In the winter of 1982, a shluchah—a woman serving as the Rebbe’s emissary—wrote to the Rebbe that a young man had asked for her guidance. He was unable to convince his father that he should not be cremated.

Here is a free translation of the Rebbe’s handwritten response, excerpted from a letter dated Tevet 4, 5743 (Dec. 20, 1982):

When speaking with someone who wants his body to be burned after death, you should answer clearly and simply: The body continues to be sustained with a kind of life even after the soul has departed. As long as the body has not completely decayed, some of the soul remains attached to it.1

If so, anyone who instructs or agrees to the burning of his body is effectively agreeing to burn some of his soul—an act similar to burning a person alive.

The distinction is that it’s not all of the soul, only some of it. But it is nevertheless an unrivaled act of cruelty—even if it’s his own soul that he is burning.

As for his argument that many people have done this: Thousands of Nazis also burned people while they were still alive in the full sense of the word, among them scientists, doctors, merchants, family people…

The original Hebrew can be found at the end of the Likut Hitvaduot (Lahak), Yom Bet D'Chag Hashevuot, 5727, chelek alef. Our appreciation goes to Rabbi Yehuda Leib Shapiro of Yeshiva Gedola Miami for bringing this letter to our attention and providing its circumstances.