Monday, May 13, 2013

SHABU'OT: WE are all Kohanim

Tomorrow night, Tuesday, May 14th, we will celebrate Shabu'ot, one of the major Holidays of the Jewish calendar. Shabu'ot is also known as Matan Tora, the day in which we, the Jewish people, received the Tora. The giving of the Tora was actually the conclusion of a larger process: the choosing of the Jewish People as the Nation of God. 

What does it mean to become God's people?  The Tora (Ex. 19:5-6) describes this special status with three terms. segula, mamlekhet kohanim, goy qadosh

 I will start by exploring the second term, mamlekhet kohanim

Mamlekhet Kohanim  means a Kingdom (a Nation) of Priests. The Kohanim/Priests are those Jews who dedicated exclusively to the service of God. In the times of the Bet haMiqdash the Kohanim were the teachers of the Jewish people. (After the Bet haMiqdash was destroyed this function was performed by "Rabbis").  The Kohanim were also in charge of the main operations of the Bet haMiqdash.  In a sense, the Kohanim were God's closets servants in the fields of education and God's worship. The Kohanim still retain some of these privileges. For example, everyday (or in the Ashkenazi tradition: every Yom Tob) they pronounce the ברכת כהנים or priestly blessing.  But being closer to God's service implies also more responsibilities and limitations. The Kohanim have many restrictions (marriage laws, mourning laws, etc.) which do not apply for a non-Kohen,  The privilege to serve God implies a higher standard of duties (noblesse oblige).  

HaShem's designation of the people of Israel as "a Nation of priests" means that, what the Kohanim are to the Jewish People, the Jewish people is to the rest of humankind.  Like the Kohanim every Jew (should) dedicate his or her life to serving God. Like the Kohanim, we worship HaShem directly (no intermediaries!).  And like the Kohanim our global mission is to become or lagoyim, "educators", a role model of enlightenment and inspiration for the rest of humankind.  In the same way that the Kohanim have more Mitzvot (God's commandments) than the rest of the Jewish people, in Shabu'ot, we accepted upon ourselves 613 Mitzvot, 606 more than the rest of the world.

Dedicated to my daughter Mijal and her fiancé Rabbi Sion Setton (haKohen!)      Mabrouk!


By Alan Dershowitz.