Eulogy/Hesped-Should it be done, How and why-Part 1

Eulogy/Hesped-Should it be done, How and why:[1]

A. The general law:

It is a great Mitzvah to properly eulogize the deceased.[2] Whoever cries upon the death of a Kosher Jew, Hashem counts the tears and places the tears in his supernal treasure chest. Whoever is lax in eulogizing a Kosher Jew does not merit long days, and is fit to be buried in his lifetime.[3]

Hiring a Maspid:[4] In communities that it is customary to hire a eulogizer, the relatives are obligated to do so.[5]

Two eulogies in single city:[6] One is not to arrange two eulogies simultaneously in a single city, unless there are enough participants for each eulogy.

Where?[7] Torah scholars and their wives may be eulogized in the Beis Midrash. [However, their bodies are not to be placed in the Beis Hamidrash, unless they are leaders of the generation[8], or the Mara Deasra.[9]] However, other people are not to be eulogized in the Beis Hamidrash [even if their bodies are not present[10]]. [The custom is to give the eulogy near the head of the deceased.[11]]

When:[12] Eulogies may be given up until 12 months from the passing. It is not customary, or considered etiquette, to eulogize after 12 months. If the death was only discovered after 12 months, one is exempt from eulogizing. The twelve months do not include the 2nd month of Adar in a leap year. [Eulogies are customarily given during the funeral, prior to the burial. It is however permitted to do so even prior to the Taharah.[13] It is also customary to eulogize the deceased after the burial, during Shiva, Shloshim and the like. It is permitted to give a eulogy at night.[14] Regarding days that a Hesped may not be recited-see Halacha 4!]

One who asked not to be eulogized:[15] If the deceased had asked not to be eulogized, then he is to be obeyed.[16] [If, however, the deceased was one of the leaders of the generation, then one who defies his wishes and eulogizes him, is not to be frowned upon.[17] In all cases, it is permitted to print a Hesped about the deceased.[18]]



The deceased hears the eulogy of the living:[19]

The Talmud Yerushalmi states that the deceased is present and listens to the eulogy, as if it were a dream. He is aware of all that is said before him until he is buried in the ground.


The eulogy saves the deceased from Gehinnom:[20]

The eulogy helps save the deceased from Gehinnom.


B. How to eulogize:[21]

Making the crowd weep:[22] The Mitzvah of eulogizing is for one to raise his voice and say matters regarding the deceased that will break the heart, in order to instigate weeping from those present.

Praising the deceased: In addition to the above, the Mitzvah of eulogizing includes saying praise of the deceased. One is to mention the good character traits that he contained and slightly exaggerate his good qualities, although not too much.[23] If the deceased was a Sage and Chassid, then their righteousness and piety is to be mentioned. If the deceased did not contain any good character traits at all, then no eulogy is to be given. It is forbidden to over-exaggerate in praise of the deceased, or mention praise of matters that the deceased had no virtue in. One who does so, causes evil to befall both himself and the deceased.[24]

The topics of praise:[25] One is to praise the deceased regarding his learning of Torah, his piety, and even more so regarding his good character.

Not to show off orating skills:[26] Speaking in the presence of the deceased is only permitted out of respect for him, however, speech that is not said out of respect for the deceased is certainly forbidden. Therefore, those eulogizers who intend to impress the crowd with their oratory skills are certainly not doing the proper thing. Many Gedolim were particular on this matter.


[1] See Michaber 344; Nitei Gavriel chapters 51-52

[2] Michaber Y.D. 344:1; Shabbos 105b

[3] Shach 344:1; Shabbos ibid; Rambam; Gilyon Maharsha 344; See Nitei Gavriel 51:24 footnote 35; See Shabbos ibid, brought in Rashi Yehoshua 24:30, that when the Jewish people did not eulogize Yehoshua properly, the mountain wanted to crush them

[4] Michaber 344:3 regarding a husband hiring a eulogizer for his wife, and a father for his daughter and forcing his son in-law to reimburse costs; 344:9 regarding forcing the heirs to pay for the eulogy; Mishneh Kesubos 46b; Sanhedrin 46b; Shach 344:7 explains we only force the heirs to pay if they inherited money/valuables from the deceased, otherwise we don’t even force the children to pay, as rules Michaber 348:2. In 344:3 Michaber depends this ruling on the custom while in 344:9 no custom is mentioned. Seemingly, back then it was accustomed to always pay a eulogizer by a funeral.

