With the exception of the six relatives mentioned in the Torah and his wife, whenever a priest becomes impure because of contact with a corpse, if there are witnesses and a warning is administered, he is punished by lashes, as Leviticus 21:1 states: "No one shall contract ritual impurity for the sake of a deceased person among his people."

This applies whether one touches the corpse, stands over it, or carries it. And it applies to a corpse and to all other forms of ritual impurity stemming from a corpse, as implied by "No one shall contract ritual impurity for the sake of a deceased person among his people." In Hilchot Tumat Meit, we already described all the factors associated with a corpse that convey ritual impurity according to Scriptural Law and according to Rabbinic Law.


כָּל כֹּהֵן שֶׁנִּטְמָא לְמֵת חוּץ מִשִּׁשָּׁה מֵתִים הַמְפֹרָשִׁים בַּתּוֹרָה אוֹ אִשְׁתּוֹ. בְּעֵדִים וְהַתְרָאָה. הֲרֵי זֶה לוֹקֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא כא א) "לְנֶפֶשׁ לֹא יִטַּמָּא בְּעַמָּיו". וְאֶחָד הַנּוֹגֵעַ בְּמֵת אוֹ הַמַּאֲהִיל אוֹ הַנּוֹשֵׂא. וְאֶחָד הַמֵּת וְאֶחָד שְׁאָר הַטֻּמְאוֹת הַפּוֹרְשׁוֹת מִן הַמֵּת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר לְנֶפֶשׁ לֹא יִטַּמָּא בְּעַמָּיו. וּכְבָר פֵּרַשְׁנוּ בְּהִלְכוֹת טֻמְאַת מֵת כָּל דְּבָרִים הַמְטַמְּאִין מִן הַמֵּת מִן הַתּוֹרָה אוֹ מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם:


Similarly, a priest receives lashes if he touches a grave. He may, however, touch clothes that touched a corpse, even though by doing so, he contracts ritual impurity that continues for seven days.


וְכֵן אִם נָגַע הַכֹּהֵן בְּקֶבֶר לוֹקֶה. אֲבָל נוֹגֵעַ הוּא בִּבְגָדִים שֶׁנָּגְעוּ בְּמֵת אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁמִּטַּמֵּא בָּהֶן טֻמְאַת שִׁבְעָה:


Similarly, if a priest enters a covered structure into which ritual impurity enters, he is lashed. This applies even though the source of impurity itself is in another building. We have already explained all the types of "tents" into which ritual impurity can enter and depart, the laws involving foliage and projections, the entities which bring ritual impurity and those which interpose between ritual impurity, which involve Scriptural Law and which involve Rabbinic Law. All of this is discussed in Hilchot Tumat Meit.

There we explained that non-Jews do not convey ritual impurity through overhangs. Therefore their graves are pure and a priest may enter their cemetery and walk on their graves. He is forbidden only to touch impurity or carry it, as we explained there.


וְכֵן אִם נִכְנַס לְאֹהֶל טָמֵא שֶׁנִּכְנְסָה לוֹ הַטֻּמְאָה לוֹקֶה. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁעַצְמָהּ שֶׁל טֻמְאָה בְּבַיִת אַחֵר. וּכְבָר בֵּאַרְנוּ כָּל הָאֹהָלִים שֶׁתִּכָּנֵס לָהֶן הַטֻּמְאָה אוֹ שֶׁתֵּצֵא מֵהֶן וְדִין הַסְּכָכוֹת וְהַפְּרָעוֹת. וְכָל הַדְּבָרִים הַמְּבִיאִין אֶת הַטֻּמְאָה וְהַחוֹצְצִין בִּפְנֵי הַטֻּמְאָה. וְאֵי זֶה מֵהֶן דִּין תּוֹרָה וְאֵי זֶה מֵהֶן מִדִּבְרֵיהֶן. הַכּל בְּהִלְכוֹת טֻמְאַת מֵת. וְשָׁם בֵּאַרְנוּ שֶׁאֵין עַכּוּ''ם מְטַמְּאִין בְּאֹהֶל וּלְפִיכָךְ קִבְרוֹתֵיהֶם טְהוֹרִים וּמֻתָּר לְכֹהֵן לִכָּנֵס לְשָׁם וְלִדְרֹךְ עַל קִבְרוֹתֵיהֶם. וְאֵינוֹ אָסוּר אֶלָּא שֶׁיִּגַּע בַּטֻּמְאָה אוֹ שֶׁיִּשָּׂאֶנָּה כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ שָׁם:


