Orthodox prohibition against cremation?

I think the disparaging references to “rabbi-shopping” and “hand-picking” a rabbi to approve cremation are a bit insulting. It is not any more manipulative or selfish for LavenderBlue to seek the opinion of a rabbi whose interpretation of Judaism is similar to her mother’s than it is for her brother to seek the opinion of a rabbi whose (Orthodox) interpretation of Judaism is similar to his own.

There are widely differing schools of thought in Judaism about what the correct interpretation of Jewish law should be, and the Orthodox interpretation is not a priori better or more valid than another (except, of course, in the eyes of Orthodox Jews themselves).

In any case, to answer the OP’s factual question, yes, cremation is considered permissible in Reform interpretations of Judaism. To quote from Terr’s above link (which actually condones the practice more fully than his dismissive qualifier “barely” would suggest):

In other words, although Reform Judaism prefers burial over cremation as more in keeping with Jewish tradition, there is nothing sinful or prohibited about choosing cremation.

The idea of the “rabbi shopping” is presumably because the OP wants a Jewish funeral ceremony, but not the huge expense of purchasing a burial plot, which isn’t helped by the fact it has to be done right away since the body must be buried within a day or two IIRC as embalming is also not allowed. The rabbi will need to sign off on the cremation if he is to do the funeral, but yes, a reform rabbi should do that depending on their own opinions of cremation. That is why you need the “rubber stamp”.

Really this comes down to whether you can live with the fact your brother will be horribly insulted by the fact you are violating Orthodox doctrine, which is a big deal to that group in my experience. If this is really about the money (rather than wanting to honor your mother’s wishes), then one solution is to ask your brother to pay for the burial plot to solve the problem. If he doesn’t have the money or doesn’t want to, then at least if you aren’t observing his wishes, you showed some willingness to compromise that I would hope he would respect to maintain family togetherness. Then again, he may take that as you trying to make him bare the guilt of your choices, which could backfire worse.

With my wedding, I had similar problems because my wife and I are non-religious, but both her sisters and some of the guests were Orthodox. I suggested that we have a normal wedding and just cater in kosher meals for those who were Orthodox, but was told by the sisters that this was ‘insulting’ and that we had to have the wedding at a hotel with a kosher kitchen, which raised the price quite a bit. Thankfully we had the money, but it still struck me as a huge waste. I drew the line, however, when the sisters also tried to make us use their rabbi. We wanted to be married by a Jewish doctor who was ordained to do marriages, and was a cantor, but not a rabbi. He was a close personal friend or ours, whereas their rabbi was a stranger to us. When we told them this, two Orthodox men who were supposed to sign our marriage license, then refused to sign it. I told them that was fine, and got two other people at the wedding to be witnesses. I also wanted to tell the Orthodox if they were so insulted, they could skip the reception too, but I didn’t want to cause a scene with my wife’s family. Like you, I detest the Orthodox, particularly when they bend the rules for their own wishes, but expect others to follow their rules when they want to follow them. My personal favorite is leaving the TV on Friday night so they can watch a playoff game or other program on Saturday.

Not to hijack the thread, but I don’t see a big halakhic problem with that. One can argue that watching TV is “uvdan d’chol” (mundane activity), but that is a fairly subjective thing, and different orthodox authorities interpret it differently.

Halachically, a couple does not need a rabbi to perform a wedding ceremony.

If the prohibiton against creamation is correct (as in, the ressurection thing), there are a lot of people who are in dire straits come the Mosiach.

Find another rabbi. Why do you have an Orthodox one anyway?


I’m very sorry you have to deal with this.

edit: Just saw the explanation.


To seek a clergyman on the basis that he or she will say what you want to hear is a manipulative act, not a sincere attempt to understand religious law. Her brother (however insensitive his and his Rabbi’s behavior) didn’t consult an Orthodox rabbi because for his own reasons he wanted her buried, and was looking for religious validation of the option he favored, he consulted the Orthodox rabbi because he wanted to know what the religious law said about treatment of a corpse, and the answer came back as “burial.”

The reference to “rabbi-shopping” is in no way meant to imply that the Orthodox view is objectively more valid.

This is true. It’s against Jewish law, irrc, to be rabbi shopping to find one that matches your view if the one who is your leader has disagreed with you. Kind of a fine, line, however, since one rabbi’s opinion isn’t the end all be all.

