14 Tamuz 5781 / Thursday, June 24, 2021 | Torah Reading: Balak
 
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HomeFoundations of JudaismJewish Daily Life and HalachaThink Twice
 
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Think Twice    

Think Twice



No one wants to talk about death. But you need to think twice about this issue, because with the soul and the Next World, we don’t mess around…

 



“I just don’t want the worms to eat me.” 

 

That’s what my Grandma always told me about why she insisted on being cremated, against Jewish tradition and law. 

 

If I told you what Kabbalah says happens to a soul whose body was cremated – you would happily sing and dance and thank those worms! 

 

I know cremation has become the fad nowadays, but we Jews, we don't cremate.  

 

There's the famous line that the Nazis cremated the Jews, so that should tell you about how bad it is. Do you want to act like the Nazis?! 

 

But it goes much deeper than that. When it comes to the soul, spirituality, and everything connected - you don't mess around.  Because you don’t know what you are messing around with!!! 

 

Even many traditional Jews around the world  many of them don’t do much of anything, but they marry Jews, when they pray they pray only in an Orthodox minyan, and they keep the Jewish burial laws to the tee. I am in no way condoning their behavior, but the fact that on these issues, they don’t budge – since they budge on just about everything else - well, it tells you something. 

 

Why? Because now we're talking about spirituality and souls and things that we don't know much of anything about. 

 

Here, you can't say, "Well I thought about it and made my choice." You don't know what you're choosing!  

 

We don't know much of anything about the spiritual realm, we don't know about the Next World or the World of Souls. Tell me, have you been there? Do you know how everything works? Have you stood in front of the Heavenly Court? Not exactly. 

 

Now, we do have some incredible Near Death Experience stories (if you haven’t heard it yet, the first thing you do after you read this article is search for Rabbi Alon Anava’s NDE). But mostly what those do is simply confirm what we DO know from various sources in the Gemara, Kabbalah and other holy books about the world of souls and what happens to the soul after the death of the body. 

 

If you had to deal with a complicated issue with your taxes, you would consult a competent tax advisor and do what he says. After all, he’s the one who knows how it works, and not you!  

 

But now with the most important thing there is - your soul and your eternal place in the Next World - you think that you can make an independent decision without consulting the people who actually KNOW about the subject?! 

 

That is why this isn't about following Jewish law or Jewish tradition - this is about dealing with spirituality and the soul in the way that the Creator created it, and told us how to deal with it. 

 

Everything is exact. You don't mess with the traditional burial shroud, you don't say Kaddish in English, you don't cremate. The traditional tahara (purification of the body before burial) is deeply rooted in Kabbalah and secrets we couldn't hope to understand. We must trust those who DO understand and tell us to not budge one millimeter from the instructions! 

 

After all, this isn't about burial or mourning or even bodies. This is about preparing the soul for its final journey - an eternal journey. 

 

It should matter to you that after a Jew is cremated, there is no mourning, and no shiva. Some opinions say that you cannot even say Kaddish for the deceased. Why? Because by cremating a Jewish body, the soul becomes totally uprooted from the Next World. Normally the soul of the deceased comes to the Shiva and is comforted by the people mourning, and Kaddish that is said – but a soul who was cremated, is not able to come at all.  

 

The problem is, that by the time the soul learns the truth after death, it’s too late. At that point, knowing the truth and understanding the consequences, that soul slated for cremation would beg and plead and sob to be saved from the fate that awaits him, and instead of cremation, to be given a timely, proper Jewish burial.  

 

But now that the soul sees the truth – it can’t communicate its real wishes!  

 

That's why giving a body a proper Jewish, kosher burial is called chesed shel emet - pure giving, because you're giving the soul something it desperately needs, something its eternal life depends on - and it has no way to do for itself. Because the deceased soul is totally at the mercy of those left in charge of its body. 

 

I even knew of a situation of a real rasha, a Jew who unfortunately committed some of the worst crimes imaginable. The son of this man said, “I don’t care what he did, he was a Jew, and he gets a proper, kosher Jewish burial, period. There is a Biblical, Torah commandment to bury the dead – and that mitzvah is upon me to fulfill no matter what he did in his life.” And this son went to great lengths to make sure it happened, even though the rest of the family wanted to cremate according to the “wishes” of the deceased.  

 

Think about it – if this Jew deserved a kosher burial even with everything he did, then certainly every single Jew deserves it! And for the next of kin – it’s your commandment straight from the Torah to ensure it. 

 

Risk Benefit Analysis 

 

If I haven’t already convinced you, consider this - is it worth the risk that the Torah is right?Let’s do a simple analysis of the options, and their pros and cons. 

 

What do you gain from cremation, that's worth the risk that maybe what the Torah says is indeed the truth? Nothing. And the losses are indeed immeasurable. 

 

And what do you lose with burial? Only money, and what is money for if not to fulfill one of the most important commandments with! If only just for the sake to honor the deceased by being able mourn properly, sit shiva properly, and enable the family to properly process their loss according to the incredibly wise and deep laws set forth by G-d Himself who gave us the Torah – even that alone is a significant tangible benefit in this world, even without discussing the benefits to the soul in the Next World. And there are organizations who are available to help with the costs of burial if that is the deciding factor in saving a Jew from cremation. 

 

Cremation is all risk, with no benefits. Burial is all benefits, with no risk.  

 

Don’t Just Think Twice – Pass it On! 

 

It is critically important to share this article, and especially with anyone who might be considering cremation, or is in a position to influence someone considering it.  

 

In return, I have no doubt that G-d from Heaven will reap down blessings upon you. Someone who has mercy on others, G-d has mercy on him. This is the greatest mercy you could ever have on a soul – to save it from cremation. The rewards are enormous, both in this world and the Next. 

 

In the meantime, everyone should be healthy until 120! Amen! 

 

Afterword 

It was a real miracle, but shortly before her passing, my grandma, she should rest in peace, agreed to a kosher burial including a traditional tahara. She said that she just couldn't handle the risk that maybe by choosing cremation, she wouldn’t be able to spend eternity with her beloved husband, my grandfather, he should rest in peace, who had passed a few months prior, shortly after they celebrated 72 years of marriage. 

 

Important Note: This article does NOT whatsoever apply to those holy Jews who were killed al Kiddush Hashem and cremated against their will. Don’t worry, they are in the upper echelons of Heaven regardless of what the Nazi beasts, Hashem should erase their name and memory, did to them.  

 

As Rabbi Arush says, “Everything goes according to the will.” They had no desire to be cremated, so they were not judged as such. And of course Kaddish should be said in their memory. 

 

But for someone to willingly make such burial arrangements, even without fully understanding the consequences, is another story altogether…  

 

Further Reading: I highly recommend checking out this excellent article on Chabad.org about cremation. Note the excellent summary of the various issues involved in cremation towards the bottom, as well as the embedded video. Why Does Judaism Forbid Cremation? 

 

 

***
Rachel Avrahami grew up in Los Angeles, CA, USA in a far-off valley where she was one of only a handful of Jews in a public high school of thousands. She found Hashem in the urban jungle of university. Rachel was privileged to read one of the first copies of The Garden of Emuna in English, and the rest, as they say, is history. She made Aliyah and immediately began working at Breslev Israel.  
 
Rachel is now the Editor of Breslev Israel's English website. She welcomes questions, comments, articles, and personal stories to her email: rachel.avrahami@breslev.co.il. 

 





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