The following laws apply when a priest enters a building where a corpse is located or a cemetery inadvertently and he is given a warning after he discovers the fact. If he jumps and leaves, he is not liable. If, however, he remains there for the time it takes to prostrate oneself which we explained with regard to impurity in the Temple, he is lashed.

If he entered and departed, entered and departed, if he was given a warning for each time, he is given lashes for every entrance. Similarly, if he touches a corpse, is giving a warning, and then disengages himself, and afterwards, touches it and is given a warning - even if this sequence is repeated one hundred times, he is given lashes for each touch.

If he was touching a corpse and did not disengage himself or was standing in the cemetery and touched other corpses, although he is given a warning several times, he receives lashes only once. For as long as he does not cease, he is continuing to desecrate his priestly state.


כֹּהֵן שֶׁנִּכְנַס לְאֹהֶל הַמֵּת אוֹ לְבֵית הַקְּבָרוֹת בִּשְׁגָגָה וְאַחַר שֶׁיָּדַע הִתְרוּ בּוֹ אִם קָפַץ וְיָצָא פָּטוּר. וְאִם יָשַׁב שָׁם כְּדֵי הִשְׁתַּחֲוָיָה כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ בְּעִנְיַן טֻמְאַת מִקְדָּשׁ הֲרֵי זֶה לוֹקֶה. נִכְנַס וְיָצָא וְחָזַר וְנִכְנַס וְיָצָא אִם הִתְרוּ בּוֹ עַל כָּל פַּעַם וּפַעַם לוֹקֶה עַל כָּל כְּנִיסָה וּכְנִיסָה. וְכֵן אִם נָגַע בְּמֵת וְהִתְרוּ בּוֹ וּפֵרַשׁ וְחָזַר וְנָגַע וְהִתְרוּ בּוֹ אֲפִלּוּ מֵאָה פְּעָמִים לוֹקֶה עַל כָּל אַחַת וְאַחַת. הָיָה נוֹגֵעַ וְלֹא פֵּרַשׁ אוֹ שֶׁהָיָה עוֹמֵד בְּבֵית הַקְּבָרוֹת וְנָגַע בְּמֵתִים אֲחֵרִים. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהִתְרוּ בּוֹ כַּמָּה פְּעָמִים אֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה אֶלָּא אַחַת שֶׁהֲרֵי מְחֻלָּל וְעוֹמֵד כָּל זְמַן שֶׁלֹּא פֵּרַשׁ:


The following rules apply when one causes a priest to contract ritual impurity. If they both acted intentionally, the priest receives lashes and the person who caused him to contract impurity violates the prohibition against placing a stumbling block in front of the blind. If the priest was not aware of the transgression and the person who caused him to contract impurity acted intentionally, that person receives lashes.


הַמְטַמֵּא אֶת הַכֹּהֵן. אִם הָיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם מְזִידִין הֲרֵי הַכֹּהֵן לוֹקֶה וְזֶה שֶׁטִּמְּאוֹ עוֹבֵר עַל וְלִפְנֵי עִוֵּר לֹא תִתֵּן מִכְשׁל. הָיָה הַכֹּהֵן שׁוֹגֵג וְזֶה שֶׁטִּמְּאוֹ מֵזִיד הֲרֵי זֶה שֶׁטִּמְּאוֹ לוֹקֶה:

Mishneh Torah (Moznaim)

Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.


