When I was younger I was told that in extenuating circumstances one can rip toilet paper on shabbos (preferably not on the perforations) due to kavod ha'brios. This concept is applied in other places such as the way we hang a corpse who has been killed by beis din. What are the halachik parameters for this concept and how far does it extend? For instance if the bathroom were dark could one turn on a light or light a candle (malacha m'deoraisa) because of kavod ha'brios? Can a person be m'vater on their kavod ha'brios (some extreme practices such as rolling in the snow naked come to mind)?

If you have the sources for the above cited halachos please post

1 Answer 1


The most significant restriction on K'vod HaBrios is that it only applies to rabbinical enactments. I have never seen anyone permit tearing toilet paper directly, but I have seen it permitted to do so in a "backhanded" manner because of k'vod habrios. This is an more contemporary example of a classic example of the leniency of k'vod habrios found in O.C.312:1. There we find permission to handle stones, which are otherwise muktzeh (a rabbinic prohibition) to clean oneself in the lavatory. The Gemara in Shabbos 81b says "גדול כבוד הבריות שדוחה את לו תאשה שבתורה. Great is the honor of a person, which pushes aside a "Torah" prohibition. While superficially it would appear from this that k'vod habrios would permit the transgression of a Torah commandment, the "Torah prohibition" the maxim refers to is the prohibition against deviating from the words of the Sages (though I do not have an explicit reference at the moment, but according to here we may expect to find it in Menachos 38)).

  • See Chelkas Yaakov OH 164 for the heter to tear toilet paper directly, not necessarily in a "backhanded manner"
    – Curiouser
    Feb 20, 2012 at 17:02
  • For kavod habriot one need not rip shatnez clothing off a person in public. That is a Torah prohibition.
    – Ze'ev
    Feb 29, 2012 at 17:09
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    @Ze'evFelsen You're thinking of rabbinicly prohibited shaatnez (eg. goat wool) when indeed you do not rip is off a person in public. But Torah level Shaatnez you would rip off even leaving the person naked in the market. See Brachot 19b and Shulchan Aruch YD 303
    – Double AA
    Oct 30, 2012 at 18:40
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    B'rachos (19b) is the source that this statement is referring only to rabbinic prohibitions: גדול כבוד הבריות שדוחה [את] לא תעשה שבתורה ואמאי לימא אין חכמה ואין תבונה ואין עצה לנגד ה' תרגמה רב בר שבא קמיה דרב כהנא בלאו דלא תסור אחיכו עליה לאו דלא תסור דאורייתא היא אמר רב כהנא גברא רבה אמר מילתא לא תחיכו עליה כל מילי דרבנן אסמכינהו על לאו דלא תסור ומשום כבודו שרו רבנן.
    – Fred
    Nov 20, 2013 at 4:06
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    But see Yerushalmi Nazir 7:1 and perhaps also Yerushalmi Kilayim 9:1 @ Yirmeyahu (ping @Fred who is pingable and might find this interesting)
    – Double AA
    Jan 16, 2014 at 2:40

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