The Artist & the Ghost Bicycle – Jewish Burial Rites

Not long ago, a young promising artist was riding a bicycle. In the intersection, came a speeding truck. They met their tragic end. I did not know the person – but I felt very badly for them. I was further dismayed when I learned that the family – not versed in the laws in Judaism – seemingly decided to cremate their body. I knew other families that did the same thing.

Burial vs. Cremation Pamphlet

The other day I was at a funeral of a family friend. At the funeral I picked up a pamphlet by Author Doron Kornbluth entitled “Cremation vs. Burial – A Jewish View.” Among his works, he has a book named the same. It talked about Jewish and secular reasons for burial – like how cremation pollutes the environment.

Our Body Belongs to G-d

Just recently, I was eating breakfast at the synagogue. A man – a car salesman – asked “Rabbi, What does Judaism say about cremation?” I told him that the Torah prohibits cremation. The body of a person is not our property – it belongs to G-d. We use it – but we cannot deface it – like making self inflicted wounds, scars or tattoos. Apparently the verse that prohibits cremation is “From dust (earth) you came and to dust (earth) you shall return.” (Bereshit / Genesis 3:19)

Respect the Person’s Body

He said to me “Yea, I always thought that. It seems like a disrespect to G-d – kind of throwing the body He gave us into the face.” I told him it is a tremendous disrespect for the person themselves as well. In cremation – they crush the bones and burn it at a temperature of 1800 degrees.

Respect the Artist’s Work

It clicked to me. “That’s a very good point you said.” I thought back to the artist who was cremated. Imagine if the mother decided to burn her child’s art. It would be a disrespect for the work of the artist and the artist themself.

I gave him the pamphlet to read.

The Torah says “Hash-m is the greatest artist.” Giving a Jew a proper burial is to respect His creation and His creations.

The Man Who Stole the Ghost Bicycle

Once we were riding in the car. Someone pointed out to me – “Look someone stole that white bicycle.” I thought it was a bit amusing. A last respect memorial to a person is stolen by a thief. Apparently, it was so audacious, I was amused. It was a bit like defacing a memorial to a person or people. The body itself intact is the best memorial of a person – burning it is tantamount to, or much worse than defacing a memorial.

A Last Act of Respect to the Person

Many other reasons exist against cremation. Judaism says respect the person alive and when they pass on. Respect them, respect their body and let the soul rest in peace.

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