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Jul 16, 2008

Poor Kohanim

Have you ever noticed that sign near the front door of many hospitals in Israel, and especially in Jerusalem? The sign that says whether a kohein can or cannot enter the hospital? Unless you are a kohein, you likely did not even notice it.

So for the kohanim among you, that sign that has been a disturbance on your life might soon become obsolete.

Obviously if a kohein needs treatment, he can enter the hospital. The problem is when his wife gives birth, he might not be able to be present, or might have to leave ion the middle. A kohein might not be able to visit sick relatives and friends, or take his own relatives for treatment.

The newly reinstated Minister of Religious Affairs has been working with the hospitals and with Rabbonim to come up with a solution for kohanim. They are working on designing partitions that can be set up in time of need - if someone dies, or if a limb is amputated for example - that will , halachically,, not allow the tum'ah to pass to the rest of the hospital. So if someone dies, they will no longer need to put up the sign telling kohanim not to enter.

Actually, until now the kohanim have had a good excuse to not have to go visit people (or attend births :-) ). Now, if this solution actually gets implemented, they will have the same obligations as the rest of us...


  1. Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein brings down in Toras hayoledes that a Cohen can accompany his wife to give birth even if there is a mes, just as he can accompany her to the hospital on Shabbos, and just like you can light a candle for a blind woman giving birth. This is called Yisuvei Daisa - which is basically Rabbinical acknowledgment that psychology plays an important part in the healing.
    I (being a Cohen) actually had to use that Heter once...

  2. in any case, because of the issue of tumah for cohanim, most hospitals in Israel (i know it for a fact at shaarei zedek, and also hadasa ein karem) have the morgue located in a separate building. the only problem is until they can remove the body to the morgue.

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  4. B"H

    When our neighbor Nachshon Walls z"l was spending his last days in a hospice, I came to visit, a path going around the entire building close, but not obnoxiously next to the windows was pointed out to me.

    Two of his friends are Cohanim who were able to visit comfortably just outside the low window.

    The building was small enough so that it was doable to my such a path and low windows for every room.

  5. that is generally not possible in a regular hospital. the lower floors are generally not rooms for patients, and even if there are some, most rooms will be too high up

  6. Yes, I know. That's why I said that the building was small enough so that it was doable.

  7. A neighbor of mine, a Kohen, accompanied Rav Avrum Shapira (zt"l), also a Kohen, to be mevaker cholim.

  8. yishai - it is possible, even common, for kohanim to visit in the hospital. the sign telling kohanim not to come in is only placed there when there is a problem. That means at all other times it is ok. Then they only have to worry about something happening while they are inside...


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