A Cohen finds a dead body in India

Should he bury it himself and become taamei OR Should he inform the nearby village who will then dispose of the body with idolatrous rituals.

The roots of the matter: Does the idolatrous nature of the village render it an invalid option? Does the answer change if the body is that of a Jew?

  • Why are those the only two options?
    – Double AA
    Dec 25, 2013 at 17:41
  • Because those are the only ones I thought of. What other options should be considered? Dec 25, 2013 at 17:42
  • 1
    Running away. Paying someone to do it without idolatry. Burning it without touching it.
    – Double AA
    Dec 25, 2013 at 17:44
  • Burning it is certainly a bad answer. That is actively dishonoring the body. Running away is not a good answer because there is a mitzva to ensure that the body is buried. Paying someone else to do it is the best of your answers but when I placed the scenario in India I meant it as an example of a place where the population was idolatrous. I would consider an idolater who violates his people's "mitzvas" for money to be unscrupulous. Also, this answer does not address the root of the question as to whether the dispensation to become taamei for a mes mitzva still applies. Dec 25, 2013 at 18:01
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    How is burning dishonoring the body? And even if it is, whence that you can't/shouldn't do that? Whence the alleged "mitzva to ensure that the body is buried"? Whence that paying someone to not violate a prohibition is unscrupulous? Moreover, whence that such unscrupulousness is forbidden? Finally, whence that any of the above problems (if shown to exist) are worse than the problems of becoming impure or allowing the idolatry to happen??
    – Double AA
    Dec 25, 2013 at 18:02

2 Answers 2


The answer is already answered in the first Mishna of the 7th Perek of Nazir - also located on Daf 47a of Nazir:

כהן גדול ונזיר אין מיטמאין לקרוביהן אבל מיטמאין למת מצוה

A Cohen Gadol and a Nazir must not get Tamei for relatives, but must get Tamei for a Meis Mitzva.

A Meis Mitzva gets buried immediately - no reason to go to a nearby village. Proof: How far could a Cohen Gadol be at any given time from a village? He was not allowed to sleep outside Jerusalem. (Why? Because he brought a daily Korban - חביטי כהן גדול - and thus had to overnight in Jerusalem, like anybody who brought a Korban.)

However, I have never heard of a non-Jew being referred to as a Meis Mitzva. So the above applies to Jewish abandoned corpses unless we can prove otherwise.

  • That is not a good proof. The question was about a regular cohen. In the 40~s of tractate Nazir there is mention of going to a nearby village but the villagers want payment and the cohen is allowed to bury the body. Going to a nearby village is thus still an option. Dec 29, 2013 at 0:50

If the body is a Jew, the situation is regular mes mitzva. If the body is a non-Jew, the situation is a lower grade obligation due to Darchei Noam (ways of peace).

If the body is a Jew, the Kohen should bury the body and not involve non Jews, unless an additional prohibition is involved, such as Shabbos. Shulchan Aruch Yore Deah ~374.

If the body is of a non Jew, the obligation of the Kohen is lesser and does not override his need to stay tahor and he should go to the village, even if they will do idolatry with the body.

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