Why shouldn't Jews be cremated?


4 Answers 4


There are a number of reasons, but one is that Jewish law mandates that the human body be treated with respect, even after death. This is true for both Jews and non-Jews, since we are all created "in the image of G-d" (Gen. 1:27); for Jews there is the additional idea that the body was in its lifetime a vehicle for mitzvos (the Divine commandments), and so it should be handled respectfully even after it has ceased to serve that function, like a worn-out Torah scroll or similar sacred objects.

Cremation goes against this idea, and is seen as a degradation of the body. We thus find Amos (2:1) excoriating the king of Moab for "burning the bones of the king of Edom into lime."

There's an excellent article summarizing this and many other considerations, at chabad.org.

  • 4
    Why is cremation necessarily/inherently not a form of respectful handling?
    – Yosef
    Nov 23, 2010 at 0:37
  • We find that, with a few exceptions (such as the Red Heifer and a couple of special sacrifices), burning (outside of the Temple grounds) is only for disqualified offerings and the like. By contrast, sacred items that are no longer usable are buried. (See Rambam, Hil. Pesulei Hamukdashin 19:10-11.) With a Torah scroll, too, the burning of it is considered a major tragedy (Moed Katan 26a explaining Jer. 36:23-24), and indeed that is one of the reasons for the fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz (Taanis 26b); a Jewish body is like a Torah scroll in that respect.
    – Alex
    Nov 23, 2010 at 1:44
  • 3
    @Yosef, furthermore, it's considered most respectful to leave the human body intact. We see this with the Talmud's assessments of how to carry out the death penalty while fulfilling "love your neighbor like yourself" -- the methods described are designed to not only minimize pain, but also to preserve dignity by leaving the body as intact as possible.
    – Shalom
    Nov 23, 2010 at 1:47
  • 1
    @BenMasada Are you saying Deuteronomy 4:12 is arguing on Genesis 1:27?
    – Double AA
    Feb 26, 2012 at 15:57
  • 1
    @Alex what if I demand in my will that some non jew cremates me? Who did a issur? Im already dead in this case so I can't get issurim presumably. Plus a non jew can't be a shliach.
    – Orion
    Jul 3, 2018 at 17:57

In addition to the halachic issues invloved there is an emotional aspect to burial vs cremation. There is no place for family to visit, or a memorial. I recently discovered that a great-great-uncle of mine was cremated and I realized that there is nothing remaining of him on this earth. There may be no emotional benefit to burial for the deceased, but there certainly is for the living.


In the near future when Moshaich will hopefully come, all the Jewish souls will be resurrected and reunited with their bodies in Israel. If one has his body cremated after death then he or she will no longer have a body to reconnect with their soul.

  • 5
    Why should that make a difference? Doesn't the body decompose no matter what?
    – Yosef
    Nov 23, 2010 at 0:36
  • The soul is not an entity or being that lives in or beside the body. The soul is a condition of a living human being. When there is a bus or plane accident, or even a terrorist attack, the first question is, "how many nephashot haiu ba otobus, or ba aviron or by ezor?" The answer is given with the casualties which are called guffote. When one dies, the body goes to the dust and the breath of life goes back to G-d Who gave it. The soul becomes non-existent. It means that the the soul is not an entity intependent of the living body. (Eccl. 12:7)
    – Ben Masada
    Dec 17, 2010 at 20:14
  • Bodily resurrection is against the Scriptures. Bodily resurrection is a Hellenistic tenet plagiarized by Christianity. According to Judaism, resurrection is to be taken metaphorically, as we have from Ezekiel 37:12. A return from the graves of the nations where we had been sent to in exile.
    – Ben Masada
    Dec 17, 2010 at 20:19
  • 3
    Naturally, of course, you've got the chapter and verse of this so-called "Hellenistic tenet," right? Because otherwise we shall have to assume that you are simply making this up; if you're going to demand written sources for anything we say, it is only fair that you do the same. (Let me make it clear: I am aware that it is mentioned in the Christian scriptures; I am asking for some source indicating that it was originally a pagan - for that's what Hellenistic means - doctrine.)
    – Alex
    Dec 19, 2010 at 6:45
  • Ken, can you source your latter sentence, especially in light of Yosef's above comment?
    – Double AA
    Sep 2, 2012 at 6:10

I posted about this awhile back here - http://ishimshitos.blogspot.com/2009/08/ashes-to-ashescremation-controversies.html

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