My wife has stage 4 cervical cancer and is not healthy enough for the standard treatments. We are preparing for the worst but praying for the best.
She has expressed a desire to be cremated. It’s cheaper, and when I pass I will be interned at Arlington as I am a veteran. It sounded OK to me at first but I’m having reservations.
Your thoughts, should a Jew or a Christian consider cremation?
We are moved by your words, “We are preparing for the worst but praying for the best,” and pray that God responds favorably to your prayers.
While we love teaching what the Torah says we aren’t comfortable telling you as a Christian how to act. We recommend that you discuss this with a respected mentor and/or clergy from your own faith.
We can tell you that in Torah Judaism, proper treatment of the body after death is defined as burial, just as God told Adam toward the end of Genesis chapter 3. This is so important that, for faithful Jews, even if one’s parents expressed their wishes to be cremated, their children may not carry out those wishes. The idea is that after death, the parents will have entered a World of Truth and will be appalled that they ever wanted to do something counter to God’s law. As such, giving them a proper burial is actually following their final wishes.
When the soul leaves the body at the time of death, the body’s purpose for being no longer exists. However, as the vehicle that allowed the soul to interact with the world it requires special treatment. Part of that treatment requires a gradual return to the earth via burial rather than the abrupt return via cremation.
You might find it interesting that a Torah scroll and other holy writings as well as printed prayer books and Bibles are never thrown out. They are also buried in the ground.
In addition, resurrection of the dead is a central tenet of Judaism. Choosing to treat the body as if it will never be needed again could be seen as rejecting that belief.
It sounds like two things might be troubling your wife. Is she upset that since you are a veteran and will be buried at Arlington, the two of you will not be together? Does she feel that no one will care where she lies?
You also mention that she is concerned with the cost. Perhaps she would feel differently if you assured her that you would rather have a cemetery plot to visit than more dollars in your pocket.
We pray that the two of you find moments of peace and joy during this difficult time,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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