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Is a Kohen allowed to be in the same room as a gentile corpse?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Jewish Identity » Kohains and Levites » The Holy Tribe | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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A corpse emits impurity. There are two ways one can be affected by this impurity: 1) Direct contact. 2) Being under the same roof (or other cover). (See What sort of contact with the dead is forbidden for a Kohen?) One certainly becomes impure through direct contact with a non-Jewish corpse. There is, however, a disagreement in the Mishnah, and amongst subsequent Halachic authorities, whether one contracts impurity through being under the same roof or covering as a non-Jewish corpse. As there is no established, clear-cut halachic decision in this regard, it is advisable for a Kohen not to share the same roof as a non-Jewish body.1

Footnotes

  • 1. However, since it is doubtful whether a gentile corpse has the ability to spread impurity to those sharing its roof-space, a Kohen may be lenient in certain instances. For example, it would be permitted for a Kohen to drive along a non-Jewish cemetery which has trees whose branches cover graves on one side and the roadway on the other, provided that all the car windows are shut. This leniency does not apply to Jewish graves.

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COMMENTS

Kohen under the same roof as non-jewish corpse

Posted by: Danny Wrona, Amsterdam, Netherlands on Apr 05, 2005

A practical situation about this case will be the attending of the funeral of the Pope by the chief Rabbi of Haifa, who is, as I understood, a kohen.

I am really interested to know how he came to his decission that it is possible.

There is a disagreement in the Mishna, and amongst subsequent halachic authorities, whether a non-Jewish corpse can make someone impure by being under the same roof.

But, it is known in history that there have been popes of jewish descent, and at least Peter and Paul are burried in St. Peter Basilica. So this means that the rabbi would enter a ohel with jewish corpses.

RELATED CATEGORIES

Life Cycle » Death » Burial/Cemetery

Halachic
Pertaining to Jewish Law.
Mishnah
First written rendition of the Oral Law which G-d spoke to Moses. Rabbi Judah the Prince compiled the Mishna in the 2nd century lest the Oral law be forgotten due to the hardships of the Jewish exiles.