By Miriam Shaviv
August 14, 2008
The Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE) was recently confronted with an unusual halachic question. As their press release explains:
A German Jew who passed away had expressed as his last will a peculiar request: to be buried together with a bottle of Vodka.
As the community rabbi heard this weird request, he immediately contacted the RCE's office in order to forward this question to one of the RCE's halachic experts in order to determine if it is permissible to place a bottle of vodka in the grave of the man. The Jew emigrated from Russia in the 70s and was not connected to the local Jewish community. However, a good friend of his, a regular participant of community events and an acquaintance of the local Rabbi, delivered this last message of his friend to the rabbi.
"Every day he would drink a half a glass of Vodka in the morning and a half in the evening", he told the rabbi.
This ostensibly odd question actually raises a serious halachic dilemma. On the one hand it is of extreme importance to fulfill the last wish of a Jew, but on the other hand it is unacceptable to bury any object together with the body of a deceased person.
Rabbi Yaacov Rozhe, who serves as chairman of the Zaka Rabbinical Council and as representative of the chief Rabbinate of Israel in the Medical Institute of Abu Kabir, to which the question was forwarded, replied that there is no halachic prohibition of placing the bottle near the coffin but under no circumstances may it be placed in the coffin, nor beneath it so that no object interposes between the coffin and the ground.
With the implementation of this ruling the man and the bottle passed away side by side…
So a happy ending then.