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  • Halacha
  • Cohen and Tum'a

Cohen Working on a Cadaver


Rabbi Jonathan Blass

20 Adar 5766
My 30 year old son is a Cohen. He has a degree in microbiology and would like to go back to school to get a masters degree that would enable him to make artificial limbs (orthopedic prosthetics). One of the pre-requisites of the masters program is that he completes a class in anatomy and physiology that includes dissection of a cadaver. My son believes that he is prohibited from this. What are his options? How do Cohens become doctors with this restriction? (My son is left-handed if this has any impact on your answer.) Thank you for your time and attention.
Almost all rabbinic authorities prohibit Cohanim from studying medicine because contact with a cadaver, Jewish or gentile, is forbidden to them (Nishmat Avrahm II 370 quoting R. Moshe Feinstein and others). Your son would have to find a course that would not require him to come into contact with a cadaver or even to be in the same building with a Jewish cadaver.
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