Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 9 November 2002 / 4 Kislev 5763

Non Observant Spouse; Cremation

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Non-Observant Spouse

From: Name@Withheld in Washington, DC

Dear Rabbi,
My husband and I would like to start a family. We are both in our mid-20's and Jewish. Our levels of Judaism and practice, however, are different. I am more observant (observe Shabbat, keep kosher, feel very connected to G-d). My husband, on the other hand, does not feel the same spirituality (he was not raised this way) and therefore does not place the same value on Judaic laws and customs. He makes an effort to stay home with me on Shabbat and keep kosher in the home - but this is more out of respect for me than his religious belief. Now that we are considering children I am realizing the implications this "conflict" could have on our family. I feel very alone and confused. Please help guide us in the right direction. Thank you so much.

Dear Name@Withheld,

Your situation is difficult, but not hopeless. The mother of the family usually sets the tone in the household, especially when it comes to Jewish practice. However, to raise children as committed Jews requires the efforts of your husband as well. You and your husband must discuss, frankly and respectfully, the problems that you envisage. Explain to him the confusion that the children will have, the inconsistencies in their outlook that will result from two opposed educational outlooks. Parents must be united in raising their children.

Try not to pressure your husband. Every step you take in Judaism, discuss with him. Make as little imposition as you can on him, and suggest to him the possibility of studying some Judaism on a regular basis.


From: Judy in Los Angeles, CA

Dear Rabbi,
I am a ba’alat teshuva (newly observant). My parents are close to 90 years old, and my mother has directed that her body be cremated. I have tried to bring up this issue with no success. Do you have any advice for me? Perhaps you know of an article I can send them which may be easier than me speaking to them about it. Thank you.

Dear Judy,

I suggest "The Bridge of Life" by Rabbi Y. M. Tuchichinsky.

In the right time and place, you might respectfully point out to your parents that according to Jewish law, one should not "sit shiva" (observe Jewish mourning rites) for someone who was cremated voluntarily, nor is one obliged to bury their ashes. You will not be able to properly mourn for her, and no kaddish will be said for her. This may have an impact.

In addition, the body of a voluntarily cremated person is not liable for resurrection; this is not so much because of the physical impediment, but rather in line with the concept that one who doesn’t believe in resurrection will not experience it.

Cremation declares that this world is the beginning and end of Man. A basis of Jewish faith is that this is not true. The body is held on deposit, and together with the soul, it really belongs to G-d. G-d decides when and where a person should die, and what should be done with the body once it has fulfilled its "this-worldly" purpose.

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