Friday, July 14, 2006 I was asked the following question:
A couple I am acquainted with tragically lost their 5-year-old
daughter to Leukemia. At the time of the funeral preparations, someone on the
mother's side of the family asked if the child had a Hebrew birth certificate
proving she had been given a Hebrew name by a rabbi. As it turns out the parents
had not acquired such a certificate. The in-laws insisted that the child could
not be buried in a Jewish cemetery, because without having been given a Hebrew
name by a rabbi, she could not be buried in consecrated ground, and would have
to be buried in an unmarked grave without the parents ever knowing the location
of her resting place. The child's parents would not hear of such a cruel
arrangement and proceeded with their original plan to bury their loving daughter
in their family plot.
Is there really such a requirement in Jewish law as these in-laws claimed?
was my response:
This is, indeed, a very sad tale of misinformation about the precepts of
Judaism. fortunately, the couple made their own, and fully acceptable, decision.
Firstly, If Torah teaches anything, it is that "Whatsoever is abhorrent unto
you, do not unto others". THAT is Torah, the rest is commentary. In this
particular instance, the child, even under the strictest of criteria, was
Jewish, because the mother was unquestionably Jewish. There was no reason for
the infant to not be buried in sacred ground. The in-laws were wrong and, more
importantly, cruel and insensitive to make such an assertion during what had to
have been the saddest moment in this young couple's life.
Secondly, even Halacha (Orthodox rulings) not only allows for pekuah
nefesh...the saving of a soul, in and out of the body, it demands it. As an
example, if a member of the congregation falls ill during, even, Yom Kippur
Services and everyone else refuses to phone for a doctor or ambulance, the rabbi
is required to do so himself. This ruling tells us, without question, that human
life is more important than any required form of observance.
you have questions about a personal matter, or jewish practices
and customs, you can submit them to me by e-mail.
I answer all queries directly, or through this column, when the
question is informative to our community.
you for your kind attention and this opportunity to share with you,
Rabbi Dan S. Wiko
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