Kavod Habriyot

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Kavod Habriyot (Hebrew:כבוד הבריות, tran. respect for creations) is the virtue of respecting human dignity and their basic needs. Protecting a person's human dignity is critical in Torah because of the sanctity of man. The obligation to protect the dignity of others and oneself sometimes allows certain leniencies in halacha that otherwise wouldn't be allowed.[1]

Relieving Oneself

  1. Chazal permitted certain rabbinic restrictions on Shabbat in order to enable a person to go to the bathroom. For instance, when it was the case that people would wipe themselves with rocks, it was permitted on Shabbat even though rocks are generally muktzeh.[2] Alternatively, it is permitted to arrange stones to sit upon to relieve oneself.[3]
  2. If no other toilet is available one can use an automatic toilet on Shabbat out of kavod habriyot. See Electricity_on_Shabbat#Motion_Sensor_Toilets.

Examples of Kavod Habriyot

  1. Kavod Habriyot can include circumstantially embarrassing phenomenon. For example, the Rama O.C. 339:4 writes that if a bride and groom were scheduled to get married on Friday afternoon and because of the negotiations of the dowry the sunset, they may still perform the wedding because otherwise it would embarrassing to the families it it had to be delayed.
  2. A hearing impaired individual may wear hearing aids on Shabbat. One factor in being lenient is that for someone with impaired hearing not to be able to hear someone's question or comment to him is embarrassing.[4]
  3. A Sephardi who is eating someone's house, Sephardi or Ashkenazi, and doesn't know whether the meat being served is glatt or Bet Yosef, he may eat it and not have to inquire out of a concern that his questions will embarrass the host and would violate kavod habriyot. This leniency of kavod habriyot is only effective regarding the inquiry; regarding the actual question the reason to be lenient is other halachic principles.[5]

Slight Embarrassment

  1. Slightly embarrassing situations don't warrant the leniencies of kavod habriyot. For example, the Bet Yosef 13:3 espouses the view that if one's tallit were ripped on Shabbat one should remove them even though he'll be embarrassed to sit without a tallit among everyone else who is wearing one. He says that it isn't nearly as embarrassing as walking naked in the street that the Gemara Brachot 19b considered applicable to leniencies of kavod habriyot.
  2. Similarly, a kohen may not walk next to the graves of other relatives even to escort one of his close relatives. Even if it is only a rabbinic question it isn't embarrassing not to join the escort of the coffin to warrant the leniency of kavod habriyot. If there is no one to bury the dead then that certainly would warrant the leniencies of kavod habriyot.[6]

Someone Wearing Shatnez

  1. If you notice that someone is wearing shatnez do you have to tell him even though it is embarrassing for him to remove his shatnez clothing in public? Ashkenazim hold that if the other person doesn't know then you don't have to tell him out of kavod habriyot.[7]

Making a Bracha to Avoid Embarrassment

  1. Once a woman who had an abortion previous to getting and didn't tell her husband. They had a firstborn boy who the husband thought was obligated in pidyon haben. If she told him the truth about her past relationship and abortion it would destroy their Shalom Bayit. Does she have to tell him or can they have the pidyon haben even though the father is going to make a bracha levatala? Some major gedolim in a specific case said she doesn't have to said anything even though the husband is going to make a bracha levatala.[8]

Human Dignity in the Face of Pride of Torah Observance

  1. Someone who is uncomfortable because of onlookers that are uncomfortable with the view of the Torah and halacha should muster the strength to proudly observe halacha even in the presence of scoffers.[9] It isn't considered a violation of kavod habriyot if a modern sensitivity doesn't jive with the halacha.[10]
  2. If a woman sticks out her hand to shake it some say that the factor of kavod habriyot does not play a role since it is a Biblical question and also it isn't clear that it is considered a breach of kavod habriyot inform someone that something is against their religion.[11]

Partnership Minyanim

  1. Partnership minyanim that allow women to get aliyot for kriyat hatorah based on the claim that it is kavod habriyot to give them equal aliyot is mistaken and against the halacha.[12]

