“Rabbi Fraenkel, my mother is set to be cremated, her body burned and pulverized, her soul never to find peace,” her voice cracked in obvious desperation, her emotions threatening to take over. “Please help me!” begged Esther.

Esther’s mother, Sara, had passed away the day before, peacefully in her sleep, at the ripe old age of 99 with all her faculties intact. Her father had died at a I never thought my mother’s passing would create so many problems young age during the 1967 Six-Day War and was buried in Har HaMenuchot, the largest cemetery in Jerusalem. Subsequently the family had moved to Nashville, Tenn., but not before Sara had purchased a plot for herself beside her husband to ensure that when the time came, she would be buried with him.

“I never thought my mother’s passing would create so many problems. She wrote her burial plan in her will. But her plan hit a snag. When I called the funeral home that had transferred the body from the morgue to make arrangements to honor my mother’s wishes, I learned it’s not so simple. The director told me that my sister would have to sign a consent form, and she had refused. ‘I apologize, ma’am,’ he said. ‘But your sister called with instructions for your mother’s remains to be cremated.’

“I was shocked. My sister, Fannie, with whom I have only occasional contact, is a very determined woman who will stop at nothing! I had no idea that she had cremation in mind for my mother.

“Fannie was cold and abrupt when I called her, and wasn’t interested in hearing from me. When I started talking about funeral arrangements, she responded, ‘I’m not only uninterested in participating in the cost of transporting Mom’s body to Israel, I want her cremated and her ashes near me. Her urn will grace my mantelpiece, and she will be next to me forever in my living room. I will never be alone.’ She stated firmly.

“ ‘Although it’s true that we were never religious, Mom was interested in Jewish traditions, and her final wishes were clear,’ I countered to my sister. ‘Why would you want to do something that would cause her soul pain and distress?’

“But it was like talking to the wall. I hung up feeling shaken and distressed. Fannie stated in no uncertain terms that she would oppose any efforts I made, and that she would use her vast financial resources as well as her political connections to achieve her goal.

“Rabbi Fraenkel, I know my mom deserves that I fight to give her body the respect it deserves and preserve its inherent holiness for her eternal rest, but my younger sister is a wealthy and savvy opponent. I am a nearly destitute, weary 80-year-old woman with no fight left in me. Please tell me what to do.”

Rabbi Yossi Fraenkel, an energetic young man from Israel runs a crisis intervention organization called Help Without Borders. Hearing that there was a Jewish body lying in disgrace in a refrigerator, he did not hesitate for a second.

A meit mitzvah is a dead person who has no one to arrange his or her proper burial. It is incumbent on every individual to take responsibility and help with such a burial. Even the saintly High Priest who wasn’t permitted to become ritually impure by attending the funerals of some of his closest relatives is commanded to step up and take part in a meit mitzvah. This chesed shel emet, “kindness of truth,” is the purest, most altruistic act since no one is around to acknowledge the favor. There are no thanks, no accolades, no payment. But G‑d sees this kindness.

Yossi Fraenkel told Esther he would take care of it. He would spare no cost to ensure that her mother would have the dignity of a full Jewish interment, including ritual purification, funeral and burial in her plot on Har Hamenuchot, as well as a tombstone and the recital of the Mourner’s Kaddish.

A high-powered attorney was procured. The lengthy court process consumed emotions, energy and finances, but finally, 79 days later, Yossi received a call from the court to confirm. He was asked if he was covering all the expenditures to close the case—funeral home, storage of the body, court costs, lawyer fees, transport flight charges and burial in Israel.

He answered in the affirmative and racedHe raced to the bank to clear out his savings to the bank to clear out his savings, but found himself coming up short. He took out a loan for the balance and promptly wired the funds without considering the monthly payments he had obligated himself to pay. Using his established network of contacts, he cut through the bureaucracy to get clearance from the Israeli consulate and the Ministry of Health, and to finalize arrangements.

The next day—in the middle of the summer of the COVID-19 pandemic, 80 days after Esther had contacted him—Sara’s body landed in Israel and was finally laid to rest.

A few weeks later, on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, Yossi found a quiet moment to catch up with his mother. She listened in contemplative silence as he told her all that had transpired with Sara. Agitated and concerned for her son, she said, “You emptied out your savings in the middle of the coronavirus when you are on furlough and not working?! How on earth are you going to be able to pay back the loan? What were you thinking?”

“Don’t worry, G‑d will help,” he responded.

Two days later, Yossi received a call from acquaintances in Australia. They told him that they had earmarked money to participate in the mitzvah of meit mitzvah in response to an appeal for a particular need in their community, but relatives were found at the last minute and it was not needed. Since they had designated the money for this cause, they inquired as to whether he knew anyone so they could contribute. They were at a loss for words when Yossi relayed Sara’s saga to them. The next day, they transferred the money to his account.

Though it did not cover the total amount of his loan, it helped cover his payments for that month when he had no other way to do so.

As for the remaining loan, Rabbi Yossi Fraenkel isn’t worried. He asserts, “When you do good things, you partner with G‑d.”