What is wiser for a Noahide, burial or cremation?
Topics in this week's portion include: Women Captives, First-Born's Share, The Rebellious Son, Hanging and Burial, Returning Lost Articles, The Fallen Animal, Transvestitism, The Bird's Nest, Guard-Rails, Mixed Agriculture, Forbidden Combinations, Bound Tassels, Defamed Wife, Penalty for Adultery, Betrothed Maiden, Rape, Unmarried Girl, Mutilated Genitals, Mamzer, Ammonites & Moabites, Edomites & Egyptians, The Army Camp, Sheltering Slaves, Prostitution, Deducted Interest, Keeping Vows, Worker in a Vineyard, Field Worker, Divorce and Remarriage, New Bridegroom, Kidnapping, Leprosy, Security for Loans, Paying Wages on Time, Testimony of Close Relatives, Widows and Orphans, Forgotten Sheaves, Leftover Fruit, Flogging, The Childless Brother-in-Law, Weights and Measures, Remembering What Amalek Did to Us. For Noahides
Quite a list of topics. One topic that is regularly questioned is "burial." Should a Noahide be buried or may he also be cremated.
In the 7 mitsvot, there is no specific mention of death and burial. In addition to the 7 mitzvot, there are also logical moral obligations and rules. These fall into the category of creating an established - habitable - world. Thus, it is not a commandment for Noahides to be buried, and cremation does not violate either a commandment or a prohibition.
Rabbi Moshe Weiner explains that burial in the ground is a moral obligation for Noahides. This is taught, among other by the Ethics of the Fathers: "[Rabbi Akiva] used to say, Beloved is man, for he is created in the Divine image. It is even a greater [act of] love that it was made known to him that he was created in the Divine image, as it is written, In the image of G-d was man created [Genesis 1,27]. This verse refers to all of humanity. A practical lesson from this is that the human body is not to be treated disrespectfully, even in death.
From Genesis 3:19 we can learn that burial is the most respectful treatment of a human corpse:
“By the sweat of your brow Shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground— For from it you were taken. For dust*dust Heb. ‘afar. Cf. the second note at 2.7. you are, And to dust you shall return.”
The body should return to the earth, and the breath of life that G-d breathed into man returns to its source.
In Deutr. (21:23) we see very explicitly that it is said that the dead should be buried. In doing so, the Talmud explains that this commandment is not fulfilled when one buries a personal part.
Despite the fact that cremation does not violate a prohibition, it is recommendable for a Noahide to be buried because in this way one shows respect to the body that was created in the Image of G-d and in addition, it is better for the soul to be buried because otherwise it misses the spiritual cleansing of unrepentant sins that a burial in the earth can provide.
So the best is to burying our dead. In Ask.Noah's prayer book there is a prayer for a departed soul a Noahide can use:
All part of the following prayer may be recited (not more than once daily) during a funeral or memorial gathering, the week of mourning, an anniversary of passing, or other special occasions that are deemed appropriate.
May G-d remember the soul of (mention the decease person’s given names), son/ daughter of (use Noah if the deceased is a Gentile; use Abraham if the deceased is a Jew when you don’t now the names of the parents), who has gone on to his/her world. By virtue of my praying on his/her behalf, and, without making a vow, my intent to donate proper charity on his/her behalf, may his/her soul be bound in the Bond of Life together with the souls of the righteous, and let us say: Amen.
Brought By Angelique Sijbolts
Angelique Sijbolts is one of the main writers for the Noahide Academy. She has been an observant Noahide for many years. She studies Torah with Rabbi Perets every week. Angelique invests much of her time in editing video-lectures for the Rabbis of the Academy and contributes in administrating the Academy's website in English and Dutch. She lives in the north of the Netherlands. Married and mother of two sons. She works as a teacher in a school with students with special needs. And is a Hebrew Teacher for the levels beginners en intermediate. She likes to walk, to read and play the piano.
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