Donations Click Here

Do I have to honor a parent’s request to be cremated?

Question:

Dear Rabbis,

My mother, sadly, is not religious. She is currently in reasonably good health, although she is aging and has some health conditions.

Recently, she had a health scare. Thankfully, she has recovered. But when things were looking dicey, as we were talking, she mentioned, again, her strident desire to be cremated. She has also informed her only other child, my sister, of the same wish.

I’m religious observant and find the idea of cremation abhorrent. My mother and my sister are both not. In fact, to some extent, both are anti-religious.

When my mom finally leaves this earth after 120 years, what I am supposed to do? Battle my family to have her will overturned? Am I permitted to disregard her wish? And if I am unsuccessful in that regard, is it permitted for me to shun any ceremony so as to not lend legitimacy to the practice?

 

Answer:

Hi,

From what you are writing, that you mother specifically wants to be cremated r”l, is unfortunate because she doesn’t understand what effect cremation will have on her departed soul.

As far as you are concerned, you do not have to listen to you mothers wishes when she asks to be cremated because, (Se Yore Deah 348-3) the idea of listening to the request of the deceased does not apply in this instance. When your mother’s soul will arrive at the world to come, she will definitely agree that her remains be buried and not placed on a shelf. As far as Kibud Av V’em, that is also not a concern, because if a parent requests that the son hurt them, the son is obligated not to listen to them. This is also the case regarding cremation.

You might consider trying to explain to you mother that, she has nothing to lose by getting a Jewish burial. After she dies, according to her understanding, the body I useless. We however believe that our bodies are destined to be resurrected, and that the body that is inserted into the ground will miraculously be remade by G-d at the time of the resurrection. Being cremated is in a way a statement that denies the idea of the resurrection of the dead. There being cremated jeopardizes her opportunity to partake in the resurrection. (See Responsa Minchat Elazar vol. 2 ch. 34) Why should she lose that chance of seeing her children again, etc. and continuing life in a much higher, enjoyable fashion?  Hopefully she will reconsider.

In the unfortunate, event that she doesn’t agree, I can’t tell you if you should fight your family on this. Since they will have the legal authorities, on their side, and there may not be much that you can do.

Regarding a cremation ceremony, you are correct, that your attendance of it would be giving it credence.

May Hashem help that your mother should change her mind, and agree to have a proper burial.

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *