How Can I Prevent Cremation?

I have been frum for 31 yrs. My parents are in their 70’s. They informed me when my grandmother passed away that they have prepaid for their cremation and that it is irrevocable. (By the way my grandmother who died at age 100 1/2 had prepaid for a real leviah with tahara and burial, even though she was not religious.)

My husband and I and my sister and niece were the attendants at the leviah and my husband the Rabbi. (my mother who has been unwell could not attend). I have broached the subject a few times with my parents, who are not open to seeing another view point.

HELP! I need advice as to how to deal with this, wanting the end result to be a proper burial and not cremation when their time comes, after 120 yrs. Due to their young age at this time, I don’t want to be premature in bothering them about this as it could ruin our relationship. We are not really close but do have a respectful cordial relationship, I visit once a yr and send pictures of the great grand kids, which gives them nachas.

Any strategies or suggestions mush appreciated.

16 comments on “How Can I Prevent Cremation?

  1. Another thing to consider, and this definitely requires speaking to a rav.

    I said Kaddish for the year for both of my paternal grandparents, who were cremated. According the rav I spoke to, the default halachic position is that we limit the mourning customs for those relatives who are cremated, e.g. saying kadish. However, my rav paskened that because they weren’t fully aware of the halachic implications and that they even felt they were doing something good, I could say Kadish for them.

    My point is, the amount of information you expose them to should be carefully weighed along with the likelihood of them actually changing their minds.

    Again, cylor…

  2. If your parents or your family in general has a relationship with a rabbi, you could speak with that rabbi to see if he would advocate for a burial.

    When my mentor’s father passed away, I believe that some members of the family discussed cremation. The ability of the family’s non-orthodox rabbi to serve the non-orthodox family members, be respectful of the orthodox family members, and work with my mentor’s orthodox rabbi was a major contributor to the considerable amount of peace that surrounded the events.

  3. I also face(d) this dilemma, and I think my sister and I managed to persuade my parents with the following argument: you will be dead anyway, and the only meaning the method of dealing with the body takes is for those who live on. You want to be cremated because you don’t want people feeling obligated/guilty visiting your grave, or for other reasons having to do with your being uncomfortable with the idea of a dead body remaining. So you are in part trying to do a kindness for me. But I am telling you that it would be more of a kindness to me to allow me to bury you, as cremation really disturbs me. And as far as you feeling uncomfortable about it now, in reality, you won’t feel that way when you are dead, since by then you won’t have feelings (I am arguing according to THEIR world view, not mine).

    The only problem is when the first of my parents dies — because the other parent will live on, and he/she will prefer cremation for the spouse, and they have more say than us. My only hope is that we can bring a little pressure to bear when they are vulnerable. Sounds not nice, but it is the true kindness for them for eternity.

    Since both my non-religious sister and I agreed about this, I think my parents gave in. However, I am not sure, but my brother in law is named as executor, and he agrees that he would want them buried.

  4. Unlike some previous opinions above, I think you should consider that attempts to persuade may create alienation. Therefore I suggest, you carefully find your halachic obligations and your legal position from a rabbi and a frum lawyer. If you are an executrix, you will have more leeway. But if this advice leaves you without legal remedy and persuasion is only path, your parents may find it easier to accept counsel from someone who is not their child.

  5. I dont have enough experience to advise you on how to approach this but I think one point that might get through to a nonreligious person is that cremation has taken on added associations after the Holocaust. If they have a jewish, though not religoius identity, maybe they will see not being cremated as an act of solidarity

  6. Let’s assume, and it sounds plausible, that Miriam’s parents will remain steadfastly against anything other than cremation R”L even with lots of pictures, visits, etc . I tend to doubt that a will that was soundly executed can be challenged for containing a provision. Miriam-do you have any siblings and what is their perspective on this issue? IIRC, there are teshuvos in ShuT Seredie Aish that dealt with German Jews during the years of the Nazis, Yimach Shmam vZicram and the very related issues of Hilcos Aveilus. I would suggest that you contact a competent and sensitive rav who can help guide you as to these very sensitive halachic issues.

  7. Mark Frankel:
    but in this case since they are forgiving their own respect
    – – – – – – – – –
    You are translating literally the Hebrew idiom of “mochel al k’vodo” – which doesn’t work in English.

    You could say they are ceding, yielding, or relinquishing the respect due to them.

    Regarding the original post – I don’t have any solution. It does not sound like the poster has had much influence up til now – sounds like a very distant relationship, actually. Not sure if she can really do very much. As another poster suggested, you may have legal wiggle room when the time comes.

  8. Maybe start by trying to get closer to them. The way you describe your relationship I don’t see that you really have an “in” to accomplish much.

    If they get Nachas from the pictures, imagine how much more effective some closer contact could be.

    I don’t mean to step on your relationship toes, but if you for some reason you can’t do this then mabye your kids and/or grandkids could establish a stronger bond.

    The mere osmosis of such a bond might be enough to set things right. But even if not there could open an avenue of communication to discuss it.

  9. Ask a reliably Orthodox lawyer what your parents’ idea of “irrevocable” really means legally in this case. There might be some wiggle room for you in the event, irrespective of their wishes.

  10. Oh, thank you. Some how I have this view of all baalei t’shuvah being just like me! (not yet holding by grandchildren).

  11. Last spring an elderly cousin of my mother’s was nifter. One of my (very) non-religious cousins told me very matter-of-fact, that Cousin Howard was going to be cremated. While I didn’t say anything to my cousin, I felt that as the only observant person in the family (a son is intermarried, his children, nebich, are not Jewish) who would even care, I should do something. So I contacted a Chabad nearby in CT to where the deceased had lived. To be honest, I don’t know if the Rabbi was successful in dealing with the family, or even, for that matter, if they heard him out at all. But at least I was able to sleep at night that I’d tried.

    Miriam’s situation is obviously much more emotional, since these are her parents, not a somewhat distant cousin. But I think Mark’s suggestions are very worthwhile, particularly the last two. They probably will not read anything she tries to show them, since it appears they’re already somewhat estranged, possibly due to her being frum.

  12. This is a difficult topic for a few reasons.

    – It is very emotional charged since it deals with death a topic that most of us would rather avoid.

    – The prohibition not to cremate is related to concepts such as life after death, and Techias HaMeisim (the resurrection of the dead), a topic that most non-observant Jews are not to comfortable with. They may however relate to the reason of Kavod HaMeis (respect for the dead), but in this case since they are forgiving their own respect, they may not relate.

    Possible approaches include
    – Educating your parents about the Jewish concept of the soul. Here’s a great Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s article on the subject .

    – Explaining the problems of Cremation from a Jewish point of view. Chabad has an article here .

    – Offering to pay for the cost of a traditional Jewish Burial (if you can afford it)

    – Explaining that your children and grand children would like to keep your parents memory alive through the Jewish Tradition of visiting and praying at their grave, which is not possible if cremation occurs.

  13. I have a similar problem with my mother. I’ve tried to discuss the implications with her when the topic has come up. She is still very young and IY”H it will not be relevant until 120. I just keep davening that something will change in time or that by some miracle I’ll be able to convince my other family members to disregard her (as yet) unwritten wishes. :( A tough spot to be in.

  14. Michoel,

    It’s Miriam’s parents who have planned for cremation. Her parents have great grand kids as a result of her children having children (ie Miriam is a grandparent and her parents are great grandparents).

  15. Hello Miriam,
    You wrote that you send pictures of the great grand kids. Did you mean grand kids? I am confused as to whether it is your parents or grand parents that are thinking about cremation.

    Thanks for clarifying.

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