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Ask The Rabbi


Burial of teeth

I found two old extracted teeth with roots attached possibly from parents or grandparents. Do they have to be buried. If yes, is anyplace ok, or does it have to be by the kaver? Thank you.

Burial of teeth

Shalom and thank you for your question. You have found two teeth which may have belonged to your parents and grandparents and wish to know if they need to buried at all, and if so, does it have to be in a grave, or specifically in the grave of the person to whom it belonged?

I will share with you the information I have found regarding this issue, which is indeed discussed in Halachic literature.

A tooth which has fallen during a person’s lifetime definitely does not need to buried, and in fact neither does the tooth of a dead person need to be buried, however the discussion is as follows:

In the Halachic responsa of the ‘Chida’, Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai, at the end of Siman 30, he was asked about an elderly scholar who would habitually keep teeth that had fallen during his lifetime in a pocket in order that they be buried with him. The ‘Chida’ responded that most people did not keep this custom, except for some of the scholars in the West. He supported his answer based on what is brought in the tractate Brachot 5:2 of the Talmud. The moving story is told of the sage Rabbi Yochanan who unfortunately lost

ten sons. He used to carry with him a bone of his tenth son when he would go to visit and comfort others who had suffered tragic losses. In the ‘Aroch’ it states that this bone was actually a tooth, because other bones would carry the status of ritual impurity connected with dead bodies, thus causing anyone coming in contact with it or in certain type of proximity to it, to assume the status of ritually impure. We understand from this that a tooth does not require burial.

The ‘Gesher Chaim’  16:3 presents opinions that say that the tooth was a tooth that fell while the person it belonged to was alive, but a tooth that fell from a dead person does in fact require burial, and there are other opinions that support that approach.

It is interesting to note that body parts other than teeth which have become detached from a living person, require burial only in order not to expose people to ritual impurity, not for their own sake per se. This can be found in the responsa of the Nodah b’Yehudah.

We hope that this information is helpful and wish you all the best!