Section: Questions Category: Hashkafa
TAGS:funeral kibud av v'eim Kohein
|Hashkafa - Kohen Funeral|
|Submitted by Robert Answered by Rabbi Tzvi Frank|
|Question: Is it really true that there is a law in Orthodox Jewry that a Cohen cannot attend his own grandmother's funeral or go to her gravesite?
Where can I find official information in the Torah regarding such a strange (and to my mind, such a hurtful) law? It seems to me that such a law goes directly against one of the commandments passed on to us by Moses -- Honor thy parents.
|Answer: Hi Robert,|
That a Kohen cannot become ritually impure by coming
into contact with the dead is clearly defined in the Torah itself. This
is not a Rabbinic ordinance but rather a Biblical one.
close relatives such as a mother, father, sister, brother, son,
daughter and spouse have a special leniency applied (also at a Biblical
level) which allows the Kohen to bury his loved ones. This leniency
does not extend to grandparents and grandchildren unless there is no
one else to help with the burial.
That said, this does not mean that a grandchild should not attend the funeral of his grandmother!
the deceased on his/her final journey and comforting the mourning is a
HUGE mitzvah often expounded upon in the Talmud.
workarounds that allow a Kohen to attend the funeral while not
transgressing the law. In many funeral parlors there are loudspeakers
that allow a Kohen to attend while standing just outside the building,
some funeral homes have a special Kohen room where the Kohen is allowed
to enter and there is a window separating the two places so he can view
and be a part of the funeral. Indeed I have attended funerals that the
Kohen was in that special room (constructed according to the legal
guidelines spelled out in the Talmud) and delivered a eulogy to the
entire audience. We all saw him, heard him and all felt that he was
part of the funeral and was respectful to the deceased and to the
mourners. After the funeral parlor when the deceased is on the way to
be buried the Kohen joins the procession albeit at a distance from the
coffin. At the cemetery the Kohen can attend again by keeping a certain
distance following the halachic rulings clearly spelled out in the
Talmud., if there is a gate erected he can come even closer. All he
needs is a knowledgeable Orthodox Rabbi to point out to him the various
ways that he can work around the Biblical Law and still be able to pay
After the actual burial, the son can no longer
come in direct contact with the grave, but again, Kohanim in our
community bury their loved ones in choice areas of the cemetery where
they would be able to come in quite close to the grave in order to pay
their respects over the following years. All that is required is the
halachic education necessary to understand what he may or may not do.
I hope this addresses your concerns.
Tell me if they don't!