Sources

  1. Gilyonei Hashas Brachot 19b posits that generally the leniencies of kavod habriyot are indeed an overriding of a halacha because of the principle of kavod habriyot. Therefore, if it could be avoided it should be. However, in Beitzah 32b regarding the case of taking rocks to make a suitable area for a person to relieve himself the rabbinic injunctions of building a structure weren't enacted at all. It is a leniency that is considered permitted ab initio.
  2. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 312:1
  3. Beitzah 32b, Rambam Yom Tov 4:13
  4. Tzitz Eliezer 6:6
  5. Yabia Omer YD 5:3
  6. Igrot Moshe YD 1:249
  7. The Gemara Brachot 19b establishes that if someone is in a situation that would be a violation of human dignity it could allow violating a derabbanan but not a Biblical halacha. Therefore, if a person is wearing shatnez and he knows about it he must remove it even in public. However, if he sees someone else wearing shatnez does he need to tell him? The Rambam explicitly writes that if you see your friend with shatnez you need to get him to remove it. The Rosh explains the Yerushalmi that either if the person is wearing derabbanan shatnez or wearing Biblical shatnez without knowing it, you don't need to tell them. The Tur YD 303 presents the Rosh and Rambam as though they are arguing. The Shulchan Aruch YD 303 quotes the Rambam, while the Rama quotes the Rosh. Rama Y.D. 372:1 explicitly accepts the Rosh. The Bach comments on the Tur that really the Rambam agrees with the Rosh. Nodeh Beyehuda OC 35 assumes that it is a dispute and is strict for Rambam if it is an ongoing situation of a Biblical prohibition unintentionally. Arukh HaShulchan, Yoreh De'ah 303:2 agrees with the Nodeh Beyehuda that habitual Biblical prohibitions can't be ignored, however, habitual rabbinic ones can be for kavod habriyot.
  8. Yabia Omer YD 8:32. Factors on which he relies include: 1) According to many rishonim bracha levatala is derabbanan. Here since the husband thinks he's reciting a bracha correctly perhaps it isn't a Biblical violation even according to the Rambam. To avoid embarrassing someone it is permitted to allow a rabbinic prohibition. 2) But even if it is Biblical since the husband is only violating it unintentionally according to the Rosh to avoid embarrassment you don't have to tell him. Perhaps we can rely on the Rosh one time in extenuating circumstances. 3) Bracha Levatala isn't explicit in Torah and the Sdei Chemed 3:23 writes that kavod habriyot allows violating a Biblical prohibition passively if it isn't explicit. Rav Yitzchak Yosef (Motzei Shabbat Tarziya Motzora 5778) explained that even though Rav Zilberstein quoted Rav Elyashiv as disagreeing with Rav Ovadia Yosef, Rav Ovadia was only lenient because of a majority concern of shalom bayit. See Michtam Pesachim 106a s.v. likadesh who understands that Rav Ashi was hesitant about making a bracha in a situation where he couldn't clarify whether he should recite a bracha so as not to embarrass others.
  9. Rama Orach Chaim 1:1
  10. Igrot Moshe YD 2:77 writes that harchakot are to be observed even if would make the couple feel uncomfortable that others know that she is a niddah. It isn't objectively anything private; rather it is an observance of the halacha. However, see Rav Mordechai Willig who felt that nowadays it is possible to consider a breach of kavod habriyot for certain woman who are very bothered for someone else to know whether or not they are a niddah.
  11. Mishneh Halachot 6:223. Rav Ovadia Yosef is reported to publicly have not shaken Golda Meir's hand when she outstretched it to award him the Israel Prize in 1970 for writing the Yabia Omer.
  12. Rabbi Aryeh and Dov Frimer in Tradition 46:4 pp. 67-238, Rav Hershel Schachter (responsa entitled "Partnership Minyanim"), Rav Mordechai Willig. There are many reasons why this practice is invalid as are pointed out in the above articles. Specifically regarding kavod habriyot Rabbi Aryeh and Dov Frimer (pp. 110-116) outline 11 reasons why kavod habriyot do not apply to this question of women aliyot.