A High Priest may not become impure for the sake of his relatives, as Leviticus 21:11 states: "He shall not become impure for his father's or mother's sake." Similarly, he does not enter a shelter where there is a corpse, even the corpse of one of his relatives, as ibid.:30 states: "He shall not enter a place where there is any corpse." Thus we learn that he is liable both for not entering and for not becoming impure.

What is implied? If the High Priest touches or carries a corpse, he receives lashes for one transgression. If he enters a shelter and remains there until a person dies or he enters a chest, bureau, or drawer, and a colleague comes and opens the top of this container and thus his contact with impurity and his entrance into the shelter come at the same time, he receives two sets of lashes, for the prohibition against entering and for the prohibition against becoming impure.


כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל אֵינוֹ מִטַּמֵּא לִקְרוֹבִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא כא יא) "לְאָבִיו וּלְאִמּוֹ לֹא יִטַּמָּא". וְכֵן אֵינוֹ נִכְנָס עִם הַמֵּת בְּאֹהֶל אֲפִלּוּ קְרוֹבָיו. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא כא יא) "וְעַל כָּל נַפְשֹׁת מֵת לֹא יָבֹא". הָא לָמַדְתָּ שֶׁהוּא חַיָּב בְּלֹא יָבֹא וְחַיָּב בְּלֹא יִטַּמָּא. כֵּיצַד. נָגַע אוֹ נָשָׂא לוֹקֶה אַחַת. נִכְנַס לְאֹהֶל וְיָשַׁב שָׁם עַד שֶׁמֵּת עָלָיו הַמֵּת. אוֹ שֶׁנִּכְנַס לְשִׁדָּה תֵּבָה וּמִגְדָּל וּבָא חֲבֵרוֹ וּפָרַע עָלָיו גַּג הַשִּׁדָּה שֶׁהֲרֵי טֻמְאָה וּבִיאָה בָּאִין כְּאֶחָד. הֲרֵי זֶה לוֹקֶה שְׁתַּיִם מִשּׁוּם לֹא יָבֹא וּמִשּׁוּם לֹא יִטַּמָּא:


If the High Priest became impure beforehand, and then entered a shelter where a corpse was located, if he is warned, he should receive lashes even for this entry.


נִטְמָא מִקֹּדֶם וְאַחַר כָּךְ נִכְנַס לְאֹהֶל אִם הִתְרוּ בּוֹ לוֹקֶה אַף עַל הַבִּיאָה:


When a priest - even a High Priest - encounters an unattended corpse on the road, he is obligated to become impure for its sake and bury it. What is meant by an unattended corpse? A Jewish corpse cast away on the road without anyone to bury it. This is a halachah conveyed by the received tradition.

When does the above apply? When the priest is alone and there is no one else with him; even when he calls out on the road, no one answers him. If, however, when he calls others answer, this is not considered an unattended corpse. Instead, he should call to the others and they should come and tend to the corpse.


כֹּהֵן שֶׁפָּגַע בְּמֵת מִצְוָה בַּדֶּרֶךְ הֲרֵי זֶה מִטַּמֵּא לוֹ. אֲפִלּוּ כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל חַיָּב לְהִטַּמֵּא לוֹ וּלְקָבְרוֹ. וְאֵיזֶהוּ מֵת מִצְוָה. אֶחָד מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁהָיָה מֻשְׁלָךְ בַּדֶּרֶךְ וְאֵין לוֹ קוֹבְרִין. דָּבָר זֶה הֲלָכָה מִפִּי הַקַּבָּלָה. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים כְּשֶׁהָיָה הַכֹּהֵן לְבַדּוֹ וְאֵין עִמּוֹ אַחֵר וַאֲפִלּוּ קָרָא שֵׁם בַּדֶּרֶךְ וְאֵין לוֹ עוֹנֶה. אֲבָל אִם כְּשֶׁיִּקְרָא אֲחֵרִים עוֹנִים אוֹתוֹ אֵין זֶה מֵת מִצְוָה אֶלָּא יִקְרָא לַאֲחֵרִים וְיָבוֹאוּ וְיַעַסְקוּ בּוֹ:


If a priest and a nazirite are proceeding on a road and they encounter an unattended corpse, the nazirite should tend to it. The rationale is that his holiness is not of an eternal nature. The priest - even an ordinary priest - should not become impure.

