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Rambam - Sefer HaMitzvos
As Divided for The Daily Learning Schedule

Negative Mitzvah 166

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Negative Mitzvah 166: The Priests may not come into contact with a dead body except for his immediate family
Leviticus 21:1. "He shall not become impure for the dead among his people"

The priests must always be careful to try to remain in a state of purity - Tahara.

There are times when coming in contact with impurity - Tumah is almost impossible.

Since a dead body is considered Tamei - impure, any person coming in contact with it, even if not directly, (for example being under the same roof or in a cemetery), also becomes impure.

But what if a priest has to attend a funeral, G-d forbid? Can he avoid becoming impure?

The Torah allows the priest to become impure only if it involves one of his six closest relations.

These include: Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, Sister (who has not yet married), Brother.

The Rabbis also allow him to become impure for his wife.

He may attend their funerals (See Positive Mitzvah 37).

Additionally, he may bury a Jew if there is no one else to do so.

However, a priest is forbidden to become impure by contact with any other dead body.

When Abraham went down to Egypt, he asked of his wife, Sarah, "Please say you are my sister." The bond between a man and a woman in marriage is a powerful one, but still not as essential as that of brother and sister. A marriage is two parts that bond as one in a fire of passion -- but still two parts that may, therefore, be somehow torn apart. When the passion dies, the marriage is weakened. The passion is renewed, and the marriage is healed. But a brother and sister began as one, and remain one inseparably -- whether there is passion or not, or even the opposite.

Abraham, as he descended from the Holy Land into the darkness of Egypt, knew that his only hope of surviving immersion in such impurity would be to bond as intimately as possible with an enlightened, wholly transcendent soul that would remain beyond all this. And so, he asked Sarah to say she was his sister.


The previous rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, left behind a vast and invaluable library. Several of his inheritors claimed the books were private property of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchaak, and therefore belonged to them. The Rebbe claimed they were collected for the chassidim and therefore still belonged to the chassidim. After over 35 years of contention, the issue finally ended up in court.

When the lawyers put the question of ownership to the previous rebbe's daughter, the wife of the Rebbe, she replied, "My father and his library belong to the chassidim."

The Rebbe later repeated her words publicly and declared that these were the words that won the case.


On the awesome day of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, of the year 5507 (1746), the Baal Shem Tov lay in deep meditation and ascended to the holy chamber of the Moshiach.

"Master," he asked, "when shall you come?" The answer: "When your wellsprings shall spread to the outside."

The wellspring are the wellsprings of the deepest inner wisdom. Not only the water of the wellsprings, but the wellsprings themselves must spread forth. When the furthest, darkest reaches of the material world shall become wellsprings of the innermost wisdom, then the Moshiach shall come. This is our mandate now.

From: Bringing Heaven Down to Earth by Tzvi Freeman -

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