Rava teaches that if someone dies on Yom Tov and needs to be buried, non-Jews are brought to make the preparations and do the burial if it is the first day of Yom Tov; on the second day of Yom Tov, we allow Jews to do whatever is necessary. This is true not only on Pesah, Shavu’ot and Sukkot, but also on Rosh HaShana, when, as we learned yesterday, the second day is considered an extension of the first.
The leniency connected with funerals stems from the Jewish attitude towards burial as an issue of kavod ha-beri’ot – basic human dignity, both for the deceased and for the family of the deceased. The Sages of the Talmud state unequivocally that kavod ha-beri’ot pushes aside Rabbinic laws of lo tasur (see Devarim 17:11); that is to say, many prohibitions established by Sages can be dispensed with since the mitzva of burying the dead takes precedence.
Based on this, Rava teaches that on the first day of the holiday – when all melakhot are biblically forbidden for a Jew to perform, and asking a non-Jew to perform those activities is forbidden by the Sages – we permit a non-Jew to do whatever is necessary for the burial. On the second day of the holiday, which is, in its entirety, of Rabbinic origin, we dispense with all prohibitions connected with the funeral, as having Jews take care of the burial is considered to be an honor to the deceased.
Given the importance given to these ceremonies, the Me’iri asks why we do not permit funerals to take place on Shabbat or Yom Kippur, on the condition that all forbidden activities be performed by non-Jews. He answers that the high level of holiness connected with those holidays led the Sages to establish their ordinances on those days as being on level with biblical prohibitions that cannot be pushed aside.