Burial in Israel
I see that many people fly a body to be buried in Israel. Is there a special merit to be buried there? I heard someone suggest that my deceased father, who is buried in the U.S., will suffer when the Messiah comes because he is not buried in Israel. Is this true?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
It is considered a great merit to be buried in Israel. In fact, when burying outside of Israel, the custom is to sprinkle some dirt from Israel into the grave.
There is a concept in Judaism, that at the time of the Messiah, all the dead will be resurrected. We also know that at the time of the Messiah, all the Jews will return to Israel. So what will happen? Those buried outside of Israel will "roll" through underground tunnels, and be resurrected in Israel. Apparently traveling through these tunnels will cause some distress.
It is for this reason that Jacob requested to be buried in Israel, and why many other Jews over the centuries have followed suit. (see Rashi – Genesis 47:29)
Nevertheless, there are many great Jews buried outside of Israel, who will have to make this journey. In fact, the Talmud asks: If God did not permit Moses to enter the Land of Israel, why did God go further and insist that Moses also be buried outside the land?
The Midrash (Devarim Raba 11:9) says that Moses was buried outside of Israel, so that at the time of the Messiah, Moses will serve as a merit to make things easier for everyone else who is buried outside the land. Similarly, this is why the prophet Ezekiel was buried in Babylon, and Mordechai from the Purim story was buried in Persia. (see "Sifsei Kohanim")
Interestingly, the Jewish custom is not to reinter a grave after a person has been buried. There a are a few exceptions, however, one of them being the transfer of remains to Israel. In particular, I know of many people who have made aliyah to Israel, and then later reentered the graves of parents and grandparents to Israel – sort of a “posthumous aliyah.”