Holy texts and religious leaders are the best sources for people who have questions about their faith. So, if you have questions about Jewish cremation, consult the sacred texts or speak with your rabbi or someone who is an expert in Jewish law.
With that said, those who work in the death industry are typically aware of the traditions of each faith group. Generally speaking, Judaism forbids cremation.
The scriptures and the Talmud (compilations of rabbinic writings) explain that the destruction of the body by fire is prohibited. These texts also discuss the proper care for a deceased human body.
Let’s dig a little deeper into Jewish tradition regarding end-of-life services.
Table of Contents
Jewish Law Forbids Cremation
The Torah and scriptures discuss the importance of protecting the human body. Such verses explain that cutting, marking, and damaging the body are prohibited unless such acts save a life.
Deuteronomy 14:2 states, “The Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” Rabbis agree that cremation destroys the Lord’s treasured possession. Since the human body belongs to God, cremation is against Jewish law.
In fact, The Talmud describes how death by fire was utilized as punishment because it’s considered a dishonorable way to die. Additionally, in Jewish history, a king famously burned the bones of pagan priests to show disrespect to their bodies.
Not only is cremation seen as an act of destruction of God’s treasured possession and a dishonorable way to handle the human body, but it also affects the afterlife. For example, in the rabbinic writings of Maimonides, resurrection is considered one of the fundamental 13 principles of Jewish beliefs.
Therefore, those who choose cremation will not be resurrected to take part in the coming world.
Judaism Requires Jewish Burial (in a Jewish Cemetery)
Not only does Jewish law oppose cremation, but it also gives the community guidelines for a proper Jewish burial. For example, Deuteronomy 21:23 states: “Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.” So, a traditional Jewish burial is completed as quickly as possible.
In the Jewish mystical tradition, the process of being buried and placed in the ground leads to a gradual separation of the soul from the body. However, this gradual separation is not possible when the body is cremated.
In addition, Jewish law dictates that a human body must be buried in its entirety “for you are dust and to dust you will return.” This statement has been interpreted as prohibiting any burial that doesn’t return the body to the earth.
That’s why most Jewish cemeteries require that the body is not embalmed. In addition, the Jewish faith requires wooden caskets that are easily biodegradable. Additionally, the body is wrapped in a natural, biodegradable shroud.
Regardless of Jewish Beliefs, Some Jewish Communities are Choosing Cremation
Regardless of Jewish law and customs, more people in the Jewish community are choosing cremation over traditional Jewish burial. In fact, according to this article in the Detroit News, about 20 percent of Jewish families in the Philadelphia area who sought the services of a large funeral home chain chose cremation.
Cremation is more affordable than traditional burial and gives you more flexibility when planning your loved one’s funeral services.
If You Opt for Cremation Instead of Traditional Burial, Consider Cremation Society of Philadelphia
For affordable cremation services in the Delaware Valley and the greater Philadelphia area, contact Philadelphia Cremation Society. We offer prepaid cremation plans and immediate-need cremation services.
The staff of Philadelphia Cremation Society is made up of experienced industry professionals, including funeral directors and expert funeral planners.
Why does Judaism forbid cremation? Talk with a rabbi for a clearer understanding of Jewish beliefs. However, if you are looking for low-cost cremation services in Philadelphia for your loved one, contact Cremation Society of Philadelphia.
Key Takeaways About Judaism and Cremation
Jewish law forbids cremation.
There are strict requirements for Jewish burial. Burial must be done in a Jewish cemetery, and the body must be placed in a biodegradable casket.
Regardless of Jewish tradition (and Jewish law), more Jews are choosing cremation.