Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kohanim: Marking cemetery boundaries

Kohanim - members of the Jewish priestly clan, descendants of Aaron - may not enter cemeteries, as part of the restrictions concerning coming into contact with death or impurity.

On some streets near cemeteries in Queens, New York, certain sections are marked so that Kohanim will not unknowingly walk on a sidewalk that might be disputed territory.

In Eastern Europe, cemetery borders are less well-defined and wartime activities and post-war reconstruction have blurred borders even more. In one small part of Poland, however, arrangements are being made to determine the actual borders and to establish "safe" zones by careful mapping of the grounds and consulting pre-war maps.

The details are in this story from Vosizneias.com.
Poland - Good news from Lizhensk: Kohanim visiting Lizhensk will no longer have to stand on the edge of the road bordering the cemetery and take the risk of getting hit by careless drivers. Kohanim are among the many thousands who visit Lizhensk on the yartzeit of Rebbe Elimelech, but due to their sanctity are unable to enter the cemetery. Now the "Lizhensk Committee," headed by Rabbi Simcha Krakovsky, has mapped the area and found that Kohanim can enter a small area in the open field two meters away from the road.
Several years ago, the municipality was asked to construct a traffic circle in the local market. During the excavation and road work, thousands of tombstones were discovered. These had been taken from the cemetery for road construction. The committee were able to save some of them and they were stacked at the edge of the local cemetery.

The committee knew that the fence around the cemetery was not the actual border and that many graves were outside the fence. An investigation showed that only the nearby road is safe, free from graves, so it is safe for Kohanim to stand on.

Surveyors checked the committee's investigation and confirmed the cemetery area.

Additionally, the committee located a pre-war map showing the cemetery boundaries, as well as a contemporary map. The comparison showed that the cemetery extended to within two meters from the road. Thus they were able to determine the exact borders and provide a solution. Kohanim."

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