Dear Rabbi,

My grandfather is a Holocaust survivor. He’s quite elderly and recently I was shocked to discover that he has requested to be cremated after his passing. How can I best convince him to reconsider this decision?

Lori

 

Dear Lori,

I’m going to be straight with you, Lori. In all my experience, when encountering an elderly person who has made that request, I have never managed to talk them down, bar one instance. Far be it for any of us to judge Holocaust survivors and their reasons for wanting to do anything after the hell they’ve endured. One of the cases I encountered was a man who watched his friends being buried alive. It haunted his dreams for years and he insisted he wanted to be cremated. The biggest problem is that even as one convinces the family as to the right thing to do, they feel guilty about denying the deceased their wish.

However, you are in the more advantageous position, because you can still try to negotiate with your grandfather himself.

Speak to him about the meaning of life, the sacredness of the human body and the power of the soul. Explain to him the importance of a Jewish burial and how the body that was, is and always will remain holy.

Maybe you could even get into something about the Jewish perspective on the afterlife. If you don’t feel adequately equipped to deal with this yourself, get in touch with a rabbi or someone who could impress upon him the great significance of Jewish burial and the tragedy – there’s no better way to put it – of cremation. You would be doing him a great service, both in this world and the next.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I currently feel very hard done by in life and find myself dealing with a lot of rage issues. I lost someone very close to me, but I have no-one to share my feelings with. A former friend has scammed me for a lot of money, leaving me very stressed and struggling.

Everything seems to be going against me at the moment. I find myself snapping at everyone around me. My home life is struggling. I know the obvious answer is to get help, but I wonder if you could point me in the right direction to achieve this?

As an Orthodox Jew, I’m now starting to wonder whether there is an entirely different approach to take to help me through this difficult time?

Gerald

 

Dear Gerald,

Orthodox or not, you have burdens weighing down on you that you have to offload. You need to see someone to discuss your bereavement and to better cope with the stresses you are enduring. Otherwise you will implode and that won’t be of any good to you or to your loved ones.

There is, however, one exercise you could practice on your own as well. We all go through challenges and stresses in life. While many people spend much time, energy and money on various therapies, in many instances a simple belief in God and Divine Providence helps us to cope so much better. God controls everything that happens to us throughout our lives.

Many people mistakenly believe that only natural catastrophes, such as non- contagious illnesses or freak accidents, are controlled by God (see the section in your homeowner’s insurance policy which defines “Acts of God”), whereas other things are just a roll of the dice and are simply bad luck.

At those moments when life is toughest, firstly, forget about instant gratification. There are no quick fixes and even as we know something comes from God, we have to accept it at that level without necessarily anticipating or figuring out what His reasoning might be.

Second, strength of character is achieved through hardship. Sometimes, only through difficulty does a person acquire sensitivity and empathy for others, and the person who is hurt by another, and chooses to forgive rather than avenge, becomes a kinder and greater person.

Indeed, the suffering itself, and the ability to rise above it all, is in itself a Divine gift. I know it is easier said than done and I remain adamant that you pursue some professional help. But the above formula is an ongoing work in progress and, if you could combine the two, you will find your peace of mind in much quicker time.

Good luck![divider]

Read Rabbi Schochet’s blog at shul.co.uk/rabbi.