This is primarily a matter of regional, familial and congregational custom. Being buried in a Jewish cemetery near parents and grandparents is a long-standing practice, just as the patriarchs Jacob and Joseph requested. [Talmud, Baba Batra 110b; Yoreh Deah 266:3; Bereishit/Genesis 50:25] Another practice is to be buried in Israel, which is considered to be a precious privilege. [Bereishit/Genesis 48:30].
It can be comforting for a person to choose his/her body's final resting place. When pre-deceasing a spouse, some elect to be buried with family in order to signal his/her blessing for the surviving spouse to heal and one day find a new life partner. Ideally a second grave is available in this place, as well, as a future option.
When feasible, having family members in the same cemetery, even if space requires placement in a distant section, affords the powerful opportunity and mitzvah to visit. Walking friends, children and grandchildren among the memories that can be occasioned by the headstone names affords us the mitzvah of zachor, remembering and processing their importance--for good and unfortunately, sometimes not, in our lives. Keeping a map in your files along with stories (and health information) about family with their plot numbers can help family grow healing roots and curious connections that might prove important on the remarkable journey called life.
This question is addressed by the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 366). The conclusion is that although there is value to being buried with one’s family (as Jacob requests in Genesis 47:30, “bury me with my fathers”), if one has to choose between a family plot and their spouse, they should be buried next to their spouse, since a spouse is considered a closer relative than parents. This assumes that your wife has not stated a preference or that she prefers to be buried with you, but if she would rather be buried in her family’s plot, then her preference should be respected. (See Badei HaShulchan 366; Aruch Hashulchan YD 366:2; Kol Bo Al Aveilut 2:9)
You pose an interesting question. Jewish law allows for both options. Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 362:3 states: "Those who were together in life may be buried together in death." In addition, burial in a family plot separate from a spouse is also permissible.
Thus, the answer to your question lies in your own personal preference and family dynamics. Have you discussed this with your wife? What are her preferences? What are yours? How would her family feel if she was not laid to rest beside them? Is there room in her family’s plot for you? Do financial concerns play a role here? What else effects your decision?
Once you begin to address these questions, your answer will become clear.
Should my wife be buried with her family at their family plot or should we buy two new plots and be buried side by side?
The 21st Century can be described as one of rootlessness. We move not from our parents’ homes or neighborhoods, but from their cities. And our children and grandchildren do the same to us. Not that we are nomadic, but the economy and opportunity often requires relocation, even several times. And the only constancy is the cemetery, where, hopefully, we become one again with family. But it is the word “family” that needs to be determined. The Torah is rather specific in answering your question: God said, “It is not good for man to be alone…A man shall therefore leave his father and his mother and be united with his wife…” (Genesis 2: 18, 24) We are born into our parent’s family, yet we choose a mate, and thus create our own family. And that reality becomes its own answer. You and your spouse belong together, with your own “family” gravesites. In a more realistic vein, as we move our residences from city to city, more often than not, we are not around our “birth” families. They are in different states, or even countries. Thus, those who visit us are our “fictive kin”, those whom we have “adopted” as family in our far-flung residences. It is they who will visit our graves in memory, allowing us an immortality through their reminiscences. Find your own plots for yourself and your spouse; your family of choice!
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