23 KISLEV 5780 / 21 DECEMBER 2019
29 And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt:
30 But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their buryingplace. And he said, I will do as thou hast said.
31 And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head.
Every time I am amazed how the weekly Torah portion echoes the current events of our life.This week Rona Ramon died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 54. Her husband, Ilan Ramon was Israel’s first astronaut and he died in 2003 when the Columbia Space Shuttle blew up on reentry, killing all on board, after space mission.
Ramon also lost her son Asaf, an Israel Air Force fighter pilot, who died in 2009 when his F-16 crashed in a training accident.
Ramon requested to be cremated to spare her family another funeral. Dery, the brother of Interior Minister Arye Dery, said he shocked to hear of her request and offered to hold a small, closed funeral without the family.
He said that cremation of Ramon’s body “would have severe Halakhic implications” and that Jewish law clearly states that even if someone requests to be cremated and not buried, “they are not listened to.”
If we are talking about tradition Rabbi Yehoram Mazor writes: “In the days of the First Temple, kings and dignitaries were burned and we have evidence of this in the Bible: the burial of Saul and his sons (1 Samuel 31) King Asa (2 Chronicles 16),
During the period of the end of the Second Temple period, we find evidence of the burning of bodies, for example, in the cemetery in Beit She’arim”
However, I don’t want to talk about the tradition and Halakha right now. The weekly portion teaches us to respect the last will of a person, even if it is difficult for us to fulfill it for one reason or another.
For many reasons, Joseph, the first minister of Egypt, was uncomfortable to fulfill the will of his father, but we do not see in the text or even feel, between the lines, not the slightest doubt about the duty that he has to fulfill the will of his father.
I think Rabbi Dery should re-read this weekly portion and learn how to respect other people’s worldview and their wishes. And this applies not only to their last wishes.