7 Tammuz 5781
My dad made his preference about afterlife care very clear – he wanted to be cremated. We are not very observant, and when we asked around about cremation, we were told that cremation is now permitted in Judaism, and that my father can even be buried in a “cremation section” of a Jewish cemetery, so we were happy. When my father died, we went through with the cremation and that was that.
A little while later, I began learning more about Judaism with a woman named Robin who I met through Partners in Torah. We discussed the topic of cremation and Robin provided me with some pamphlets to peruse. I was shocked and horrified by what I saw. I had not known that cremation is prohibited in Judaism.
It was too late to do anything about my father, but it got me thinking about my mother who is still alive. She wanted to be cremated too. After some postponing, I told my mother how important a traditional burial is and she was okay with it. However, we had already made the payments for the cremation and I thought we would lose the money, so I was scared to ask. Finally, I spoke with Robin and she guided me through the process of changing my mom’s plans. Thankfully, we were able to replace the mortuary and transfer the funds towards a traditional burial. We even learned that my mom can be buried on the other side of the fence next to the cremation section so she’s still close to my father.
People assume cremation is more economical, environmental, and even spiritual. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The more I learned about cremation, the more I saw that it is a violent process, and just thinking about it makes me nauseous. Cremation ends DNA. The soul is put through a violent journey and the body is ended. Burial is better for the environment and can even be cheaper than cremation. Robin introduced me to loans and more economical options for traditional burial, and we made all the necessary plans for my mother. While I deeply regret having cremated my father, we didn’t know better. I believe that everyone should have access to materials and resources about afterlife care so they can learn the truth and make informed decisions. I feel relieved and grateful that my mother’s afterlife care will be more in line with our Jewish and moral values.
Jewish tradition is filled with psychologically healthy ways to respectfully take care of the body and the soul.
You don’t have to be observant, or even Jewish, to appreciate the deep wisdom it offers.