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Bidding Information
Lot #    13867
Auction End Date    3/7/2006 1:36:30 PM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Die Leichenverbrennung
Author    [Polemic - Cremation] R. Isak Unna
City    Frankfort am Main
Publisher    J. Kauffmann
Publication Date    1903
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   Only edition. 29 pp., octavo, 210:143 mm., wide margins, light age staining, unbound.
   Only edition of this booklet presenting the perspective of Jewish law on cremation by R. Isak Unna. This is represented by the Die Leichenverbrennung vom Standpunkt des Judenthums, which further describes it as including nebst einem Anhang: Kritik des Wiener'schen Gutachtens über die Feuerbestattung (with an appendix: Criticism of the Wiener certification of cremation). R. Unna is identified as rabbi in Mannheim.

One of the foremost advocates of cremation was Rabbi A. Wiener of Oppeln, who not only contributed articles to the "Flamme," but also became a member of the Gesellschaft für Feuerbestaltung. In 1892 the Central Conference of American Rabbis resolved"that in case we should be invited to officiate as ministers of religion at the cremation of a departed coreligionist, we ought not to refuse on the plea that cremation is anti-Jewish or irreligious" R. Unna’s booklet is a sharp response to the position of Wiener.

The Jewish position on cremation derives from the passage in Deuteronomy (21:23) "his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt surely bury him the same day." It has been advanced as a scriptural proof text, as well as other biblical sayings such as "for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Gen. 3:19). Cremation, however, was not unknown to the early Hebrews, and "burning" was one of the four death penalties imposed by the biblical code for a number of offenses (Lev. 20:14; 21:9). The ancient rabbis, however, found the execution of this death sentence so abhorrent that they refused to interpret the injunction literally (Sanh. 7:2 and TJ, Sanh. 7:2, 24b). In biblical times, cremation was clearly considered to be a humiliation inflicted on criminals (Josh. 7:15, 25; Isa. 30:33) and the practice as such was reprobated, even when it involved the burning of the remains of an Edomite king (Amos 2:1). I Samuel (31:11–12) seems to refer to the cremation of the remains of King Saul and his sons by the men of Jabesh-Gilead; but this is an isolated incident and the literal reading of the verse has been challenged by Driver who reads sarap ("anointed with spices") for saraf ("burnt"; ZAW, 66 (1954), 314–15; also Koehler-Baumgartner, supplement, 175). I Chronicles (10:12) merely records that "the bodies were buried." According to the Roman historian Tacitus, the Jews "bury rather than burn their dead" (Hist. 5:5). The Mishnah (Av. Zar. 1:3) considers the burning of a corpse to be an idolatrous practice, and the Talmud (Sanh. 46b) deduced that burial is a positive commandment prescribed in Deuteronomy (21:23). This is the ruling followed by Maimonides (Sefer ha-Mitzvot, 231, 536, positive command), and by the Shulhan Arukh (YD 362). Tykoczinsky (Gesher ha-Hayyim, 2 (1947)) quotes the rabbinic idea that cremation is a denial of the belief in bodily resurrection and an affront to the dignity of the human body. On the other hand, some authorities permitted calcium to be spread over bodies already in the grave in order to stimulate decomposition (Responsa Rashba, pt. 1, no. 369; Isserles to Sh. Ar., YD 363:2). Others even suggested that interment was but a custom, supporting their statement with a passage from Midrash va-Yosha (Jellinek, Beit ha-Midrash, 1 (19382), 37) in which Isaac begs his father at the sacrifice to be cremated completely. It was also suggested that as long as the body is brought into contact with the earth as soon as possible (in conformity with the injunction Teikhef le-mitah kevurah; "immediate burial after death"), it does not matter how the corpse is disposed of.

Modern European Orthodox authorities have insisted that burial is the proper method of disposal of a corpse, a view taken by the Italian chief rabbinate (see Vessillo Israelitico, 23 (1875), 12) and, in 1895, by the rabbi of Wuerttemberg (REJ, 32 (1896), 276). Chief Rabbi Marcus Nathan Adler of Britain, though opposed to cremation, permitted the ashes of a person who had been cremated to be interred in a Jewish cemetery in 1887. The decision was sustained by his successor, Herman Adler (1891), who quoted the authority of Rabbi Isaac Elhanan Spector. It was also the attitude of Chief Rabbi Zadoc Kahn of France. American Reform rabbis, in accordance with a decision taken at the Central Conference of American Rabbis in 1892, are permitted to officiate at cremation ceremonies. Reform rabbis of Europe also often officiate at cremations. A regulation of the United Synagogue of London Burial Society states that "if the ashes can be encoffined, then interment may take place at a cemetery of the United Synagogue, and the Burial Service shall be conducted there at the time of the interment." Ultra-Orthodox communities, however, do not permit the ashes of cremated persons to be buried in their

   EJ; JE
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Listing Classification
20th Century:    Checked
Germany:    Checked
Halacha:    Checked
Polemics:    Checked
First Editions:    Checked
Language:    German
Manuscript Type
Kind of Judaica