I would like to know if the idea of kavod ha'brios applies to non-Jews as well.

Related to this question.

  • 1
    Could you provide a scenario where it might? I'm having a hard time imagining. In other words, a non-Jew doesn't have rabbinic prohibitions to waive for the sake of kavord ha'brios.
    – Yishai
    Nov 18, 2013 at 23:22
  • 1
    @Yishai He does have a mitzvat aseh, and those can be nidche beshev veal taaseh sometimes according to some rishonim. also i think we had a discussion on mi yodeya somewhere about certain rabbinic restrictions which may apply.
    – Double AA
    Nov 19, 2013 at 4:03
  • @Yishai Aren't rabbinical laws waived also for another's dignity (not only one's own)? In that case, the question can be whether such a law is waived (for a Jew) for a non-Jew's dignity.
    – msh210
    Feb 23, 2014 at 15:44
  • @msh210, I'm still not seeing a practical case.
    – Yishai
    Feb 23, 2014 at 17:20
  • @Yishai, pick any practical case that a rule is waived for k'vod hab'riyos of another Jew. I don't know one, but perhaps (this is pure guesswork) you're allowed to carry a Jew out of a tree on Shabas if he can't extricate himself and needs a bathroom urgently. Would the same apply to a non-Jew (in the example, extricating a non-Jew)? Again, I can't supply you with an actual example, but I strongly suspect some exist.
    – msh210
    Feb 24, 2014 at 0:26

3 Answers 3


Per my comment, I'm having a hard time imagining a practical case where it would matter, but I found that Rav Aharon Lichtenstein in an article on the topic thinks that this statement in the Rambam (סנהדרין פרק כד הלכה יז) would indicate that it does apply to non-Jews:

ואל יהי כבוד הברייות קל בעיניו, שהרי הוא דוחה לא תעשה של דבריהם, וכל שכן כבוד בני אברהם יצחק ויעקוב המחזיקים בדת האמת

And [a judge] should not let kavod ha'brios be light in his eyes, since a negative Rabbinic commandment is pushed away for it, all the more so the honor of the children of Avraham, Itzchok and Yaakov who hold on to the true religion.

I guess it depends on where you put the emphasis, on the "children of" or on the "hold on to." In context, where it is talking about decrees made to prevent the breach of Judaism, the former seems the more reasonable one.


It would seem not to apply to dead non-Jews as the gemarah Yerushalmi Shabbos 10:5 indicates you can feed the corpse of a non-Jew to a dog.

תיפתר במת עכו"ם ושאין בו ריח רע והוציאו לכלבו

  • What does this have to do with Kavod Habriyot?
    – Double AA
    Feb 21, 2014 at 18:38
  • 1
    This answer would be much improved if you could show that Meis Mitzvah = Kavod HaBrios and that this Yerushalmi is LeHalacha (and not just a theoretical case of how someone would be taking out a dead body and be potur according to R. Shimon, but doing a different, non-Shabbos issur).
    – Yishai
    Feb 21, 2014 at 18:49
  • a meis is treated with kavod because of kavod habrios, which is why, for example the genitals of meis are covered during the teharah process. the fact that a non-jew can be fed to dogs and thereby be patur for hotzah clearly indicates the lack of the concept of kavod habrios for a non-Jew according to the Yerushalmi Feb 24, 2014 at 17:00

If you at the places in ש"ס where the term כבוד הבריות is used, you'll notice that it refers to cases where a Rabbinic prohibition is temporarily abrogated in deference to human dignity. See the top of Shabbat 81b (and pay attention to Rashi) for an example.

See also the Rambam in כלאים י:כט here :

For [the obligation to] honor people at large does not supercede a negative prohibition in the Torah...If, however, a prohibition is Rabbinic in origin, it is superceded by the consideration of a person's honor in all situations. Although the Torah states [Deuteronomy 17:11]: "Do not deviate from any of the statements they relate to you," this prohibition is superceded by considerations of a person's honor. (Translation from chabad.org)

However, there are authorities who also allow the abrogation of a Biblical law by passively not acting to fulfill a Biblical command- שב ואל תעשה. See the Ran and the Nemukei Yosef on Megilah 3b here. However, even these authorities do not allow the active violation of a Biblical command in cases where human dignity is at stake.

Now, as far as I recall, there are no Rabbinic laws applicable to non-Jews. The only positive command applicable to non-Jews is that of setting up a justice system- a command which is unlikely to conflict with human dignity. Thus, there would never be a situation in which the dignity of a non-Jew would come into conflict with either a Rabbinic prohibition or a Biblical law applicable to them.

It seems to me that כבוד הבריות does not refer to human dignity per se, but human dignity when in conflict with halacha.

  • By Shas do you mean Bavli? Because your statement isn't true about Shas Yerushalmi. Note also many Ashkenazi Rishonim who allowed Kavod Habriyot to be Doche an Asei beShev veAl Taaseh.
    – Double AA
    Feb 22, 2014 at 23:57
  • Aren't rabbinical laws abrogated also for another's dignity (not only one's own)? In that case, the original question stands: Is such a law abrogated (for a Jew) for a non-Jew's dignity?
    – msh210
    Feb 23, 2014 at 15:43
  • Plus, just telling me the case is unlikely is not really an answer.
    – Double AA
    Feb 23, 2014 at 17:24

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