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Nowadays, what are the obligations of a Kohen?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Jewish Identity » Kohains and Levites » The Holy Tribe | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Many of the practical aspects of being a Kohen no longer apply today, for there is no Holy Temple where the Kohen performs the daily service as the representative of all Jews. However the Kohen still retains his lofty spiritual status and many of the laws which govern a Kohen remain intact.


The following are several of the rules which affect a Kohen:

1. The Kohen is G-d's emissary to bless all the Jews during the Musaf prayer of every festival (and every Shabbat in the Land of Israel, and every day in Jerusalem).

2. The Kohen receives the first Aliyah to the Torah.

3. The Kohen is supposed to be honored whenever possible (i.e. served first, honored with leading the Grace After Meals, etc.).

4. A Kohen may not marry certain women (see Can a Kohen or Levite get married to any Jewish woman?).

5. A Kohen may not become impure by contact with a corpse or enter a cemetery (exceptions are made for the funeral of immediate relatives).
[A corpse emits a spiritual "impurity." A Kohen is supposed to maintain a high level of kedusha (holiness) and is therefore forbidden from coming in contact with a grave or body.]

6. An Israelite firstborn son must be redeemed from G-d by giving the Kohen the equivalent of five Shekels.

The daughter of a Kohen (Bat Kohen), although not included in the above rules, also has an elevated status. She should preferably marry a Kohen or a Torah scholar.


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Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Grace After Meals
Biblically mandated prayer, consisting of four blessings, recited after eating more than an ounce of bread.
Aliyah
Literally means to rise up. Has two popular meanings: 1. Being called up to the Torah scroll and recite the blessings when the Torah is being read. 2. To emigrate to the Holy Land.
Musaf
The additional prayer service added (after the morning prayers) on Sabbath, Biblically mandated holidays and the first day of the Jewish month.
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.