Cohen-Levi: The Tribe, the Family Heritage

The Heritage

Honoring the Kohanim

And make him Holy…
Vayikra 21:8

The Cohen’s elevated status is derived from a Divine decree. Therefore the command to sanctify and honor hin does not depend upon his personal qualities, but only upon his being a Kosher Cohen, a descendant of Aharon.

There are three general areas in which a Cohen is to be honored:

  1. To open first
    A Cohen is the first to be called for an aliya to the Torah, and should be given the option to be the first speaker and the lead to the Prayer
  2. To bless first
    A Cohen should be given the option to lead the Blessing after meals, and to be the first to break bread, make Kiddush, etc.
  3. To take the first choice portion
    A Cohen should be offered the first opportunity to choose his portion at a meal. Also in the distribution of charity, a Cohen is given precedence.

It is forbidden to use a Cohen for one’s personal benefit, particularly to do a menial task, without the Cohens agreement.

A Cohen can choose not to exercise these privileges. He may consent not to bless, to speak, nor to take first portion, since these honors were given for his own benefit. This right of refusal, however, does not apply to the first aliya to the Torah.

It should not be taken for granted that in a given situation a Cohen will be willing to relinquish his rights; he should be asked specifically if he desires to do so. For example, a worthy Cohen should be consulted before another person is asked to lead the blessing after meals. A notable acceptance to the general precedence given to a Cohen is that given to a Torah scholar whose learning exceeds that of any of the Kohanim present.

To sanctify and honor the Kohanim is a Mitzvah incumbent upon all Jews, as well as upon the Cohen himself. Therefore each Jew must do all he can to see that each Cohen keeps his particular Mitzvot, including marriage restrictions and avoidance of spiritual impurity. A Cohen must also stand up for his rights as a Cohen.

The Heritage