Hi, I have a Jewish neighbour who is an elderly lady and not at all observant. She wants her body to be cremated after she dies r’l. We’ve invited her over for a Shabbat meal and she said she’d be interested to hear the reasons why cremation is so bad according to our faith. Any guidance would be appreciated.
Man’s soul comes from Above, and it returns to its source after a person dies. The body, on the other hand, was taken from the earth, “dust from the ground,” and must therefore return to the earth. This is expressed in the words that G‑d tells Adam, the first man, “For dust you are, and to dust you will return.”
This concept is reiterated later in the Torah (Deut. 14), where we are commanded to bury the dead: “You shall bury him on that day.” The Talmud adds that burying the dead emulates the actions of G-d, for He buried the dead (as the Torah writes of Moshe).
Therefore, cremation violates a biblical command of burying the dead.
Furthermore, humankind was created in the Divine image, and this includes the body, which is of reason why there are many prohibitions on the mutilation of the body. This principle applies after death as well as during one’s life, and there is a severe prohibition of mutilating or otherwise disgracing a dead body. Of course, cremation is a severe mutilation, and it strikes against the image of G-d latent in us.
Judaism sees the virtue of being buried as being extremely great, and of utmost importance. Even the High Priest, who is forbidden to defile himself through contact with the dead, must bury somebody who has nobody else to bury him. Today, the State of Israel has even been prepared to release terrorists in exchange for the dead body of its Jewish citizens, in order that they should be brought to proper burial.
According to the kabbalistic tradition, the soul remains over the body for a number of days after death, and cremation would be a terrible agony for the soul.
A further point is our belief in the resurrection of the dead. Cremation is a statement of unbelief in the resurrection.
I hope this will help!