If a High Priest was going together with an ordinary priest, the ordinary priest should become impure. The general principle is: Whoever is on a higher level of holiness should become impure last. When a s'gan and the priest anointed to lead the army at war encounter an unattended corpse, the priest anointed to lead the army at war should become impure, not the s'gan.


הָיוּ כֹּהֵן וְנָזִיר מְהַלְּכִין בְּדֶרֶךְ וּפָגְעוּ בְּמֵת מִצְוָה. יִתְעַסֵּק בּוֹ הַנָּזִיר לְפִי שֶׁאֵין קְדֻשָּׁתוֹ קְדֻשַּׁת עוֹלָם וְאַל יִטָּמֵא בּוֹ הַכֹּהֵן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא כֹּהֵן הֶדְיוֹט. הָיָה כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל וְכֹהֵן הֶדְיוֹט יִטָּמֵא הַהֶדְיוֹט. וְכָל הַקּוֹדֵם אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ בְּמַעֲלָה מִתְאַחֵר בְּטֻמְאָה. וּסְגָן עִם מְשׁוּחַ מִלְחָמָה שֶׁפָּגְעוּ בְּמֵת מִצְוָה יִטָּמֵא מְשׁוּחַ מִלְחָמָה וְאַל יִטָּמֵא הַסְּגָן:


When a nasi dies, everyone - even priests - should become impure for his sake. Our Sages had him considered as an unattended corpse, because everyone is obligated in his honor. Similarly, all must observe the rites of aninut for his sake.


נָשִׂיא שֶׁמֵּת הַכּל מִטַּמְּאִין לוֹ אֲפִלּוּ כֹּהֲנִים. עֲשָׂאוּהוּ כְּמֵת מִצְוָה לַכּל מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהַכּל חַיָּבִין בִּכְבוֹדוֹ. וְכֵן הַכּל אוֹנְנִין עָלָיו:


The daughters of Aaron were not warned to avoid the ritual impurity imparted by a corpse. This derived from Leviticus 21:1: "Say to the priests, the sons of Aaron...." Implied is "the sons of Aaron," and not "the daughters of Aaron."

Similarly, challalim are permitted to become impure. This is also derived from the words, "the priests, the sons of Aaron," i.e., to be included in the prohibition, their priesthood must be intact.


בְּנוֹת אַהֲרֹן לֹא הֻזְהֲרוּ עַל טֻמְאַת מֵת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא כא א) "אֱמֹר אֶל הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן" וְלֹא בְּנוֹת אַהֲרֹן. וְכֵן הַחֲלָלִים מֻתָּרִין לְהִטַּמֵּא שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן עַד שֶׁיִּהְיוּ בְּכִהוּנָם:


When a priest is a minor, the adults are warned that they should not have him contact ritual impurity. If he comes to contract impurity on his own initiative, the court is not obligated to separate him from the source of impurity. His father, however, must educate him in the holiness of the priesthood.


כֹּהֵן קָטָן הֲרֵי הַגְּדוֹלִים מֻזְהָרִים שֶׁלֹּא יְטַמְּאוּהוּ. וְאִם בָּא לְהִטַּמֵּא מֵעַצְמוֹ אֵין בֵּית דִּין מְצֻוִּין עָלָיו לְהַפְרִישׁוֹ. אֲבָל אָבִיו צָרִיךְ לְחַנְּכוֹ בִּקְדֻשָּׁה:


The four cubits circumscribed around a corpse are deemed impure. Any priest that enters into these four cubits is given stripes for rebellious conduct.

