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Is a Kohen allowed to attend the funeral of a loved one?

Is a Kohen allowed to attend the funeral of a loved one?

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Question:

I heard that Kohanim (priests) are not permitted to attend the internment of a loved one. Is this true and why?

Answer:

I hope your question is only an academic exercise. If not, please accept my condolences on your loss. May G‑d comfort you amongst all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Regarding your question: The underlying concept of Kohanim refraining from contact with the dead is because such contact would render them ritually impure, something that is forbidden for Kohanim because of their elevated spiritual level. The Priestly family was designated by G‑d to be the spiritual leaders of Israel, those who serve in the Temple and who are endowed with the power to bless the nation in G‑d's name.

As for relatives, the law is different. For next of kin -- parents, siblings (with the exception of a married sister), spouse and children -- not only is it permitted to attend their funerals and burial, but it is a mandatory mitzvah for a Kohen to attend and pay his final respects.

I hope this answers your question satisfactorily. Again, I'm not sure if a loved one has recently passed on or not. If there is a need for any kind of support or guidance, spiritual or emotional, I would advise you to contact your local Chabad rabbi.

You may also be interested in our comprehensive Death and Mourning section.

May we be blessed to only share good news with each other,

Rabbi Moshe Goldman for Chabad.org

Rabbi Moshe Goldman is the Director of Chabad of the Waterloo Region in Waterloo, Ontario. He is also a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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Simcha Bart for Chabad.org Los Angeles July 18, 2016

A Kohen may attend the body of his brother from the moment of passing until after the burial, including at the funeral parlor. This holds true for all the relatives mentioned in the article above.
Reply

shayna July 17, 2016

Is a cohen allowed to be at a funeral for his brother? In the parlor and at the graveside? Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org October 5, 2010

Re: Attending a funreal or interment While a Kohen may not enter a funeral chapel or approach within four cubits (approximately seven feet) of a dead person, many Jewish funeral homes have either a loudspeaker or a specially built room in order to accommodate Kohanim.

These rooms are specially constructed in a way that would not render a Kohen impure (as technically he does not share the same roof as the corpse).

Burials are a bit more tricky. Sometimes, when the immediate relatives are Kohanim they bury the person at the edge of the cemetery or in an area of the cemetery where there would be a way for a Kohen to get there and stand there without coming within four cubits of a grave.

One should consult with the officiating rabbi BEFORE the funeral in order to ascertain whether there are any accommodations for Kohanim to attend. Reply

Anonymous Miami, FL October 3, 2010

Twins Is a Kohen allowed to attend the interment of the twin brother of his father? Father died when I was 14 and my uncle has been like my father for over 30 years. He is healthy but 80 years old. I would like to honor him when his time comes. Reply

Anonymous Chicago , Illinois April 22, 2010

funeral What about attending the funeral of a friend - can a kohen attend? Reply

Rabbi Moishe Goldman (Author) August 1, 2007

Response to Anon The rules for a "Bat Kohen," daughter of a Kohen are different. The verse which instructs the Kohanim to maintain their elevated spiritual state uses the term "Bnai Aharon," the SONS of Aharon. From here we deduce that the laws of purity apply to the sons of Aharon and not the daughters. Reply

Anonymous West Palm Beach, Fl./USA July 30, 2007

Kohan's daughter Are there any rules for a Kohans daughter? Reply