I recently sat shiva for my father, may he rest in peace, and was reading the laws of mourning. One thing that struck me was the instruction to refrain from wearing leather shoes. It offered no explanation, so I did it just because it says so, but it’s been bothering me ever since. What do leather shoes have to do with mourning? Why are other leather garments such as belts and jackets permitted?
I’ve enjoyed reading your column over the years in the TJP. One question came to mind that perhaps you can answer. There’s been a lot of discussion over the past few years regarding the importance of Living Wills for various reasons. Does Judaism have a clear position on whether or not this is a good thing to do?
My cat recently died, and I want to know if it’s appropriate for me to recite the kaddish prayer for her? In case this sounds ludicrous allow me to explain. My ex-wife and I never had children, and we have been divorced for nearly 10 years. Through this past, painful decade, this cat has been a big part of my life; she gave me a lot more than I gave her. She gave me connection, she was a cure to my loneliness, and she gave me something to love. Now all that’s gone and all that remains is a hole of loneliness. I know sitting shiva would be going too far, but I thought that going to say kaddish for her would make up for some of that loss.
You recently argued, in two columns regarding the “Bodies” exhibit, that displaying dead bodies, in your opinion, flies in the face of the sanctity of the human body. I have trouble fathoming what sanctity there is to the human body any more than any other animal body. I assume you would not take such issue with an exhibit of animal bodies showing their anatomy. I would like to understand why your perspective is so different for humans, necessitating burial and nothing else.
In your column of Dec 31st, you explained the importance of burial vs cremation, with respect to the Jewish belief in the Revival of the Dead, the final reward when the body is reunited with the soul, something which may be lost on one who forfeits the body to cremation.
Unfortunately, there are so many of us eternally mourning all the victims of the Nazis, whose bodies were cremated en mass by no choice of their own. How does Judaism deal with those martyrs who never had a choice with respect to the final reward you discussed?