If a Kohen is prohibited from becoming Tamei, and people become Tamei upon dying, then wouldn't it be prohibited for a Kohen to die?

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5 Answers 5


A kohen is allowed to become tame to a close relative, and adam karov etzel atzmo, a person is his own relative, so it's all right. A kohen gadol, on the other hand, who cannot become tame even to a relative, cannot die unless he's a mes mitzva, someone who dies where there's no one around to bury him. (A kohen gadol can become tame to a mes mitzva.) That's why so many kohanim g'dolim died in the kodesh kadashim during the second Temple, so there'd be no one around when they died.

  • Same I guess for a Kohein amputee.
    – Double AA
    Feb 24, 2021 at 16:33
  • 1
    Eli wasn't smart dying right in front of the runner, then...bad timing...
    – Harel13
    Feb 25, 2021 at 9:33

It is indeed forbidden for a Kohein to die. In fact, it is explicitly codified in scripture:

ויאמר יהוה אל משה דבר אל אהרן אחיך ואל יבא בכל עת אל הקדש מבית לפרכת אל פני הכפרת אשר על הארן ולא ימות

  • There's a typo in the last unbolded word. You switched the Alef and Hei
    – Double AA
    Feb 25, 2021 at 21:39
  • @double really? Feb 25, 2021 at 23:48
  • @blue yes it's supposed to be אהרן לא ימות "don't die, aharon"
    – Double AA
    Feb 26, 2021 at 0:30
  • @double if you move the vawv also then maybe we got something Feb 26, 2021 at 0:33
  • @blue there's no vav in aharon (well there's one place where until about 2 hundred years ago there was a machloket between different ashkenazi scribes if there should be a vav, but no one now does it and it was probably mistaken.)
    – Double AA
    Feb 26, 2021 at 0:35

חס ושלום! We find throughout history many כהנים צדיקים who weren't נזהר in this. It has the status of מנהג ישראל, even though כהנים aren't technically ישראלים.

Do not speak further of this topic!

  • ?????מנהג ישראל
    – הראל
    Feb 25, 2021 at 22:09

Keivan shemais naseh chafshi min hamitzvos. A dead person is patur from the mitzvos.


The question is based on the premise that dead people are tamei. However, this premise is questionable.

The Gemara (Nidda 70b) discusses the taharah status of a once dead person after reincarnation:

מתים לעתיד לבא צריכין הזאה שלישי ושביעי או אין צריכין

The simplest explanation of this shaila is whether dead people become impure or not. We know that someone who touches a corpse becomes impure. Is the corpse itself impure?

The Sifri (Parshas Chukas) darshens the following:

כל הנוגע - נוגע במת טמא, אין מת עצמו טמא

It seems that only one who touches the body is rendered impure, not the body itself.

[However, see Rashi in Pesachim 18a that we consider everything to be touching itself; אין לך נגיעה גדולה מזו. This would contradict the above Sifri, which sounds like the corpse itself doesn't become impure. See also Chasam Sofer YD 337]

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