“Rabbi shopping” is indeed manipulative. This is not a question of “rabbi-shopping,” IMHO, but of which branch of Judaism you want to follow. (And, by the way, the Orthodox rabbi you talked with is a jerk regardless of his knowledge or sect, if he couldn’t empathize with your anguish and choices and try to help you through it – rather than dictate to you.)
My mother insisted that she wanted to be cremated, and we’re right-wing Conservative. I had a similar conversation with my rabbi, who reminded me of Jewish law forbidding cremation (I knew that already), but who expressed considerable sympathy and understood my dilemma – to honour my mother’s clear wishes, or to stick with Jewish Law. He described how our synagogue would handle things if I decided on cremation.
Basically, they let me pick a time for “funeral” – although technically it wasn’t, her ashes were buried a few months later at our hometown, several hundred miles away – and then they started shiva. They would not officiate at any funeral service (fine by me), there were a few other restrictions that weren’t onerous. The synagogue and the rabbis basically recognized that this situation arises a lot, and poses a dilemma of whether to disregard the clear wishes of a parent. And they have evolved an approach that helps steer the mourners, whatever decision they make.
I was the only decision-maker, so it was easier than your situation, Lavender Blue. It was, frankly, an anguish to have to make a decision between my mother’s instructions and Jewish tradition, but I basically decided that:
- If I do not cremate her to follow Jewish Law but ignore her wishes, I’ll ALWAYS regret it, for the rest of my life; and
- If I cremate her to follow her instructions to me but violate Jewish Law, I’ll regret it for a few weeks or perhaps months, but then be able to live with it. (I acknowledged it as a sin that next Yom Kippur, and it’s a sin I will never repeat having no other mother.)
So she was indeed cremated, and I’m comfortable with it. Do I think that means that God will ignore her good deeds, her kindnesses, her many positive acts, and will damn her to oblivion because of this one decision? That’s not a just God, and I believe in a God of justice AND mercy. God clearly has the power to resurrect those who were cremated in the Messianic Days – otherwise, all those who died in Holocaust would be lost. This is not a question of God’s power or will, but of the arrogance of small-minded rabbis who think they KNOW what God thinks. Hubris.
(Note that this is Saturday, so those who are traditional in sabbath practice will not be able to respond.)