Thursday, May 17, 2001

Burying a Suicide

Burying a Suicide
By Rabbi Shagra Simmons

Ask Rabbi Simmons Burying a Suicide  

Question:  What is the Jewish attitude to burying a suicide? 
Answer:  Judaism regards suicide as a criminal act. Someone who commits suicide is considered a murderer. It matters not whether he kills someone else or himself. His soul is not his to extinguish.  
Judaism's opposition to suicide is found in the story of Noah's Ark. After the flood, God says to Noah: Your blood which belongs to your souls I will demand; from the hand of every beast will I demand it. From the hand of every man; from the hand of every man who is his brother will I demand the life of man.(Genesis 9:5) 
The Talmud (Baba Kama 90b) learns from the first part of the verse, "And surely the blood of your lives I will demand," that one may not wound his own body. All the more so, he may not take his own life. 
There is also a deep spiritual consequence to suicide.  
When a person commits suicide, the soul has nowhere to go. It cannot return to the body, because the body is destroyed. And it is not let in to any of the soul worlds, because its time has not come. This state of limbo is very painful.  
A person may commit suicide because he wants to escape, but in reality he is getting a far worse situation. 
In this world, if we try hard enough sometimes we can solve the problem. But after death there are no solutions, only consequences.  
When a Jew commits suicide, he is not permitted a full Jewish burial, and there is even a debate whether shiva (the seven-day mourning period) is observed or whether the kaddish prayer is said.  
In practice today, however, suicide is usually treated as a normal death, since it is assumed that the person was not of a normal state of mind. But we still see the gravity by which Judaism views suicide. 
With blessings from Jerusalem,
Rabbi Shraga Simmons

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