Similarly, if priests enter a beit hapras, go to the diaspora, become impure through contact with a mixture of blood, a gravestone, or the stones which support the gravestone, and the like, they are given stripes for rebellious conduct, because these entities are sources for ritual impurity by Rabbinic decree, as we explained in Hilchot Tumat Meit. If, however, a priest enters a cemetery, he receives lashes according to Scriptural Law.


מֵת תּוֹפֵשׂ אַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת שֶׁלּוֹ לְטֻמְאָה. וְכָל כֹּהֵן שֶׁנִּכְנַס לְתוֹךְ אַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת מַכִּין אוֹתוֹ מַכַּת מַרְדּוּת. וְכֵן אִם נִכְנַס לְבֵית הַפְּרָס אוֹ יָצָא חוּצָה לָאָרֶץ. אוֹ שֶׁנִּטְמָא בְּדַם תְּבוּסָה. אוֹ בְּגוֹלֵל וּבְדוֹפֵק וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן. מַכִּין אוֹתוֹ מַכַּת מַרְדּוּת. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֵן אָבוֹת שֶׁל דִּבְרֵיהֶם כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ בְּהִלְכוֹת טֻמְאַת מֵת. אֲבָל אִם נִכְנַס לְבֵית הַקְּבָרוֹת לוֹקֶה מִן הַתּוֹרָה:


It is permissible for a priest to become impure through walking through a beit hapras or the diaspora for the sake of a mitzvah, when there is no way other than that, e.g., he went to marry or to study Torah. Even though there is someone who could teach him in Eretz Yisrael, he is permitted to leave, because a person does not merit to learn from every colleague.

Similarly, a person may incur ritual impurity that is Rabbinic in origin to show respect to other people. What is implied? If a mourner walked through a beit hapras, everyone follows after him to comfort him. Similarly, we may walk over the coffins of the dead to greet Jewish kings. This is allowed even to greet gentile kings, so that a distinction will be able to be made between them and Jewish kings when their glory will return to its place. Similarly, leniency is granted in all analogous situations. Also, a priest may incur ritual impurity of Rabbinic origin to enter in judgment and disputation with gentiles concerning property, for he is saving it from their hands. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.


מֻתָּר לְכֹהֵן לְהִטַּמֵּא בְּבֵית הַפְּרָס אוֹ בְּחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ לִדְבַר מִצְוָה בִּזְמַן שֶׁאֵין שָׁם דֶּרֶךְ אֶלָּא הִיא. כְּגוֹן שֶׁהָלַךְ לִשָּׂא אִשָּׁה אוֹ לִלְמֹד תּוֹרָה. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיֵּשׁ שָׁם מִי שֶׁיְּלַמְּדֶנּוּ בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא מִן הַכּל אָדָם זוֹכֶה לִלְמֹד. וְכֵן מִטַּמֵּא בְּטֻמְאָה מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם לִכְבוֹד הַבְּרִיּוֹת. כֵּיצַד. אָבֵל שֶׁהָלַךְ בְּבֵית הַפְּרָס הַכּל הוֹלְכִין אַחֲרָיו שָׁם לְנַחֲמוֹ. וְכֵן מְדַלְּגִין עַל גַּבֵּי אֲרוֹנוֹת שֶׁל מֵתִים לִקְרַאת מַלְכֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַאֲפִלּוּ מַלְכֵי עַכּוּ''ם כְּדֵי לְהַבְחִין בֵּינָם לְבֵין מַלְכֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּשֶׁיַּחְזֹר כְּבוֹדָן לִמְקוֹמָן. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה. וְכֵן מִטַּמֵּא בְּטֻמְאָה שֶׁל דִּבְרֵיהֶם לָדוּן עִם הָעַכּוּ''ם וּלְעַרְעֵר עִמָּהֶן. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא מַצִּיל מִיָּדָם. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה: