Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Kohen and the Teacher

The Dubna Magid (Ohel Yaakov to Parshat Naso) says that the Kohen, when he raises his hands and recites the words of birchas kohanim, is actually communicating a message to the community: Make yourselves worthy of HaShem's blessings.

To me, this presents the Kohen as an educator, and that triggered a thought for me this week: There are many parallels between the Kohen and the Teacher. [This aside from the actual role of kohanim as teachers, per Devarim 33:10 and more.]

The Kohen's arena is the Beit haMikdash, a building and campus permeated with the presence of the Shechinah, into which no impurity may be brought. The Kohen travels between clearly defined areas of greater and lesser sanctity, all devoted to the central purpose of facilitating the national and individual connection with the Divine. The nation is responsible for the upkeep of the site; fortunately, citizens understand its importance and dedicate property for its maintenance. The Beit haMikdash is always available to the public, but at certain times during the year it is specifically, majestically revealed to the eyes and hearts of visitors.

The Kohen represents the refined Jew, displaying no blemish. He is armed with the passion of Levi, and the warmth of Aharon. The Kohen maintains himself in purity, via strict discipline. The community supports him, so that he will engage in his duties fully and wholeheartedly.

The Kohen rises early in the morning and races to his task with vigor, even battling other kohanim for the honor of serving. The Kohen must remain focussed upon his task; thoughts of impropriety render his work invalid, and at a great potential price. Kohanim are instructed to perform their tasks, and not those of the other work force in the Beit Midrash; each has a unique role to play.

Of course, there are areas in which the parallels fall short; the role of teacher should not be an automatic inheritance, for example. Nonetheless, I think we could do quite a bit with this analogy.


  1. This is all very consistent with R' Hirsch's commentary on the role of the kohen.

  2. One place I recall is his commentary on the clothing, especially that of the Kohen Gadol, in Parashat Tetzaveh.

  3. One subject concerning the Mikdash which I have heard about but not really got my head wrapped around yet is the proximity of the King to the Mikdash on Har Habayit. It would be good to hear your insights on this.

  4. Isaac-

    Could you be more specific? I'm not sure what you mean.