However, the mother is not Orthodox, so the daughter should have just as much of a say in burial. Actually, the father should.

I think they should find another rabbi to do the burial because the mother would want it, anyway. But what any mother really wants is for her children to be happy. I think if she gets buried instead of cremated, it’s not a big deal in the end. She’s…well, she’s dead. The family unit may be more important at this point. Plus you can’t blame the buried mother for her son’s sins.

No, the OP made it quite clear that the reason she is looking for a non-Orthodox rabbinical opinion on the permissibility of cremation in Judaism is because her terminally ill non-Orthodox Jewish mother specifically requested cremation after her death.

A good rule of thumb that has evolved into my beliefs over the years: ignore Orthodoxy - they’re years behind the curve and their interests are not societal, but primitive & personal, *vis a vis *control of the masses. Don’t forget, for many years Orthodoxy was against autopsies and organ donation. Autopsies as a whole not only benefit society as we learn more about diseases, but also provide comfort or ‘closure’ in cases where the cause of death ain’t clear. Similarly, while respect for the dead is nice, it falls way behind in 2nd place if someone with a bad heart has a good liver, kidneys, lungs, etc. that could be used to save others. LIFE is what matters. We had a similar situation in my family, when my Grandma died. She was tolerant of others but extremely anti-religious for herself. She made it clear she wanted no religious ceremony upon her death. Despite this, knowing full well he was going against her wishes, my father (her son-in-law, not son) commandeered the process & insisted upon a religious ceremony, complete with Orthodox rabbi. My Mom was ambivalent but he was domineering & she never could stand up to him. My Grandma was probably laughing at the whole thing from beyond the grave.
Having had the misfortune to be raised Ortho, I’m fully well familiar with the Establishment mentality, that we are just empty vessels temporarily occupying these shells for 80 years or so; everything is preparation for Olam Haba, the next world. Life is therefore not meant to be enjoyed, but only tolerated. Explain to ur father (and brother if he’ll listen) that ur Mom doesn’t stop being ur Mom just because she’s dead; she expressed very clearly her wishes, and no stranger (even a rabbi) should impose religious dogma on any individual. They wanna preach, fine; but their preachings shouldn’t affect (and by extension, hurt) any1 else. To paraphrase Montaigne, the rabbi’s freedom to swing his arm extends only to the tip of your nose. Let the religious Establishment Orthos preach all they want, but let us not listen to them. In matters spiritual, they don’t know any more than we do; they just say they do. In the absence of any proof that they ‘know’ what God wants, accept the services of rabbis to say nice things at graveside, and provide comfort; don’t ask them to make decisions for you. Honor your mother.

I’m sorry but you don’t really have any idea why here brother consulted a rabbi, do you?

I don’t want to get off topic here, but I am Orthodox, and I’ve never heard this thing about life isn’t meant to be enjoyed. I (and my family, and assuming our friends) enjoy our lives. I’m not sure what kind of Orthodox lifestyle you had.

Obviously it worked out gr8, as ur writing and using the computer on the Sabbath. Good Orthodoxy!
It’s in the advanced teachings, most likely the Gemara - earthly life is just a way-station on the road to Gan Eden. That’s the Establishment line.

and i know ur in Israel, where *Sabbath *is over - but I’m not. :slight_smile:

I don’t dispute that part. Just look at Jewish band Shlock Rock’s “This world’s only make believe”. I DO dispute that life is not meant to be enjoyed. I’ve always heard the teaching as ‘Wealth does not descend with you to the grave. This world is only a passing shadow. From dust we come and to dust we return. But, in between let’s have a blintz.’

Would only that that would filter down to the masses; many still buy into the dogma that everything must be sacrificed (and thus everything on Earth done for) the souls of the dead relatives, not to shame them and the next world.
Let’s get back to the main topic - how does this poor guy [the OP] convince his father & crazy brother to allow his Mom to leave as she wishes, and not bend to the will of an interloper rabbi who never even met her?

Shinna Minna Ma is in Israel - so for her Shabbat is over. Lashon Harah, benbo1?

I knew that, which is y I was teasing about it. It’s in his public profile:smack:

Now how about addressing the OP’s topic? How to convince 1 guy not to listen to another crazy guy to ignore his mother’s wishes?

“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.)

Amen, Sela!:cool: