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.
Yosef published recently 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 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.
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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