The weekly reading Emor.
The laws of holiness of cohanim.
The Torah constantly tells us that the Creator chose Aharon and his descendants
for serving in the
2. Some women are forbidden for cohanim. The forbidden number includes divorced women, converts to Judaism and any woman that has had relationship with a man prohibited to her (for example, with a non-Jew). If a cohen has children from any woman forbidden to him, his daughters can’t marry other cohanim. His sons are no longer cohanim and their daughters are also forbidden to cohanim.
3. It is forbidden to a cohen to be under the same roof with a dead body or even with parts of it. It is also forbidden for cohanim to visit a cemetery. Only if a close relative dies (father, mother, son, daughter, wife, brother or unmarried sister) the cohen can participate in the burial. Even then he has to avoid coming in contact with other dead bodies, for this reason the relatives of cohanim are usually buried at the edge of the cemetery. Note, that sometimes trees grow at the edge of the cemetery or near it, and their branches hang over the graves. In such a case, it may be forbidden for cohanim to pass on the road under the branches.
4. The cohanim have a special privilege to bless the Jewish people with a wondrous sixty letter blessing. Many profound commentaries are written on this three-sentence brocha, including cabbalistic explanations. It could be interesting enough, the archeologists recently found a three thousand year old locket with the blessing engraved on it. The scientists were shocked to discover that the text coincides exactly with the wording pronounced in every synagogue. After all, other civilizations they usually deal with (Ammon, Moav, Assiria etc) are gone long ago and their very names sound exotic. It falls exactly in a saying by Mark Twain, “the Jew saw them all and outlived them all …”
5. Beside the possibility of blessing people, the cohanim have a number of other privileges:
- In any assembly the cohen is usually given the right to speak first. After meal, the cohen is offered to do “zimun” - invite others to say the blessings.
- The cohen is called first to the Sefer Torah
- A firstborn son is redeemed from a cohen with five silver coins.
Certain portion of crop are separated in the
- The Torah prescribes to take off chala from dough and give it to cohanim. Note however, that the cohen’s portion of the crop and chala can only be eaten in ritual purity. In our day, we don’t have the ashes of the red cow, needed for purification and therefore today the chala is burned.
The laws of prohibition of causing animals to suffer or castration and of slaughtering an animal along with its child within the same day
1. The whole world was created for people. The Torah does not prohibit us from deriving benefit from non-kosher animals as well. Thus, one is permitted to use animal leather and fur. With all that, the Torah forbids us to cause unnecessary pain to other creatures. Those cruel to animals often end up being cruel to people as well. It is also interesting to mention that a person who bought a fur coat is not usually greeted with traditional blessing: “May you wear it until it wears off and buy a new one”. After all, if a new cloth will have to be bought, another animal will need to be killed.
2. It is forbidden to castrate a person or animal. The prohibition extends to even surgical partial removal of sexual parts of both male and female. It is also prohibited for a man to take medicines that cause him to become impotent. In cases of various treatments that require operations on these organs, one should consult a Rabbi.
3. The Torah forbids us to slaughter an animal and its child on the same day. Usually, only the mother of the animal is known for certain, but in cases we can trace the father, the prohibition extends to him as well.