Israel – Rabbi Ovadia: Do Not Honor The Will Of A Deceased If It Is Against Torah

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    Israel – The spiritual leader of the Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has declared in latest set of religious rulings that Jews who donate their bodies to science or commit suicide do not deserve to be mourned in the traditional Jewish way.

    Rabbi Yosef published a new volume in his well-known series of books under the title of Chazon Ovadia, which contains laws concerning Shabbat, medicine, burial rituals, holidays and other topics.

    In the new volume, Rabbi Ovadia rules on topics focusing around mourning and burial practices relating to various irregular cases that go against the traditional Jewish law, such as donating one’s organs, cremation, and suicide.

    “He who donates his body to science, to have his organs dissected, even though his intention is to advance scientific research, he is committing a serious offense, and might be relinquishing the chance of resurrection of his soul and body, and therefore we must not mourn his death,” Rabbi Ovadia wrote.

    Regarding organ donations, Rabbi Ovadia has stated in the past that it is permitted and even desired as it saves lives.

    Along these lines, Rabbi Ovadia was asked what should happen in the event that a Jewish person’s will states that he wishes to be cremated, to which he responded that the will should be breached.

    “This request should not be adhered to, as it is prohibited by the holy Torah,” ruled Rabbi Yosef. “He who requests to be cremated has kept his soul in limbo? and it is equivalent to sinning against the Ten Commandments and the entire Torah. Therefore his request should not be granted,” Rabbi Ovadia said.

    Rabbi Yosef delivered his rulings on these issues in response to questions posed by people facing these actual dilemmas. Another example of a question brought before the rabbi – who is considered an authority on Jewish law – was brought forth by a man, who wanted to know what to do after one of his parents requested in a will that he not say kaddish (the prayer for the dead) over the second parent.

    “If the mother dies and she states in her will that the son should not say kaddish over the father, then the son should not obey the will. However, if the father writes in his will that he wants the son to refraim from saying the prayer over the mother, then the son should adhere to his wish,” wrote Yosef.

    The rabbi stressed, however, that if the father’s request was based on his personal feelings towards the mother, then the request “should not be fulfilled.”

    On a different case relating to the prayer for the dead, Rabbi Ovadia ruled: “In the case of an adopted son, even though he is not required to mourn a deceased parent according to Jewish law, he is required to say the prayer for the rising of their souls, he must respect them in their lives and in their deaths, in recognition of the good deeds they did that brought him to where he is today.”

    Rabbi Ovadia deals also with the delicate subject of suicide in Judaism, and determines a severe ruling that those who take their own lives should not be mourned – without exception.

    “Even if a person severely suffers and is poor he cannot take his own life, and must accept his pain with love,” Yosef wrote, adding that this was relevant “especially to the young generation that have transgressed and learned from the actions of the gentiles in Europe, who lose themselves over every minor thing, because they do not believe in the untimely, supporting, rushing and healing Hashem [God].

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    24 COMMENTS

    1. How do you know who attempted to take their life but who did not do teshuva in the last seconds and wanted to still cling to life, but were unable to stop the act set in motion? This is an important directive so as to discourage suicide, but it is not our place to judge. People still need to mourn. The Jewish way of mourning is a blessing, a gift, for the living.

      • It depends whether he had time to do teshuvah after it was too late to save himself. If he had time, then we can assume he did; if death was instant then we can’t make such an assumption. There are still other kulos we can use; despite what you will see in some sources, the Torah is not 100% against suicide in all circumstances. There are the famous examples of Shaul and Shimshon, who killed themselves for the sake of kiddush Hashem. But the exceptions are broader. Witness, for instance, the launderer who killed himself because he was absent at Rebbi’s deathbed. What was his excuse? And yet, it seems, he had one, and it was acceptable.

    2. “If the mother dies and she states in her will that the son should not say kaddish over the father, then the son should not obey the will. However, if the father writes in his will that he wants the son to refraim from saying the prayer over the mother, then the son should adhere to his wish,” wrote Yosef.”

      What is the reason for this? I’m not going to jump to cry misogyny until I know, but this sounds awfully like it..

      • It’s very simple. It’s an open din in shulchan aruch that when kibbud of the two parents comes into conflict, kibud av wins out. The mother is obligated to honour her husband, and she certainly can’t exempt her son from his obligation, so she had no right to tell him not to say kaddish. The father has no such reciprocal obligation.

        • Spoken with true rishus sdom…what possible reason is there to give into the fathers request to not say kaddish for her? Why would you enable that request? You’re so self righteous,it’s nauseating.

          • This is not his opinion, it his Halacha in shulchan aruch. Now I know that the Halacha states that the wife is obligated to listen to the husband and honor of ones father comes first before ones mother. I don’t know how this plays out with regard to Kadish. Rav Obadia stressed that if its a personal thing then he doesn’t have to listen to his father. I certainly would love to hear an elaboration on this.
            DISCLAIMER: One should NEVER regard Halachic rulings found on blogs as Halacha Lemaysah. Always ask your Rav what to do personally.

          • Would you say this to Rav Obadia? I think not. While you don’t have to like what Milhouse says you have to repsect the venerable Rav Obadia who made the Psak. Clearly there is an explanation and asking one well versed in Halacha would be the correct mahalach.

