Cremation or Burial? A Jewish View

Why Jewish burial is important — for you and the soul of the departed.

Throughout history, societies have adopted varying approaches to dealing with corpses. Some have buried them in the ground and some have cremated them. Others sealed them away in elaborate mausoleums with food and drink, mummified them, left them for the vultures, cannibalized them and done the unthinkable to the bodies of their loved ones. Presumably, most people simply followed their neighbors’ example in deciding what method to choose.

Since the very beginning of the Jewish people thousands of years ago, although many options were available, Jews have always insisted on burial.

Until recently.

Today, mirroring the developments in Western society, at least 30 percent of Jewish deaths in North America and Europe are followed by cremations, and the percentage is on the rise.

As Professor Stephen Prothero put it, “whether to bury or to burn is … no trivial matter. It touches on issues as important as perceptions of the self, attitudes toward the body, views of history, styles of ritual, and beliefs in God and the afterlife.”1
Because this decision is so important, it is crucial not to leave it until the rushed and stressful times of ultimate grief. Let’s examine the facts.

Choosing burial is important. Even in the cases when it is more expensive. Here’s why.

Adapted with permission from Cremation or Burial? A Jewish View by Doron Kornbluth (Mosaica Press, 2012).

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