Published July-14-06
Ask Rabbi Dan
by Rabbi Dan S. Wiko PhD
  Issue: 7.07
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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?

Dear reader,

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.


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