Moed Katan, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight

 

Introduction

This mishnah continues to deal with mourning practices during the festival.

 

Mishnah Eight

1)      They do not place the bier on the thruway [during the festival] so as not to encourage eulogizing.

2)      And the bier of women is never [set down on the thruway] for the sake of propriety.

3)      Women may raise a wail during the festival, but not clap [their hands in grief].

a)      Rabbi Ishmael says: those that are close to the bier clap [their hands in grief].

 

Explanation

Section one:  Normally, the bier, a stretcher with the body on it, would be placed on the thruway, the central road that passes through the town, so that people would have the opportunity to offer up public eulogies.  Since eulogies are forbidden on the festival, the bier is not placed on the thruway.

Section two:  The body of the dead person was covered only with a shroud while it was on the bier.  It could become exposed. Due to the rabbis’ concerns of modesty, they did not wish the woman’s bier to be placed on the thruway even on non-festival occasions. 

Section three:  Women played a significant role at funerals.  A common role attributed to them is that of professional wailers (people who cry out loud, not those who hunt big animals in the sea).  The mishnah allows them to wail during the festival, but they may not clap their hands. This seems to have been a common funerary practice.  Others explain that this doesn’t refer to clapping one’s hands or slapping one’s hands on thigh but beating one’s breast.

Rabbi Ishmael is more lenient and allows the women closest to the bier to also clap their hands.      

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