Rabbis often need to attend funerals, give eulogies, arrange for the proper care of the deceased's body in the time between death and burial, and other related matters.

A kohen can't come into contact with, or even be in the same room as, a dead body.

That being the case, why are kohanim allowed to become congregational (synagogue) rabbis?

  • 1
    So he won't attend funerals. What's the big deal?
    – MTL
    Sep 2, 2014 at 12:53
  • 5
    "One common reason to forbid a woman from becoming a rabbi, is that she isn't obligated in Torah reading, public prayer, or Torah study (l'shma vs. to know how to keep halacha)." Source? I've never heard of that. I know many rabbis who never lein or lead davening.
    – Double AA
    Sep 2, 2014 at 15:35
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    @DoubleAA, that's a phenomenon limited to large Jewish population centers where they can foist those jobs off on congregants. :)
    – Yitzchak
    Sep 3, 2014 at 14:46
  • @Yitzchak I know. I don't know what you are smiley-ing it or why you are telling me this.
    – Double AA
    Sep 3, 2014 at 14:47
  • 1
    Because traditionally the ability to do things like these, including singing Kel Molei and officiating at funerals were requirements for getting hired as a pulpit rabbi. The question makes sense from a choshen mishpat perspective in light of a pulpit rabbi's duties if not from the standpoint of "ritual" halacha.
    – Yitzchak
    Sep 3, 2014 at 14:51

2 Answers 2


As Professor Joad would have said "It depends what you mean by Rabbi".

Wikipeida uses the traditional meaning of Rabbi as:

a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רַבִּי rabi, meaning "My Master", which is the way a student would address a master of Torah. The word "master" רב rav literally means "great one".

But the article goes on to say:

In more recent centuries, the duties of the rabbi became increasingly influenced by the duties of the Protestant Christian minister, hence the title "pulpit rabbis", and in 19th-century Germany and the United States rabbinic activities including sermons, pastoral counseling, and representing the community to the outside, all increased in importance.

and it is this “minister” that you are referring to when you say “congregational (synagogue) rabbis”.

The answer is, as hinted by Shokhet's comment, that a Rabbi is not needed for a funeral etc. A reasonably able layman can perform the job at least equally well.

{Pet peeve – think of the “Rabbi” who asks for notes on the life of the departed so he can make an eulogy when the one writing the notes could have spoken more personally.}


I'm sure there are many weak points in this comparison, but one I can point to is this: I have known a kohen rabbi who gave eulogies. One of the main funeral homes in his neighborhood had a special room for kohanim that was tum-a-isolated from the main funeral room, but visible in both directions via large windows and audible in both directions via microphones and speakers (similar to the small triangular building in this funeral home in Chicago).

Similarly, and with less requirement for accommodating infrastructure, user6591 reported in a comment knowing a kohen rabbi who would give eulogies from outside the cemetery gates.

  • 1
    The kohen rabbi I knew would give eulogies from outside the cemetery gates.
    – user6591
    Sep 2, 2014 at 14:25
  • @user6591 Thanks. I've incorporated your information into the answer.
    – Isaac Moses
    Sep 2, 2014 at 14:27

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