Question:

Positive Mitzvah 107 states: Impurity of coming in contact with a dead body — Numbers 19:11: "He that touches the dead body of any man shall be unclean."

How do the people who handle the bodies of the dead and see to it that they are buried properly keep from transgressing this mitzvah?

Are there special rules that they fall under or are they somehow blessed by the higher-ups in some way?

However they have to operate, it doesn't sound like one of the world's better professions as far as their mental happiness is concerned.

G‑d must surely look upon them with a glowing love, knowing they are trying to follow His guidance and rules as best they know how.

Thanks,

Answer:

You are correct! Caring for the dead is a very special mitzvah and is referred to as Chesed Shel Emet (true kindness) because the recipients cannot reciprocate the kindness. It is considered a special privilege to be a member of a chevra kadisha, the "holy society" who take care of the dead.

Indeed caring for the dead causes those who are involved in this mitzvah to become ritually impure, however, for an ordinary Israelite this is not a prohibition. Only a Kohen (priest) is prohibited to come in contact with the dead.

In the olden days, anyone who contracted ritual impurity would have to purify themselves before entering the Temple or partaking of "holy" foods, such as sacrifices or certain tithes.

Today, we do not have a temple or the necessary tools to purify ourselves. Therefore all Jews (except for Kohanim) may and should care for the dead and do not need any purification ritual afterward other than ritually washing their hands.

I hope that I've been helpful today.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner