A Thank You To Der Ewige Jude
On Monday night as I ran on the treadmill, I thought about what Der Ewige Jude wrote in his posting "Who by Fire?" and also about this explanation that he quoted from Rabbi Avi Shafran:
Burning, in Judaism, is a declaration of utter abandon and nullification. Jews burn leaven and bread before Passover, when the Torah insists no vestige of such material may be in their possession. The proper means of disposing of an idol is to pulverize or burn it. Needless to say, God is capable of bringing even ashes to life again. But actually choosing to have one's body incinerated is an act that, so intended or not, expresses denial of the fact that the body is still valuable, that it retains worth, indeed potential life.
My thoughts then turned to my 96 year-old great aunt, who is my last remaining relative from her generation. When her husband passed away five years ago, he was cremated and his ashes were scatted in a Jewish cemetery on the graves of his parents and brother and sister. With this in mind, I knew that unfortunately there will be an extremely high probability that when my great aunt finally does pass away, her final arrangements will be handled in a similar fashion. As I continued to run on the treadmill, I started thinking about ways to raise this issue with her family in a manner that would not be misconstrued as being heavy-handed or perceived in any negative way. I came up with a solution a few minutes later.
Later that night, I called another aunt who had also attended the recent funeral and I began by remarking how poignant and touching I found the eulogy she gave. I then remarked that I was a little taken back by the open casket since this was not something that was traditionally done at a Jewish funeral. My aunt was unaware of this and was extremely interested when I described how a traditional Jewish funeral was handled.
I then broached the issue of cremation. I related Rabbi Shafran's explanation almost verbatim and expressed my concern that my great aunt's family will unknowingly consider cremation as a valid alternative when she passes away since they are unaware that this is forbidden in Judaism. My aunt, also unaware of this fact, immediately understood my point and said that she would pass this information along to my great-aunt's daughter the next time that she spoke with her on the phone.
It appears that my back-channel communication may accomplish exactly what I am trying to accomplish. Thank you Der Ewige Jude for your thoughts that prompted my action. G-d willing, they will also be well received by my great-aunt's family.