[5] The reason: As a Hesped is done out of respect for the dead, [and hence it is befitting that his inheritance money be used for his eulogy]. [Taz 344:4; Shach 344:7-88]

[6] Michaber 344:14; See also Michaber 344:15

[7] Michaber 344:19; Tur in name of Rav Haiy Gaon; See Reshimos 5 [printed in Toras Menachem Tziyon p. 27] that the Rebbe Rayatz instructed for his mothers body to be brought to the Shul

[8] Michaber 344:20 that a “Chacham, Aluf, Vegaon” is entered into the Beis Hamidrash; See Poskim [Chachmas Adam 155:18; Maharam Shick Y.D. 345; Divrei Malkiel 2:93] in Nitei Gavriel 51:17 footnote 24 that the body of a regular Torah scholar may not be entered into the Beis Midrash unless he is a Chacham, Aluf and Gaon; See Nitei Gavriel 51:17 footnote 26 regarding wives of Torah Scholars.

[9] Poskim in Nitei Gavriel 51:17 footnote 25 that a Mara Deasra may be entered into his Beis Midrash

[10] Nitei Gavriel 51:18 footnote 27 in name of Divrei Malkiel 2:93 and other Poskim

[11] Nitei Gavriel 51:19

[12] Taz 344:5 in name of Ramban in Toras Hadam; Chachmas Adam 155:17

[13] Nitei Gavriel 52:1 in name of Rav Moshe Feinstein

[14] See Nitei Gavriel 52:2 footnote 3 that so is custom; However, see Poskim there [Halif Lecha Shlomo 192; Beis David 110] that the world is accustomed to say that at night one does not give eulogies.

[15] Michaber 344:10; Sanhedrin 46b

[16] The reason: As a Hesped is done out of respect for the dead, and hence the deceased has the right to forfeit it. [Shach 344:8]

[17] Beis Yaakov 83, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 344:1, Gilyon Maharsha 344; Maaseh with Nodah Beyehuda by the funeral of the Pnei Yehoshua who asked not to be eulogized, brought in Teshuvah Meahava 1:174; Rav Chaim Falagi in Chelkam Chaim Derush 7 writes that he eulogized Harav Yehoshua Avraham Krispin [the chief Rabbi of Izmir in the 1800’s, and my-the authors-ancestor of six generations back] despite the fact that he instructed not to be eulogized [as recorded in his Sefer Avraham Bimechzah Derush 16], being that he was a Gadol Hador; See Nitei Gavriel 51:8 footnotes 12-13

Other opinions: Some Poskim question the allowance of reciting a eulogy against the wishes of the deceased even if the deceased was a great Torah leader. [Teshuvah Meahava 1:174, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 344:1]

[18] Minchas Elazar 2:63; Nitei Gavriel 51:9

[19] Taz 344:1

[20] Gilyon Maharsha 344

[21] Michaber 344:1

[22] Michaber 344:1; Brachos 6b “The reward of a Hesped is weeping” as explained in Rashi ibid

[23] The reason: It is permitted to slightly exaggerate the deeds of the deceased, as one can assume that if the opportunity arrived, he would have exerted himself slightly more in the Mitzvah than he is already known to have done, such as if he gave a donation of $1000, one can assume that if necessary he would have given $1100. This assumption makes it be considered as if he already did it, and it is thus not considered a lie. [Taz 344:1]

[24] The reason: As it is considered as if one his mentioning his sins, as he is mentioning good deeds that he did not perform. [Tur 344]

[25] Shach 344:11 in name of Bach

[26] Taz 344:5

About The Author

Leave A Comment?

You must be logged in to post a comment.