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What is the Jewish View on Cremation?

What is the Jewish View on Cremation?



What is the Jewish view on cremation?


Cremation has always been looked upon with horror by every sector of Jewish thought. The body is sacred, because it is the "temple of the soul" and because it is the medium by which we do goodness in this world.

Belief in the resurrection of the dead is counted by Maimonides as the thirteenth of the Thirteen Principles of the Faith. There is no rabbinic authority who does not consider this to be a fundamental belief. The Mishnah declares denial of this principle to be heresy. The reason is quite apparent: As Jews, we believe there is purpose to life, purpose to this world, purpose to the act of Creation. Therefore, anything that is used towards that purpose has a permanence -- and a sanctity.

Six million of our people were denied proper burial, most of them cremated. Should we willfully continue that which our enemies began?

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Discussion (113)
May 1, 2016
Condolences to Avi and others - wishing you a long life.
When my great aunt a holocaust survivor, passed away my mother honouring Jewish law, arranged her funeral and burial (next to her sister, my grandmother, in Sydney, Australia, contrary to her wishes for cremation. Her remaining sister (and brother in law in the US who fancied himself as an advocate) the main beneficiary, then argued about the additional cost + other aspects of the will which was 'strangely' written in English and German a day prior to her passing. The sisters actions required expensive interpretation / opinion of the will by a court appointed bilingual barrister who confirmed other lawyers interpretations and absolved my mother of the burial / cremation cost differential. The irony is this increased the costs and retarded the probate (legal approval of the will / distribution) for several years during which time US currency fell severely in relation to Australian currency while the beneficiary aged.
Stuart Fox
Stuart Fox
Bondi Beach, Australia
April 24, 2016
Dave--many Jewish sects do not allow embalming--one reason burial is as soon as possible.
San Antonio
February 3, 2016
Makes no sense to me. Surely what is of importance is what you do in your life, not the state of yur body after you die. I would rather be ashes kept in my family home or cast into the sea, than have my body pumped with chemicals and then buried in a box to be eaten by ants, which cant be a good look anyways.
Bondi Beach Australia
September 10, 2014
For Barbara
Most Jewish communities have a burial fund for those who cannot afford. Talk with your local Chabad rabbi. I'm sure he will be sympathetic to your situation and do whatever he can to help.
Tzvi Freeman
September 9, 2014
But what if you can not afford it ? What does a Jew do then? I so want to do right and be with my parents again.
Barbara Haywood
September 8, 2014
What if it's the wish of the deceased? My grandfather (of blessed memory) was cremated according to his own wishes. Surely G-d would understand adhering to the wish of the deceased?
Sam Leon
July 5, 2014
Sister's cremation
Sadly, my sister passed away in May unexpectedly. Unbeknownst to my mother my sister had arranged to be cremated, as will her non Jewish husband be when his time comes. This broke my mother's heart. She did ask my brother-in-law for some ashes so they can be put on my father's grave so she'll be able to 'visit' my sister when she goes around Rosh Hashanah. Dear brother-in law refused her, hurting mom again. What can I do to ease mom's pain? Unfortunately, I live in England and she's in the states. Any suggestions? Thanks.
May 19, 2014
Although many were set afire, no one can extinguish the flame that rages in the soul.
David Levant
May 16, 2014
To Avi, from Rabbi Freeman
First of all, my sincere condolences on the loss of your dear mother. It's always a loss and a time for mourning, no matter the age. A mother leaving this world feels like something was just torn out of you and went away. But the truth is, her spirit remains with you, to help you. And your deeds can help her on her journey in the other world.

I certainly understand your concern to honour your mother's wishes. We can never do enough to honour our parents.

But I am writing out of concern. Let me ask you one simple question: Had your mother asked you, during her lifetime, to burn off one of her fingers, would you have dutifully obeyed? Perhaps she was misinformed by someone who told her it was necessary. My guess is that you would ask a few questions before proceeding.

The point is that honour is not synonymous with obedience. Honour is only achieved by doing the right thing.

Learn some more, read the other essays on our site dedicated to this topic, and then decide from there.
Tzvi Freeman
May 16, 2014
@ Yisroel -respectfully, that of course is merely your opinion. In this case I have decided to honour my mother's wishes regardless and am prepared to bear any consequences thereof. Neither you not anyone else ( including "Jewish Law" or any other similar dogma ) can impose your biases union me or my family. Her choice would not have been mine but I respect her choice nevertheless. The fact that you are so preoccupied with your interpretation of Jewish Law to the exclusion of expressing any condolence attests to the self righteous bombastic tone of your post .. I despise such efforts