, which was most helpful. Would it be possible to clarify what exactly makes one part of a ‘kehillah’, such that one is subject to the rules of its rabbanim? If I am a member of a shul, must I adhere to all the halachic rulings of its rav? What happens if I am a member of more than one shul?

    • This question was answered in a separate post. The gist of the answer is that being part of a kehillah obligates a person to follow the rabbi in communal matters, but not necessarily in personal matters. Please see the relevant post for more details.

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