What is the proper burial process for Noahides?

Advice from Rabbi B. Friedman

Rabbi B. Friedman in Kansas has been teaching a group of Noahides for many years. In working with his group he has indeed taken the time to research this subject. He answered us very briefly on the points below regarding death and burial:

(a) What can a Noachide expect – may or can a Rabbi perform a burial ceremony for a Noahide?

Yes, it is fine for a Rabbi or a judge to officiate at a Noahide’s burial ceremony.

(b) A Gentile may not be buried in a Jewish cemetery. What is a Noahide to do in theory and in reality about burial?

There are no other restrictions on where a Noahide can be buried. Therefore, the choice and arrangements are up to him or her.

(c) Preparation of a Noahide’s body for burial: what must be done? What should be done? By whom?

Noahides do not require special preparation of their body before burial. The suggestion is that it’s most appropriate for Noahides to follow G-d’s decree upon Adam in Genesis. Genesis 3:19 states: “By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread until you return to the ground, from which you were taken. For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Thus, it would be most appropriate to not embalm the body.

Additional information from the Director of AskNoah.org

As a Divine directive, Genesis 3:19 is a Torah commandment for Jews. They have many positive (“to do”) commandments in addition to many negative (“don’t do”) commandments. On the other hand, Gentiles do not transgress the Noahide Code if they utilize another process such as cremation or cryogenic preservation. But a meritorious soul will lack the mode of spiritual cleansing from unrepentant sins that burial in the earth can provide.

Rabbi Moshe Weiner of Jerusalem explains that based Genesis 3:19, burial in the ground is a moral obligation for Gentiles. Therefore, they should not be cremated. Nevertheless, these matters are not Torah-law requirements for Gentiles.

From the Mishnah, “Ethics of the Fathers” (Pirkei Avot) 3:14 – “[Rabbi Akiva] used to say: Beloved is Man, for he was created in the image [of G-d]; it is an even greater love that it was made known to him that he was created in the image [of G-d], as it is stated, “For in the image of G-d He made man” (Gen. 1:27).

This refers to all mankind, since the quoted verse in Genesis refers to all human beings. This was repeated to Noah in Genesis 9:6. A practical lesson that results from this is that since a human body is the temporary host to the image of G-d within a living person, which is the human intellect that can know right from wrong, it should not be treated disrespectfully, even in death. Therefore, burial is preferred and encouraged for Gentiles, since it is the most honorable way to treat the special significance of the deceased human body, which was a host to a human soul that is created “in the image of G-d.”