- I have many close friends who are kohanim. These friends, as well as the rest, must observe laws of holiness beyond those which apply to the rest of our beloved nation. They have higher standards because they, at one point, performed G-d’s holy work in the temple. Although many of those tasks are not applicable today, the kohanim still abide by the stringent laws of their ancestors. Astonishingly, I find even the most secular kohanim observe many of these stringent laws. They all know they can’t go to a cemetery or be in the same room with someone who is deceased. Although a Kohen must defile himself for his nearest relative that have unfortunately perished, which is one of seven – wife, father, mother, son, daughter, brother or un-married sister, he is also obligated to defile himself for a met-mitzvah (a corpse found in a deserted spot where there is no one else within calling distance who can perform the burial. He must then bury the dead body).
- The Torah forbids a Kohen from marrying any of the following women. Chalala – the daughter of a Kohen, born of a union which was forbidden to him. For example, a girl born from a marriage between a Kohen and a prostitute or a divorcee. Zonah – a woman who had forbidden relations (for example, a non-Jew), and geyoret – a convert. He may only marry a girl who is Jewish by birth. Lastly, he may not marry a gerusha – a divorced woman.
- Why did the Torah impose these limitations upon a Kohen in his choice of a wife? A man’s thoughts are influenced by his wife and to a great part directed toward her. The purity of a Kohen ranks above the rest; therefore, the Torah wants him to marry a type of woman whose background and past are without a blemish to ensure that he is not disturbed with thoughts of her background, and therefore able to perform his holy task.
- A Kohen still commands respect among his Jewish brethren. He is the first to be called to the Torah; according to Sephardic tradition, he blesses the people daily at the shacharit services. Ashkenazi origin – Jews bless the people three times a year. A Kohen is also given honor to lead the grace after meal. A new father takes his newborn son to the Kohen after 30 days to be redeemed (pidyon haben).
- A Kohen with a physical defect did not perform the service. He was not even permitted to enter the haichal (holy section of the temple). A physical defect includes both a birth defect, for example, blindness (even in one eye) and a temporary one, for example, injury. The Kohen resumes his Avoda – task – only when he is healed. Our sages list 140 blemishes which disqualify a Kohen from performing his duty.
- An animal must fulfill several requirements to be suitable as a sacrifice. It must be physically perfect. Also, an animal is acceptable only from the eighth day after birth and on. Why may it not be offered earlier? A newborn creature is small and not yet well-developed for the first seven days. It is still difficult to discern whether or not it has some minor defects. After the eighth day, it is sufficiently developed whether or not it is blemished.
- In this section, we find the wording of the special holiday Kiddush; the Kiddush starts elleh moadai. The Torah discusses two festive times – moadai Hashem. G-d gave the Bet-din (the Jewish court) the authority to proclaim when holidays should be, through determining when the new moon begins. If one thinks of the magnitude of authority that G-d has given the bet din, which is the ability to proclaim the holidays, they would come to the conclusion that it’s mind-boggling. It seems like there is a tremendous degree of confidence G-d has upon our Jewish courts. So the festivities are man-appointed. The other festivity which is discussed, is from G-d – “Shabbat” – which has more stringent laws attached to it and the punishment for discretion is more severe. However, we might assume that Yom-Tov (holidays) can be taken lightly since its sanctity was put into effect by man. The Torah juxtaposed the two to teach us they are equally forbidden. In fact, to show how important holidays are, if one notices, if a holiday falls on a Shabbat, we do not recite the usual Shabbat prayer. Even though there is a law “always recite the more frequent prayer”, we say a festive prayer instead with a Shabbat reference.
- The holiday of Pesach and the counting of the Omer are discussed.
- In this section, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are discussed.
- Here, the Torah speaks about the holiday of Sukkot and the four species that one assembles together (lulav, etrog, hadas, and arravot) and makes a blessing.
- There was a man who was a trouble maker, whose mother was Jewish and father was Egyptian. He ridiculed Moshe about the lechem hapanim – the special bread in the temple that miraculously stayed fresh and warm after a week, saying “Na, it’s probably stale. Is it proper to serve such bread in the Kings palace?” One day, he decided to pitch his tent in his mother’s territorial tribe, Dan. However, because of his father’s non-Jewish status, the Jewish court rejected the advances by him to claim territorial rights in Dan. Inheritance goes after the father, not the mother. Out of anger, he cursed G-d. The incident was an unprecedented first. G-d instructed Moshe that this individual’s punishment should be death
Credit to: Rabbi Avi Matmon