By Rabbi Dovid Gold, MHA
As a Rabbi/Chaplain in Miami-Dade Veterans hospital, I come across many veterans of all faiths.
Last week, a friend of mine texted me information about a woman he had met whose father was a veteran and wanted to speak with a Rabbi/Chaplain. He passed along her information and said it was regarding “cremating her father.”
I called this woman, named Susan, who wanted to meet and needed a “Jewish Siddur.” We met in the hospital next to her father’s bed and she prayed for a recovery and if it’s G-d’s will, an easy death. She was very grateful for the presence of a rabbi and the prayers that came with it.
After a few minutes, we spoke about the cremation aspect and she notified me that she changed her mind and decided on burial when the time comes. “I want to do right for my father, and I know I have picked the right decision,” Susan said.
Happy over the decision yet a bit surprised, I asked her what led her to change her mind so easily and fast. She was adamant about cremation when she spoke with my friend, an Orthodox Jew, just a day before.
She responded, “the Jewish guy I met first was so honest and forth coming about the Jewish Law that I had made my mind up not to cremate my father.”
On Tuesday, the man passed away and we buried him with a full Tahara ceremony of washing of the body and Tachrichim garments for burial.
It was my friend who gets the credit for speaking so sincerely how cremation is against Jewish Law and that one may never cremate a body as a body must always be respected and treated with honor.
For me, this was just a reminder that every person has the power to influence positively on another. All religious Jews share that responsibility in our daily lives.
When we are shopping in the supermarket or waiting in the doctor’s office, people know and see whom you represent; they will come over to you and ask you questions. Just remind yourself, “You are accomplishing your mission in life, in bringing back Jews to Yiddishkeit.”