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Kavod HaMet is a halachic rubric which includes sensitive and dignified treatment of a corpse. I would like to know if this principle includes the prohibition for Jews to treat the corpses of gentiles in an insensitive or undignified way, and if so, would that apply equally during a time of war. Do any commentaries or halachic authorities discuss this?

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  • Chazal (and the Navi for that matter) discuss how the reward of Yefes includes the army of Gog being buried: וְיֶפֶת זָכָה לִקְבוּרָה לְבָנָיו, שֶׁנֶאֱמַר אֶתֵּן לְגוֹג מְקוֹם שָׁם קֶבֶר
    – AKA
    Jul 25, 2023 at 16:50
  • King David is praised for burying the corpses of slain (non-Jewish) enemies after the battle. (Someone help me out here? It's a midrash explaining some verse in Shmuel Bet about his renown.) Of course in the heat of battle itself, the living have to take precedence over the dead, but even so, I can't see any military advantage in actively mutilating a body (thus, it would be prohibited).
    – Shalom
    Jul 25, 2023 at 16:54
  • @Shalom advantages would be to terrorize / deter the enemy Jul 25, 2023 at 17:07
  • @rikitikitembo I can't cite a source off the top of my head on that, but I will quote R' Asher Weiss shlit'a in a similar vein, noting that the staff poskim for the Israeli military and intelligence services consult with him. He said as much as we might want to say "go kill this terrorist after he's already been apprehended", any benefit is vastly outweighed by the cost to Israel's moral authority. Imho the same should apply here as a rule of thumb.
    – Shalom
    Jul 25, 2023 at 20:52

2 Answers 2

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Amos 2:1.

כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֔ה עַל־שְׁלֹשָׁה֙ פִּשְׁעֵ֣י מוֹאָ֔ב וְעַל־אַרְבָּעָ֖ה לֹ֣א אֲשִׁיבֶ֑נּוּ עַל־שׇׂרְפ֛וֹ עַצְמ֥וֹת מֶלֶךְ־אֱד֖וֹם לַשִּֽׂיד׃

So said G-d; I [could tolerate] three sins of Moav, but not this fourth: that [its king] burned the bones of the King of Edom to plaster.

That sure sounds like intentionally mutilating a corpse, even a non-Jewish enemy one, is abhorrent.

(Yes, there are a lot of commentaries and different ways of reading it...)

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  • I'm not sure how this answer the question of if Jewish people have a halachic imperative to treat non-Jewish corpses with kavod hamet Jul 26, 2023 at 1:19
  • If one non-Jewish nation is called out by G-d as an unbearable act for mutilating the corpse of another one, you don't think the same prohibition applies to Jews?
    – Shalom
    Jul 26, 2023 at 1:25
  • by that logic Yoshiahu should not have defiled the bones of the prophets of Baal but he is praised for having done so in 2 Melachim 23 Jul 26, 2023 at 2:14
  • Thats only a source you cant defile a corspe. But you dont see you need to give is special honor and respect.
    – Shlomy
    Dec 24, 2023 at 1:59
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A subsection of kavod would be getting benefit from a dead person's body.

In Shulchan Aruch Yoreah Deah Siman 349:1, the Ritav in Ketuvot 60a ד"ה יכול יהא- they all hold that one can not get benefit from a non-Jewish corpse mederabbanan.

Mishneh Lamelech Hilchot Avel 14:21, Shu"t Shevut Yaakov 1:89, Shu"t Radbaz Siman 741 and 979- they all hold one can get benefit from non-Jewish corpse.

I don't see a reason to differentiate between war vs no war (although I don't have a source for that), and therefore they would hold the same in war unless there are circumstances that come up.

For more sources look at:

Sefer Gesher Hachaim Volume 1 Chapter 8 Page 107 for the sugya Yabia Omer Yoreah Deah 1:25:11,14,15 for more sources on who holds its allowed or forbidden to get benefit from a non-Jewish corpse.

Hope this helps

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