Burial vs. Cremation: A Jewish Perspective

Burial vs. Cremation: A Jewish Perspective


Until recently, after death most people
were buried but that’s changing. For less traditional Jews meaning, those who don’t
keep kosher or Shabbat, around 20 to 40% choose cremation. That said it’s
undeniable that Judaism says to bury. In fact many traditional Jews believe that
if your parent or any relative asks to be cremated you should ignore that
request and bury them regardless. Other Jews see it as a choice:
burial vs cremation. It’s a question of keeping tradition versus
following current trends. How do I honor my parents memory? Does this mean I’m going against Jewish tradition? And what choice do I want to make for myself? People choose to be cremated
for a variety of reasons. Some think it’s better for the environment or they don’t like the idea of using limited land for burial. Perhaps surprisingly, someone to show solidarity with their relatives who died in the Holocaust. A major issue is cost. Cremations can be significantly less
expensive than funerals. And for many, scattering the ashes can have a
beautiful connected feeling of returning to the earth. “For dust you are and to
dust you shall return.” So why does traditional Judaism reject cremation? For one there’s a deep respect for the body. When a Jewish text with G-d’s name is no
longer useable we don’t simply throw it out, we’re supposed to bury it. Far more so when it comes to a human body. In the Torah Abraham went out of his way to
purchase a cave in order to bury Sarah, his wife. Later in the Torah it says that
an executed criminal should be buried. “You shall surely bury him.” Rabbis extrapolated this to show the importance of burying everyone. Burial is considered important for the community and especially the family to give support and help with closure. This consolation in the community, caring for
the body before the funeral, in people coming together for the burial. Under knowing that there will be a grave site to visit years later. Shoveling dirt on the casket can be an important part of the closure process and for many there’s
also a visceral reaction against burning a body. Pulling up memories of the
crematoriums of the Holocaust. If you approach a rabbi, even a non-traditional
one, asking about cremation the first thing they’ll say is probably, “Why do you want to cremate? I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Here are some points they might make. If cost is the major concern there are often older Jewish cemeteries
in your community that might do burials less expensively. Some cemeteries don’t
require supportive concrete grave liners which are a significant part of the cost and if your family truly can’t afford it there are actually a few organizations
that may be able to help pay for burials depending on where you live. You certainly don’t want to go into debt in
order to bury a loved one. if it’s for environmental reasons it’s worth knowing Jewish burials are actually better for
the environment than cremations. The plain pine box and the white linen
burial garments of a Jewish funeral decompose quickly they’re meant to
equalize everyone in death by being as natural as possible. There’s a strong
Jewish value about keeping funerals inexpensive, unpretentious, and unadorned. There’s no fancy metal casket or noxious chemicals from an embalming process Some Jewish cemeteries even offer green
burial options that don’t involve a
casket or grave liners at all. Finally if your plan was to scatter the cremated
remains, it’s important to consider how comforting it is for many to have a
single place to visit years and decades down the road. The conversation about death and mourning does not begin and end with
decisions about burial. There are so many Jewish traditions to consider and weave in to have a meaningful mourning experience for your family. Death can be a very difficult topic to discuss or
even to think about but in Judaism we
look at death as an inseparable part of life. It shouldn’t be a taboo topic. It’s important to have these discussions with family and clergy in advance so you can
learn about the traditions and the options while you’re in good health and
can make the choices you want. For more information about Jewish mourning
practices watch our other videos and check out the links in the description below

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