To what extent do we honor the dead? How do we, as the Jewish people, deal with the issue of benefiting from those who have passed away? While arguably the highest expression of loving kindness in the Torah is caring for the bodies of the dead, because of the selfless nature of the act, are we then able to derive any benefit from the deceased?
We should not protect ourselves from ideas that seem foreign or uncomfortable, thus it is our obligation to raise awareness about the controversial Bodies Exhibit. I recently learned of this shocking exhibit by reading an article by Uri L’Tzedek founder and President Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, “The Bodies Exhibit & The Jewish Value of Honoring The Body.”
Located in Atlanta, Las Vegas, and New York, the Bodies Exhibit is one of the most viewed public displays in America. The exhibit has preserved the deceased (from other countries) and placed their bodies in particular arrangements for the purpose of others’ entertainment. In his article, Rabbi Yanklowitz discusses the issue of how Jews should react to placing bodies on display for entertainment, specifically against the backdrop of Jewish law and culture.
I urge you to read the Rabbi’s article, and view the exhibit’s website – if you have the stomach for it.