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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 16, 2006 / 24 Tishrei, 5767

Ethics of life after death

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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The Jewish belief in resurrection of the dead affects how will live in the here and now


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: Why does Jewish law forbid cremation?


A. The accepted ruling in Jewish law is that cremation is forbidden. The "Jewish Ethicist" doesn't discuss practical legal rulings, but I want to discuss this prohibition because it bears a profound ethical message as well. (In any particular case a qualified authority would have to be consulted.)


On the whole, Judaism emphasizes practice, not beliefs. Even so, the belief that God will resurrect the dead is a foundation of Jewish faith. This belief is so important that we affirm it in the prayers we recite thrice daily. And the Mishnah states that this principal is a basic part of the Torah. (1)


Consistent with Judaism's orientation towards practice, this belief is expressed in many concrete customs. For example, burying the dead in a simple but dignified white garment or shroud is considered to be testimony to the resurrection. (2) Another example is the prohibition on disfiguring any corpse, which encompasses many embalming practices, superfluous autopsies, and cremation. (3) (The definition of "superfluous" is beyond the scope of this column.)


Of course the Jewish sages were always well aware that the body decomposes in the grave, along with the shrouds. Resurrection is not dependent on being buried whole. Even so, maintaining bodily integrity to the best of our ability gives a concrete expression to our belief that the body is important as the abode of the soul, important enough that the soul should return to it even after death.


This eschatological belief is closely allied to an ethical one. Many thinkers have noted that belief in the immortality of the soul contributes to ethical behavior; in this world, reward for virtue and punishment for sin are often lacking, and justice seems to demand a future existence which will right these inequities. Even most Deists, who did not accept most aspects and traditions of organized religion, believed in an immortal soul and judgment in a future world.


Rabbi Avraham Kook explains that belief in reward and punishment is important, but insufficient. Belief in resurrection is also an ethical necessity. A purely spiritual immortality, while insisting on individual justice, concedes that this world is essentially unjust and unredeemed. This could lead to a situation where a person is led to concentrate on his own personal ethical righteousness, without concern for making the world as a whole a better place. Believing in purely spiritual reward and punishment can thus weaken our commitment to improving our existing world and making it more just a place. (4)


The concept of resurrection affirms that the actual physical material world we live in can be perfected, and will in the future be perfected. "We know that the perfection of the human spirit is within the body, therefore the final object of this perfection will be at the time of the resurrection." (5) This belief leads a person to pursue not only individual righteousness, but also the perfection of the world. Resurrection teaches that this world is capable of redemption, and furthermore the consciousness that we will return to this very world increases our desire to improve it in any way we can. Belief in return to the body teaches us never to despair of trying to attain ethical perfection in the here and now.


There is no doubt that there are many highly ethical people who have a vital faith in the perfectibility of this world, yet do not believe in an afterlife or resurrection of the dead. However, Judaism believes that vital spiritual and ethical truths can only be kept alive by connecting them to concrete practices that embody them. One of the most influential and popular books on the meaning of the commandments is a medieval work appropriately called "Sefer HaChinuch", literally "the Book of Education". This book explains the profound educational messages in each of the commandments of the Torah. The author also presents a general principle: "The heart is drawn after actions." (6) Beliefs are cultivated through specific practices that affirm them.


We perceive much injustice in this world. The belief in a final judgment stimulates us to right actions in corrupt surroundings, but can lead to a very individualistic kind of righteousness that despairs of truly repairing the world. The belief in the future resurrection of the dead into physical bodies on this earth sustains the faith that this actual physical human world we inhabit can and will be perfected, and that we will experience this perfection. Thus we are stimulated to civic virtue, and not only individual virtue. This belief is in turn cultivated by the many customs of Judaism which emphasize the importance of the body as the abode of the soul, especially those laws regarding respect for the corpse after the soul's departure.


SOURCES: (1) Mishnah, Sanhedrin 10:1 (2) YD 352:1 and Shach commentary. (3) See Responsa Noda beYehudah II YD 210. (4) Oros Hakodesh II 488 (5) Ein Ayah, Berachos 18a. (6) Sefer Hachinuch 16.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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Previously:

Ethical guidelines on what to say and what's proper to keep to yourself
Is it wrong to get credit for something you didn't do?
Ethics and sportsmanship
The ethics of forwarding email
Must a supplier honor a discount offered by a rogue sales representative?
Should I boycott my daughter's fashion show?
Should you respond to all those annoying email pop-up requests?
Do I have to reimburse someone who tried to do me a favor?
Seeking credit card debt settlement
Can I threaten to spread the word about someone who cheated me?
How can the terminally ill tap into their life insurance?
Is there value in an unhappy marriage?
Where does the Almighty fit into your corporation's mission statement?
Does an expert witness have to be impartial?
Should I give recognition to a modest man who did a great deed?
In representing my firm, can I tell a white lie?
Defrauding insurance to save a life
Can top level management unilaterally give away money to corporate dollars to charity?
Loans to Family Members
How much worker supervision is too much?
Should I turn in a colleague for inappropriate acts?
Priority in charitable giving
Trolls and ogres
How many hours of work is too many?
Can I promote my product by having it unobtrusively written into a story?
He's not heavy he's my brother
All's fair in war?, II
All's fair in war?
Girth vs. worth
Is it proper to tax bequests?
Ethics of Being Overweight
Penalized for working swiftly
When is it a bluff?
'Rate and switch'
My paycheck is late!
Should schools cater to an elite?
All's fair in love?
Comfort and Competition
Do I need the caller's permission to put a call on the speakerphone?
Overtime for lost time
Is it unethical to play suppliers against each other to get the lowest bid possible?
Do family members have precedence in charity allotments?
What the world of business can teach us about our annual process of repentance and renewal
Are religious leaders subject to criticism?
Vindictive Vendor: How can I punish an abusive competitor?
Blogging Ethics: Is the blogger responsible for defamatory posts?







© 2005, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics