Dvar Torah Parshat Emor 5772 2012

The Torah relates laws that pertain to the Kohen and then says: ויקרא
וְקִדַּשְׁתּוֹ, “You shall sanctify him…”. (Lev. 21,8) Chazal understand this to mean that we must give honor to the Kohen. That is why he is given the privilege of leading the Grace After Meals. That is why he is given the first Aliya when the Torah is read in the synagogue. Many other honors are bestowed upon him.

In the Talmud we are told by the Rabbis, if there is no Kohen נתפרדה החבילה, “the bundle is separated”. (Git.59b) That means it is not necessary to give the first Aliya to a Levi or to any specific individual. Harav Soloveitchik explained this to mean that we do not require giving the first Aliya to a Levite because that would diminish the honor we give to the Kohen. Only the Kohen is singled out for this special respect.

Because of the Kohen’s special position he deserves exceptional distinction. One may feel that this is an unfair privilege given to the Kohen and sets him up above everyone else. The truth is that the Kohen has many restrictions placed upon him because of this status.

In today’s Portion we are told he must not come in contact with a deceased body except someone in his immediate family. He may not marry a divorcée. He was not given any property in Israel when the Jews first entered the Holy Land and portions of the land were granted to all individuals.

Indeed, he does have special privileges but he also has special restrictions and requirements. He is to be a holy individual serving the spiritual needs of his people.

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