How to Become a Priest

Parshas Yisro

On the arrival of the Jewish people in the Sinai Desert, the Great Revelation – the giving of the Torah – was set in motion. After a brief introduction Hashem promises us that if we listen to Him than we will be a “Kingdom Of Ministers, and a Holy Nation”.

Question One

We can visualize and realize an entire nation comprised of “holy people”. It is more difficult to conceptualize a Kingdom of Cohanim, a people that consists entirely of ministers. How can everyone be a “higher up”? If we are all in the position of cabinet-level rulers, who are we ruling over?

Question Two

The word Cohen seems to have contradictory uses. It’s common usage is a priest who serves in a religious format, for the word Cohen connotes servitude. Yet it can also refer to a position of office such as “the sons of (King) David are Cohanim” meaning a governing position. The serf is quite the opposite of a minister.

Answer

Let us begin with analyzing the Cohen who serves in the Beis Hamikdash. The Cohanim are designated agents between the Jewish people and Hashem. Their role is to manage the Temple and guide the people in their service to Hashem.

There is a particular reason the tribe of Levi was singled out for this task. It is because they, and only their entire tribe, exercised due self control and abstained from serving the Golden Calf. Moreover they actively assisted in eradicating the perpetrators. This steadfastness and self restraint elevated them eternally to the Priesthood. 

People who are self disciplined can lead others. The self mastery exhibited by Levi at episode of the Golden Calf, elevated them permanently to priestly positions. The Cohen Priest is a true combination of serf and minister. A Cohen is all about control, it begins with managing the self and ends with be a minister over others.

In truth each one of us can be a “Cohen”. We too by following the Torah, performing Mitzvohs, and abstaining from Aveiros will become Cohanim. Over whom will we rule? We will minister over none other than ourselves. When the angel within each individual, will control its animal facets, we will have a Kingdom of Ministers.

Lesson

Management begins with self.

Story
Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi (3rd Century Sage) fasted many days so that he merit to see Eliyahu Hanavi. Eliyahu appeared to him and asked Reb Yehoshua what he desired. “I wish to travel with you,” said Rabbi Yehoshua “and see your actions in the world that I may learn wisdom from you.” Eliyahu replied “You may travel with me, but with one stipulation – that you do not question what you see.” Rabbi Yehoshua agreed to the condition, and they set off. 

They journeyed a whole day and they reached a large city by nightfall. On entering the Synagogue they saw inside chairs made of gold and silver. The people were seated each according to his rank. One of the townsmen spoke, “Who will feed these poor people tonight?” Answered another, “It is sufficient if we bring to the Synagogue some bread, water, and salt.” Eliyahu and Rabbi Yehoushua waited, and were not fed appropriately, and  thus they remained there until daybreak. On leaving, Eliyahu said to the people “Hashem should make all of you leaders.”

They journeyed another whole day and as the sun was setting they reached a different city. The people of the city came out to greet them with good cheer, and generously extended them an invitation. They were placed in the best room of the largest house in town. There they ate, drank, and slept and were accorded the highest possible honors. In the morning Eliyahu prayed “Hashem should give you only one leader.”

When Rabbi Yehoshua heard that, he could not contain himself any longer “Please tell me the meaning of all this.” Eliyahu replied “I will tell you the secret behind my actions: I prayed that the people who treated us ill should have many princes and leaders, because that will be for their detriment. Much quarreling will arise from their thoughts and advice, because any place in which there are many leaders will be crushed, and self-destroyed. Conversely, when I prayed that our gracious hosts should have but one leader, it is for their benefit and progress, All their actions and advice will become channeled into one route, and they will be happy. There will be no strife and their good ideas will not be ruined. As the wise people say, ‘with many captains the ship will sink, and with one leader a city will be inhabited’.” 

Weekly Halachah

A Halachic Cohen (i.e. a descendent of Aharon) should be honored with saying Kiddush, Hamotzei or Bentching.