Now I am not a man of deep reasons, so I have to tell you shallow reasons.
The reason for burying the dead is to show respect for the body; that we shouldn't see how a body decays, and I'll explain that briefly. The yesod of all our emunah is Olam Habah - we're here to prepare for the next world. Olam hazeh domeh l'prosdor b'fnei Haolam Habah, this world is just a vestibule to prepare for the world to come.
Now, it's easy to say these words. With some effort it's not too difficult to have this belief in Olam Habah, but one of the things that explodes this belief is when you see a dead body. A dead body is like a punch in the eyes. It's difficult. If you see a dead body of somebody you knew, chalila lo aliechem you see him dead, it's a convulsion, it's like a collapse of your emunah of Olam Habah. He's dead! Like this you think he's alive, when the time comes he'll walk across the boundary, he may even skip and jump across the boundary into the Next World and he'll go on living a happy life there. But now you see it's not so, he's dead.
Death is the biggest contradiction to the emunah. Of course it's nothing, death is merely taking off the old overcoat and putting it down here, whereas the person who wore the overcoat now keeps on walking. When the spring comes you take off your old overcoat and you walk into the street without an overcoat. So what happened? You're certainly the same person, the overcoat remained behind; but that needs seichel.
But if you look at a dead body, it's hard for your seichel if it's weak, to overcome that, especially if the dead body decays. As long as the dead body is lying there and it looks nice, so you could still think that maybe he's asleep! But after a while you are reminded by the odor, by the decay, that it's nothing but garbage now. Oh, that's a tragedy to the emunah, the little bit of emunah that most people have crumbles away under the onslaught of death. That's why quickly, kovod hameis, the honor of the dead body means, the honor of the living people. As soon as possible put him underground, bury him. Get him out of sight, immediately, because a dead body is a lie! A dead body teaches the untruth.
You know there is mus and mush (מות או מוש), mus means to die and mush means to move away, lo yomushu mipicha. Mush means to move away, that's all it is, it's only moving. But when you see mus, you don't think about mush anymore, about moving out of the world, you think that's it. Therefore we hurry and bury him, get the lie out of sight, because it's false. When a man sees too much he stops seeing the truth, sometimes seeing too much makes you oblivious of the truth, and therefore as soon as possible get him out of sight. Always keep in mind the picture of the meis as he was when you saw him lying peacefully, as if he were asleep, he even had red cheeks maybe.
Get him out of sight quickly before he changes, and you'll always remember him as he was before he decayed. That's how you should remember him, because that's important for the emunah, and that's why kevurah is important.
Good Shabbos To All
This is transcribed from questions that were posed to Harav Miller by the audience at the Thursday night lectures. To listen to the audio of this Q & A please dial: 201-676-3210