Kenneth Cohen

Respect for Creation

There is a principle in Jewish Law, called כבוד הבריות, showing respect for creation. This means that there are times where we must take into account people’s feelings, and even forego certain laws.

There appears to be a consensus that this principle overrides rabbinic law. An example could apply to caring for one who passes away on Shabbat. Certain rabbinic prohibitions may be set aside so that the body, is treated with the greatest dignity. There are numerous other such examples.

We are living through very difficult but eventful times. A recent poll came out showing that 33% of Israelis have admitted that they are more religious today, than they were before October the seventh.

This indicates that there is a thirst for Torah knowledge and a desire to return to their traditional roots.

Religious Jews must be prepared to reach out and welcome them. If it requires using the כבוד הבריות leniency, then so be it. It is normally frowned upon to invite a guest for Shabbat, if we know they will drive. We are not supposed to trust the food cooked by one who openly transgresses Shabbat. But if these so called “transgressors,” really need our guidance, we must encourage them.

In general, Orthodox Judaism has become very extreme in the last forty years. The חומרא, or stringency, has become the standard form of observance.

It is as if people believe that if they take the strictest Halachic opinion, they will get points in Heaven. While it is perfectly fine for a person to be as strict as he wants in his own home, but he must not demand this of others.

I was fortunate to have studied under rabbis who were trained in Lithuanian Yeshivat such as Slobodka. We were taught that it’s very easy to say that something is forbidden. But if circumstances demand that we show some sensitivity, we must find a way within Halachic boundaries, to find a leniency. That sensitivity to the feelings of others, is what is going to get us the approval of the Al-mighty.
I don’t believe that Hashem will be pleased that we were “Machmir” (strict), while causing pain to others.

Jewish Unity is what is needed now more than ever. We must find the common ground to bring all Jews closer together. This is particularly true when we are still getting over the atrocities of October the Seventh. “Kavod Habriyot” must be the rallying cry that is going to bridge the gaps to bring us together as “one people-one heart.”

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