About one week ago our friend Mr. Armand Knafo passed away. His request was to have a Jewish burial. Born in the 1950’s in Agadir, Morocco, then in the 1960’s made Aliyah to Israel and served in the IDF during the Six Day war. After studying abroad for several years, he came to Japan in the 1980’s and opened a language school that continues to this day.
Jewish Burial means that one who has passed away is properly buried after a purification process is done, called Tahara.
Before World War Two, regular burial was standard in Japan, it was only after the war that cremation was introduced and for some reason became the norm nowadays, aside for the empror’s family who follow the old Japanese tradition in regards to burial. Therefore one who requests a regular burial and not to be cremated, it is not a simple or easy thing to accomplish.
For Jews, regular burial is paramount. This is because the first man, Adam, was created from earth. It goes to say that every human being thereafter has earth within him/her. When one passes on it is only natural for the physical body to go back to where it is from, namely the earth. As the Torah clearly states: ”From dust you have come and to dust you will return”.
Another important point is that G-d created us with a body and a soul. The body is given to us as a collateral. Our body is the vehicle of the neshama (soul) helping it accomplish the mission that G-d has given our soul in this physical world. It is our duty to return our body back to its Maker, just as He gave it to us, in its entirety.
Just as one wouldn’t ruin a watch that was given for safekeeping, before returning it back to its owner. This rule is simple common sense.
Cremation has a very negative connotation for us as Jews, since only seventy years ago, over six million Jews were mercilessly killed in crematoriums during the Holocaust. One third of the Jewish people were killed out. It is therefore our obligation to see to it that every Jewish person be buried as a Jew.
Rabbi Binyomin Edery made extreme efforts to make all the necessary arrangements, such as collaborating with a funeral home that would allow him to do the purification process (Tahara) before burial, and would respect the Jewish law regarding a niftar (one who has passed on). Rabbi Edery secured a burial place in the Yokohama cemetery, which was no easy task. With Hashem’s help everything worked out.
We were most fortunate to have among us during this time a great and upright man, Mr. Mikey Steinbock who served in the Chevrah Kadish (Jewish Burial Association) of London for over thirty years. He lead the prepartion process and saw to it that all the traditions and rituals be done in the most thorough and respectful way. May G-d Almighty bless him and his family for his righteousness for this great mitzvah, which the Torah calls ”True Kindness” since he can never be properly thanked by the one who passed away. We are greatly indebted to him for his selflessness. Mikey being exactly now in Japan was clearly Divine Providence.
One of the most important tenants of Judaism is the resurrection of the dead when the Moshiach comes. Therefore the person who passed away is dressed in special garments that are tied in a very specific way awaiting the time when he will get up and join his people and the process of the Redemption, may it be NOW!