Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #334

Q: Is cremation permissible according to the Torah?
A: Certainly not.  There is a positive Torah Mitzvah to bury the deceased.  It is an honor for the deceased, an honor for the living and an honor for the soul (in the book Gesher Ha-Chaim [Volume 1 16:9], Ha-Rav Yechiel Michal Tukachinsky writes that it is a severe prohibition to cremate a body, since one nullifies a positive Torah Mitzvah with his hands, and causes a great calamity to the deceased.  Gedolei Yisrael therefore agree that the ashes of one who is cremated are not to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.  Other Rabbis explain, however, that while cremation is absolutely forbidden, it is nonetheless permissible to bury the ashes in a Jewish cemetery.  Shut Seredei Aish 2:123-124.  Shut Melamed Le-Hoil 2:113-114.  And in Shut Chelkat [2:4], Ha- Rav Mordechai Yaakov Bereish, Av Beit Din of Zurich, writes that it is preferable to be buried in a non-Jewish cemetery than to be cremated!).    

"Ve-Hu Rachum"
Q: Many times at the beginning of Maariv, people who are there to Daven say "Ve-Hu Rachum" to encourage the Shalaich Tzibur to begin.  Is there a problem with this?
A: Yes, since it is the Shaliach Tzibur's role to begin (And Ha-Rav Moshe Aryeh Freund, Av Beit Din of the Edah Ha-Charedit in Yerushalayim, once got up to serve as Shaliach Tzibur on Motzaei Shabbat, and one of the Daveners loudly began "Ve-Hu Rachum".  Ha-Rav Freund turned to him and said that the Shalaich Tzibur begins this line.  Mara De-Shematata p. 50).

Kidney Donation by a Cohain
Q: I am a Cohain and want to donate a kidney.  Is the lack of a kidney considered a blemish for which I would not be able to say Birkat Cohanim?
A: No, since it is hidden, i.e. internal.

Loving Your Fellow Jew as Yourself
Q: How can I reach the level of loving my fellow Jew as myself?
A: Through intellect, i.e. thinking about the positives of that person, despite his deficiencies.

Kashrut at a Wedding
Q: I am invited to a wedding under the Kashrut supervision of the Israeli Rabbinate.  The host told me that they could order us a Mehadrin meal, but the other guests sitting with us will see the difference in the meals.  What should we do?
A: Eat like everyone else, since the food is Kosher, and you should not separate yourself (And this how Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld and Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach acted.  They would eat foods at a Simcha that they were strict not to eat in their home, as it says in the Book of Tehillim [101:2], "I walk with wholeness of heart within the confines of my house" - in the confines of my house I am strict, with other people I am not.  Ve-Alehu Lo Yibol Volume 2, p. 66-67.  See Shut Pe'at Shadecha 1:66 which also mentions how Rav Zonnenfeld acted in this way).

Smoking Before Davening
Q: Is it forbidden to smoke before Davening just as it is forbidden to eat and drink?
A: Yes.  Piskei Teshuvot 89:17.  And, in any event, smoking is forbidden (See Piskei Shlomo Volume 4 on smoking). 

Gemera Fell on Floor
Q: While cleaning, my entire set of Gemara fell on the floor and my Kiddush cup broke.  What should I do?

A: Pick up the Gemara and kiss it.  If you are troubled about it, give Tzedakah.