Kohen and Death in Shul


When I was in shul this past Shabbat, an elderly gentleman collapsed and was not breathing and his heart stopped beating. Some members of Hatzalah were there and took immediate action. After Shabbat, I learned that the gentleman, whom I did not know personally, was officially pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. I am a kohein. This congregation has lots of Kohanim. Does that mean the Kohanim were improperly exposed to a corpse?



  1. What a terrible thing to happen. My heart goes out to the family of the deceased. As far as all the Kohanim are concerned they should really have left the building immediately after it was clear how serious the situation was. I sincerely hope that such a thing will never happen again, but for future reference, that is what Kohanim should do – leave the building and wait outside.

    If the person only passed away Halachically after he was taken out of the Shul, there is no issue of spiritual impurity. If the person was Halachically considered dead in the Shul, the Kohanim were all exposed to Tuma’at Met. If that is the case, there is very little that can be done to rectify the situation. The only form of purification for Tuma’at Met is to be sprinkled with the waters of the Parah Adumah, which will only happen when the Mashiach reveals his identity – may it happen very, very soon.

    Personally, I think that it would be a good idea for you to speak with one of the members of Hatzalah who came to attend to the person and to ascertain when, exactly, he Halachically passed away.

    Perhaps the only “silver lining” in the whole distressing story is that, despite your having been possibly exposed to Tuma’at Met, it does not have any practical ramifications.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team