My wife and I live in Eretz Yisroel with all our children et al. We have no family in America. As we are older, we no longer travel back to America. Over a year ago, my wife’s sister, who had lived in Ohel for many years, passed on. She had a k’vurah (burial) ahl pi halacha (according to halacha), and a respectable mah’tzevah (monument) was put up.
Are we obligated to pay the $3500 fee to the cemetery for perpetual care, which presumably entails tending to the grassy area on the grave, keeping it lawned, etc.? Or, is not doing so considered a b’zohyon (disgrace) to the departed family member?
According to Jewish tradition and theology, we essentially are a holy soul, taken straight from Hashem, and clothed in a physical body, in order in order for the soul to do the job it was sent to this world to do. Similar to an astronaut who wears a special suit that is needed in order to do the job that he needs to get done. Then after that the suit is removed, and it isn’t given much attention anymore. After a person’s soul departs this world, the neshoma ascends to enjoy and receive it’s due reward for all of the good deeds that it accomplished on this world, and the physical body is laid to rest, (until the time of techiyas hameisim, when it will also get it’s due reward), however the main concentration is on our soul, and not our physical body.
According to halacha, there are two reason why we erect a monument. The first is so that people should know that there is a body interred over here, and secondly because there is a part of the neshoma (called the nefesh) that stays in the place that the person is buried. The person’s nefesh does not derive honor from grass, or nice shrubbery placed on top of the monument. Therefore according to Jewish tradition there is no need for you to tend to the grassy area on the grave. In fact, most graves of religious people, (and you can see this in almost all of the orthodox cemeteries in Eretz Yisroel), don’t have any grass, flowers etc. placed on them. You will be doing the neshoma of your wife’s sister a much bigger favor by donating the money to torah learning, buy seforim for a shul or yeshiva in her neshoma’s merit.
May we only share in good news
Ahavas Chesed 2-15 in the comment, The Laws of Aveilus pg. 338, R’ Leff shlit”a