Can a Pregnant Woman Enter a Cemetery?
by Rabbi Aron Moss
I am currently 7 months pregnant, and a good friend's tombstone consecration is coming up next week. I am not sure whether or not to go. I have been told it is generally not the done thing in the Jewish religion to go to a cemetery when pregnant. On the other hand I do want to be there to honour my friend's memory. Would value your thoughts.
This is the single most common question I am asked. Fascinatingly, though it is a widespread custom for a pregnant woman to avoid going to the cemetery, there is no written source in Jewish law that forbids it. This is an interesting example of a tradition that women took upon themselves without being told. And this tradition is carefully guarded and well known, even more than some outright laws. You will see why.
Jewish mothers have known for thousands of years what modern research is only recently discovering. The unborn child is impacted by the spiritual and emotional state of the mother. Her moods, her attitudes, and her surroundings are imprinted on the soul of the child.
This is why the cemetery is not the place for a pregnant woman. When you are creating life, it is better to avoid contact with death. An expecting mother is hosting life in the making, and so the morbid and deathly energy of a cemetery is too starkly contrasted to what is going on inside her. Her focus should remain on the beginning of life, not the end.
Furthermore, feelings of excessive grief or distress may disturb the otherwise peaceful time in the womb. Sometimes emotional pain is unavoidable in life, but we don't have to seek it out. An expecting mother is often fragile and delicate at the best of times. Attending a funeral or consecration may cause an exaggerated reaction which could have been avoided.
Since this is not a law but a custom, there are exceptions where a pregnant woman can go to a cemetery. If she feels that not going may itself cause even more distress, she should go. Some examples would be the funeral of a close friend or relative, or visiting the grave of a parent on the anniversary of their passing, or visiting the grave of a holy person to pray for a healthy birth.
In the end it is left to you to decide what is best. But if you choose not to go, you should not feel at all guilty. Your dear late friend will not be offended. In the world of souls they understand these things. And then in a couple of months, when you feel up to it, you could visit the cemetery yourself to pay your respects.
May G-d bless you with an easy birth and a healthy child, and only happy times.