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Become a Kohen Often

Friday, 6 September, 2019 - 1:16 pm

A man approached the rabbi with a deal. “I'll give you $10,000 and you make me a Kohen.”

The rabbi rejected. “I’m sorry, sir. But I do not have the power to do so.”

“I'll give you $25,000… $50,000… rabbi, please! The price is not important. I must become a Kohen!”

“Why are you so desperate to be a Kohen?”

“My father was a Kohen and his father was a Kohen...”

It’s a funny joke because we all know that being a Kohen is not a promotion one can achieve through paying any money in the world or by being the most pious Jew of all time. It is a matter of fate. If your father was a Kohen then you are a Kohen.

There are three classes in Judaism, and they all depend on family. When the Jewish people became a nation at Mt. Sinai they consisted of twelve tribes and the tribe of Levi was selected to be the representatives in all matters of religious ceremonial life to serve as teachers and mentors for their brethren.

Aaron, Moshe’s brother, a member of the Levite tribe was selected to be the first Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and his descendants were ordained Kohanim (priests) to perform the various services in the Holy Temple.

While the rest of the tribes, collectively known as Israelites, received portions in the Promised Land of Israel, with every member receiving personal property for farming, the Levites and Kohanim were not included in this inheritance. They were given 48 cities to live in, but no farmland to feed themselves. They were sustained divinely ordered compulsory taxes paid by every Jew to the Levites and Kohanim on a regular basis.

The Torah in this week’s parsha clarifies why they were excluded from the inheritance. “The entire tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel… the L-rd is his inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 18:1,2)

Instead of losing out they were granted the golden opportunity to devote themselves entirely to G-d’s service without a worry in the world. Never distracted by the need to work the fields or keep track of the harvest times and the rain seasons. Their needs were provided for by divine command and they were always prepared to serve.

So aside for their religious duties, the Levites were unique among the people by dint of their G-d given gift to be dedicated to divine service all the time. Seemingly this gift is determined by fate.

Maimonides maintains it is not so. “Not only the tribe of Levi, but anyone whose spirit generously motivates him and he understands with his wisdom to set himself aside and stand before G-d to serve Him and minister to Him and to know G-d… he is sanctified as holy of holies. G-d will be His portion and heritage forever and will provide what is sufficient for him in this world like He provides for the priests and the Levites.”

Everyone can be a Kohen. Not to observe the religious duties Kohanim are obligated in, but to be selflessly dedicated to G-d is a level we should all try to reach. And if you can’t do it 24/7 then five minutes a day is also valuable. Set aside time every day to be a Kohen. Unplug from the world and learn some Torah without distraction.

The more you try it, the more you’ll like it and the more you’ll do it.

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