Three Ladies, Three Lattes: Better to be buried than to burn

Pam Peled, Danit Shemesh and Tzippi Sha-ked look at percolating issues in Israel’s complicated social and religious fabric.

February 11, 2016 21:30
4 minute read.

Cemetery. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)


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I have been a ba’alat teshuva (returnee to observance) for 25 years. I come from a very progressive family, highly educated, who take tremendous pride in their atheism, claiming that religion is for the weak of heart. My family members are mostly doctors and professors.

My uncle suddenly died this week and had asked to be cremated, claiming that burial is primitive and brutal. I am devastated; my family has basically cut themselves off from our tradition, and we have not been in touch for years due to this rift. Now I’ve been invited to this “farewell ceremony.” I have children of my own and have always tried to keep them safe from my family’s incredibly twisted take of things. But the monster keeps rearing its ugly head. What would you do if you were me?
– Unhappy in Grief

Tzippi Sha-ked:
  Observation: It’s amazing how the word “progressive” is often linked to abandoning principles of faith. What’s the deal with Judaism’s opposition to cremation? It stems from the notion that we’re created “in the image of God” and must return our body in an undisturbed manner back to the earth. Since the body is viewed as the soul’s temporary custodian, a holy vessel in its own right, it’s accorded honor upon its demise. A proper Jewish burial shows gratitude to God for the gift of the noble casing, even when it’s rendered unusable.


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