In its initial two Perakim, this week’s Parashah describes the role and Halachot of the Kohanim in depth. The Torah discusses two main aspects of the role of the Kohanim: the idea of their being holy to the upmost degree, far beyond the regular concepts of Kedushah, to the point of certain marriage restrictions, not being Metamme’im LeMeitim (contact with the dead), not serving in the Mikdash if they have a Mum (blemish), etc., as well as their role as representatives of Bnei Yisrael, serving as the conduit between Bnei Yisrael and Hashem. In essence, they have two seemingly opposing goals: to serve as paradigms of holiness for the people, as examples of the possible connection the people can have to Hashem, but also to seemingly isolate Hashem from the people, as only through the Kohanim can the people directly serve Hashem.
This paradox can be explained by analyzing the earlier method of Avodah to Hashem. The original intent of the Mikdash and the Mishkan was to allow the Bechor of each family to serve as the representative of each family, spreading the connection to Hashem to all of Bnei Yisrael on a personal, familiar level. Sadly, at that time (and today as well) Bnei Yisrael were not ready for such a personal connection to Hashem. The establishment of the Bechorim as representatives was discarded after Cheit HaEigel, which, according to the Beit HaLeivi, was an instance of Bnei Yisrael trying to serve Hashem on too personal a level by making a physical representation of Hashem. Later, Hashem killed Nadav and Avihu for making the same mistake.
Therefore, the idea of the Kohanim was established to solve this issue of Bnei Yisrael’s becoming too close to Hashem and taking their relationship with Him for granted. While Bnei Yisrael could potentially benefit from each family having a member who could have an intimate connection to Hashem, linking the family to the Kedushah of the Mikdash, Bnei Yisrael weren’t able to live on such a level. The Kohanim, however, not only serve as the representatives of Bnei Yisrael, but are also commanded to live with this higher level of Kedushah. This enables them to maintain the relationship with Hashem that the rest of Bnei Yisrael weren’t able to keep.
The role of the Kohanim is not to limit the relationship between Bnei Yisrael and Hashem, but to expand it by ensuring that Bnei Yisrael remain appreciative of and connected to Hashem. They don’t isolate Hashem from the people, but by serving as the role models for Bnei Yisrael and by being the example of Kedushah as instructed in this week’s Parashah, they help Bnei Yisrael reach their own potential in serving Hashem and attain their own connection to Hashem.
May we be able to integrate this message into our own lives, and with the help of our Rabei’im and teachers, may we be able to reach our own levels of Kedushah and connection to Hashem.