      • A posaik states the halachah. Milhouse offers his opinion of what the halachah should be.

        Being that the question involves the rights of a man (actually, the non-right) to step on his wife and degrade her before her family even after death to mitigate the discomfort of his own under-developed ego, Milhouse had no reason to comment at all because all of us regular VIN junkies already knew what his opinion would be.

    3. How about we settle posts six and seven’s dispute by taking Rabbi Ovadiah’s kulah, on thinking that if the prohibition by the father was influenced by a personal bias then it is invalid, and apply it as liberally as possible, as we do with suicide?

        • You said according to the Rema one doesn’t have to listen to the father? So basically R Ovadia was stating the Beis Yosefs shita and Ashkenazim hold like the Rema and won’t have to listen to the father correct?

    4. What possible reason? Have you never heard of the mitzvah of Kibbud Av? Isn’t that a reason? Do you call obeying the Torah “rishus sdom”?!

      If the father commanded him not to say kaddish, then it depends whether the command was contrary to the Torah. If the father was motivated by unjustified hatred of the mother, then he was transgressing the pasuk לא תשנא את אחיך בלבבך, and it’s a clear din in Shulchon Oruch (YD 240:16) not to obey him. But if that is not the case, then what reason is there NOT to obey him?

      It is possible, however, that Haaretz got the entire story backwards. The Bet Yosef (surely you would not accuse him of “rishus sdom”) discusses the case of a dead mother who specifically asked that her son say kaddish for her, but the living father objects. The Bet Yosef paskens (YD 376) that the son should NOT say kaddish, but in the reverse case, where a living mother objects to the son saying kaddish for the dead father, he should say it anyway. The Ramo in YD 376:4 paskens otherwise; for further discussion see Pischei Teshuva YD 240:11 and 240:14 and Shu”t R Akiva Eiger #68. It is obvious that R Ovadiah would pasken like the Bet Yosef.

    5. There is a famous story when Reb Moishe Feinstein zt”l, as a young Rav in Russia, was posed a question by the Chevra Kadisha regarding whether to honour the wishes of a known local moser who had for years caused grief to individuals and the public by telling on them to the authorities and on his deathbed requested that he be buried outside the beis hakvaros like a goy, in shame, to at least partially atone for his behaviour which he now regretted.

      Reb Moishe paskened that a person is not bal habos over his body after his death and the chevra may not accommodate his request. The Chevra felt this was a very harsh p’sak as it denied the person a kapora of sorts, but Reb Moishe was very firm that halocha is halocha

      A few days after the kevura the police appeared and, after opening his kever, appeared surprised. When challenged by the caretaker, they were told that the niftar had written to them before his death informing them that the kehilla intends to take revenge on him and will bury him in a shameful manner and that they should take the kehilla task on it upon establishing this

      Who are we to judge, or understand, the siyatta dishmaya of strict halocha!

      • I have heard this story repeated about at least three other Rabbis. It reminds me of one of Rabbi Berel Wein’s ma’asehlach. “It could have been true.”

    6. All of this is interesting if both sides of the machlokes are in agreement to resolve the matter in accordance with daas torah. However, in many of these cases, there is a wife who may not be frumme or a lawyer who was designated as the niftar’s executor who could care less about what rav yosef said or rav moshe’s psak and will simply have the secular courts resolve the matter. In that case, halacha will always be trumped by the legal will of the niftar.

      • Nu, so there are resho’im in the world. What else is new? But unless the court sends armed police to enforce its ruling, Jews will obey halacha anyway, to whatever extent proves possible.

    7. Milhouse, how did Haaretz get the story backwards? Sounds like R. Yosef’s psak comes right out of the Beis Yosef.

      One problem with this:

      “It’s very simple. It’s an open din in shulchan aruch that when kibbud of the two parents comes into conflict, kibud av wins out. The mother is obligated to honour her husband, and she certainly can’t exempt her son from his obligation, so she had no right to tell him not to say kaddish. The father has no such reciprocal obligation.”

      If the marriage terminates, then the mother’s obligation to honor the father ceases. For example, if the parents got divorced, then we do not say that kibbud av wins out over kibbud em, since the mother in that case does not owe any kavod to the father.

      One would think that death, like divorce, terminates the wife’s duty to honor the husband. (Perhaps this is the view of the Rema.)

      • Whether death has the same function as divorce in this respect is not clear; it seems likely that it doesn’t, though it’s not impossible. See Pischei Teshuvah YD 240:11.

        But please read what I wrote again. The Haaretz case is the exact opposite of the Bet Yosef’s. The Bet Yosef’s case is where the dead parent wants the son to say kaddish, and the living parent objects. In that case, the BY rules that the living father has the right to prevent the son from saying kaddish for the dead mother, even if she specifically asked the son to say it. The Haaretz case is where the DEAD father told the son that when the mother eventually dies, he should not say kaddish for her. Now the mother is dead too, and the son wants to know what to do. That’s a bizarre and convoluted scenario, and I doubt that it’s really the case that R Yosef paskened on. But assuming that it is, it is most likely (but not certain) that the father’s wishes would prevail anyway. UNLESS, of course, the father’s command is against the Torah, which it would be if he was motivated by unjustified hatred for the mother.

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