Kenneth Cohen

Lost Article in Cemetery

Parshat Ki Teitze has more laws than any Parsha in the Torah. Seventy-four of the 613 Mitzvot are contained in this week’s Torah reading.

The commentators on the Torah looked carefully to find hidden messages from the סמיכות הפרשיות. They wanted to understand why one subject followed the other in a specific order.

One example of this, is that the law regarding hanging one who was executed for blasphemy, is followed by the laws of returning a lost article. The two subjects seem to have nothing in common. One subject deals with laws of burial, and how it is considered, respect for the dead, by burying the deceased as soon as possible.

The returning of a lost article is the recognition, as the Chinuch says, that forgetfulness is a very common human trait. Therefore, we must go to great lengths to return a lost article. How are the two subjects connected?

The Rabbis, in their great wisdom, connected the two subjects with a possible case that might occur. The lost article is sitting in a cemetery. Since a Kohein is not allowed to defile himself, by going into a cemetery, even nowadays, he would be exempt in this case. This would be categorized as a מצוה הבא בעבירה, a Mitzva that comes by way of a sin. In order to avoid the transgression of Kohein defilement, he need not return the lost article.

When one studies the Torah, and sees the wisdom contained in it, and by the Rabbis, who explain it, he realizes the great truth contained in it.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at