Kohen Caliber by Chaim Metzger


Parashat VaYikra, in detailing the particulars of the priestly service, several different terms are used to refer to the Kohanim. In some instances, they are referred to as Bnei Aharon HaKohanim, in others as Bnei Aharon HaKohen, and in others still as individuals, HaKohen. Why would the Torah possibly need all of these names for the Kohanim?

The Torah appears to be requiring the use of three different levels of Kehunah, priesthood, in the Mishkan. During any given situation, a certain level of Kehunah must be met. Once the wood and fire of a Korban are already set into place, the process of offering the Korban can be completed by any Kohen, regardless of qualifications, since in this instance the Torah identifies the Kohen merely as “HaKohen” (VaYikra 1:9). When the offering has yet to be prepared, the Torah states, “Bnei Aharon HaKohanim” (1:8), denoting the fact the Kohanim needed for this element of the process must be exemplary in their service and must conduct themselves in accordance with the Pasuk, “Lemaan Tilmad LeYirah Et Hashem” (Devarim 14:23), which the Sifrei explains as meaning that their service must cause people to fear Hashem. As such, the Torah requires Kohanim of a certain caliber for the task. The most demanding task was that of bringing down the fire from heaven to the Mizbeiach and was given only to those who knew how to act as Aharon HaKohen did, as these Kohanim would be in nearly direct contact with the heavens. Thus, the Torah describes these Kohanim as “Bnei Aharon Hakohen” (VaYikra 1:7).

This stratification of Kehunah can teach us something about our daily lives. In a society where everyone is observant and prepared to devote his life to the ways of Hashem, no matter what view one follows on a particular matter one will achieve personal perfection. Conversely, in a situation where many people are ignorant of their surroundings and many corrupted versions of Judaism have surfaced along with other negative influences, we must ascertain that those teaching the ways of the Torah are fit for their position. Just as Kohanim must meet certain criteria, so must the teachers of the Torah. When the Jewish community enters dire situations, it must have someone to “breathe” new life into the people; the person who rises to the occasion must be on an extremely high plateau. In that spirit, we must rely on the current and future leaders of the Jewish people to follow the Path of Aharon and guide the Jewish people on a path that is in accordance with our Mesorah and the words of the Torah.

-Adapted from Darash Moshe

Look Who’s Calling? By Isaac Shulman

The Mysterious Role of Korbanot by Yakir Forman