National Association of Chevra Kadisha

How Do We Treat Hair After Death and During the Tahara Process?

Hair from a meis is considered asur b’hana’ah (forbidden to derive benefit from). Therefore, cutting someone’s hair to make a wig or for any use is asur (forbidden). 

These guidelines should be followed during the Tahara process:

  • As a general rule, all hair from a nifter should be saved

 

  • Hair found on tape that is removed should be saved

 

  • If you find a clump or many individual hairs on a sheet or bandage, save the hair by cutting and placing that area of the sheet in the aron

 

  • If hair is being dislodged during the rechitza (washing), or even just by pouring water, you should immediately stop. Wrap the back of the head to form a cap (like a shower cap), to prevent any loss of hair during the rechitza or Tishah Kabin. A blue pad (chuck), shower cap, or even a piece of sheeting may be used to wrap the back of the head.

 

  • When dressing the nifter, remove the cap. If the cap is dry and removing it would cause more hair to come out, leave it in place and put the mitznefes (head cover) on top. If the cap is wet, it must be removed and placed at the foot of the aron to be buried with the nifter.

 

  • Hairs need not be saved if it is difficult to do so, such as when they flow down the drain during the rechitza, requiring you to search for them on the floor or retrieve them from the bowl where the water drains.

 

  • Any knotted hair, whether it is all the hair or just a single area that cannot be untangled without pulling out hair, should be left as is. Please note: When using a brush, ensure the bristles are clean and free of hair from any previous use.

 

  • Hair may be cut from around an injury or surgical site that is bleeding, to allow for the stemming of blood and then pouring for the rechitza or Tahara without loss of blood.

 

Of note: With the increasing number of Jews choosing cremation, families may be influenced by the desire to keep an urn with ashes. To prevent cremation, one effective strategy is to suggest keeping a lock of the deceased’s hair, as hair contains DNA, unlike cremation remains. Before cutting a lock of hair, check if you can gather hair from a brush. You may also suggest  creating a memorial with pictures, letters, or other memorabilia.

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