Response to a question via email

May a son attend the burial of his father? I have been told there is a problem of shedim. Is this possible?

Rabbi Shamah's response: Although some discourage a son from attending his father's burial, this is a practice not mentioned in the Talmud or in a single classical Jewish source including Shulhan Aruch. Rabbi Solomon D. Sassoon a"h considered it contrary to the spirit of the Torah and countermanding the misvah of honoring one's father. An excerpt from the Encyclopedia Judaica under the entry Demonology (v. 5 p. 1530) may help place this matter into better perspective.

"The sexual element in the relationship of man and demons holds a prominent place in the demonology of the Zohar... remarkably similar to the beliefs current in Christian and medieval demonology... these demons... need the human semen in order to multiply. In the later Kaballah it is pointed out that the demons born to man out of such unions are considered his illegitimate sons. At death and burial they come to accompany the dead man, to lament him, and to claim their share of the inheritance; they may also injure the legitimate sons. Hence the custom... in a number of communities (dating from the 17th century) of not allowing the sons to accompany their father's corpse to the cemetery in order to prevent their being harmed by their illegitimate step-brothers."

Judaic Seminar
 511 Avenue R, Brooklyn, NY 11223
 Tel: (718) 998-8171 Fax: (718) 375-3263