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Kohen

This entry is about the role of the Kohen (Hebrew, "priest", singular) and Kohanim ("priests", plural) in Judaism. Also written as Cohen/Cohanim.)

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The priesthood in the Bible

The Torah appoints Aaron, brother of Moses, and Aaron's descendants as Kohanim (Numbers 3:1-4). They were given duties associated with the Tabernacle (Numbers 1:47-54; 3:5-13,44-51; 8:5-26). Since Aaron was a Levite, this means that all Kohanim are Levites. Most of the service in the Temple could be conducted only by Kohanim. Non-Kohen Levites assisted in the services of the Temple.

After the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem the formal role of priests in sacrifical services came to an end. This change affected the role of the Kohen and Levites. In the absence of a temple in Jerusalem, sacrifices are not brought. Instead there are other Jewish methods of atoning for sin.

The role of the priesthood after the Temple

After the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem the formal role of priests in sacrifical services came to an end. This section will discuss how this change affected the role of the Kohen and Levites, and how it led to the development of modern rabbinic Judaism. This section should include a summary of this subject's treatment in the Mishna and Talmud, and the role of the Kohen in Jewish life today.

Women and the priesthood

A Bat Kohen is the daughter of a Kohen. The Talmud states that she loses her status as a Kohen when she marries a non-Kohen. Some rulings in traditional Jewish law allow for the that a Bat Kohen may perform the ritual of pidyon ha'ben, the ceremonial redemption of a first-born son. In practice Orthodox Judaism views this as forbidden. A Bat Kohen may not perform the ritual of Nesiat Kapayim, the priestly blessing sung aloud from the pulpit towards the congregation.

Post-Temple Theology and Practice

Since the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem, Jews no longer believe that they need to perform animal sacrifices to atone for sin. (Arguably, they never did; rabbinic literature makes clear that sacrifices were only to be a part of the process of repenting for sin.)

This topic will be discussed here; attention will be paid to the historical view of sacrifices pioneered by Maimonides. This section should also note that some of the traditional restrictions on Kohanim still remain in force in Orthodox Judaism, how these views have been modified within Conservative Judaism, and how Reform Judaism holds that these laws are no longer binding.

Many of the traditional restrictions on Kohanim still remain in force in Orthodox Judaism. These views have been modified within Conservative Judaism. Reform Judaism holds that these laws are no longer binding.

Marriages involving Kohanim

Such marriages are regulated by a number of special restrictions in addition to the general laws covering all Israelites. The Torah prohibits a Kohen from marrying women of certain specified categories: A divorcee, a profaned women, or a harlot. It ordains that any Kohen who makes such a marriage loses his priestly status [Lev. 21:6-7]. The Talmudic understanding of the word 'harlot' also encompasses the meaning "proselyte" (convert) and this suggests that maidens of that time, not born of Jewish parents, were barred from marrying priests because of the low standards of morality prevalent among the non-Jewish peoples of the period. According to the Talmud the act of marriage, although prohibuted, was effective if a Kohen married in disregard of the prohibitions. Any children born of the union are legitimate.

Since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, there have been no more sacrificial services, but the sanctified status of the Kohanim remains in force. Reform Judaism sees ritual halakha as no longer having any legal status, and this allows such marriages. Orthodox Judaism accepts that these laws are still normative, and thus usually forbids such marriages. Some Orthodox rabbis do have flexability on this subject. Conservative Judaism holds that, in general, Jewish law is still binding, but that these particular restrictions are no longer applicable. Thus the movement teaches that a Kohen may marry a convert or divorcee. Their reasoning is that:

  • The Temple in Jerusalem is no longer extant; Kohanim are no longer needed to perform Temple services.

  • According to many codes of Jewish law, the priestly status of most Kohanim is doubtful, at best. Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet (14th century) differentiates between authentic Kohanim of ancient times, and those who carry the title today. He rules that today's Kohanim, lacking documentary evidence of clear right to the priestly title, owes any privileges and obligations not simply to halakha (law) but rather to the force of minhag (custom). [Sefer Bar Sheshet, responsum 94, Lemberg, 1805].

  • Rabbi Solomon Luria (16th century) rules that because of the frequent persecutions and expulsions of Jews throughout history, Kohanim lost track of their genealogy. The Magen Avraham also rules this way. Rabbi Jacob Emden ruled similarly.

  • The intermarriage crisis in American Judaism is an extreme situation, and the movement feels it must support the decision of two Jews to marry.

See also the entry on the Jewish view of marriage

Conservative Jewish views

The following are the opinions of the Committee of Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international body of Conservative Jewish rabbis. Note that the Conservative movement teaches that where the law committee has validated more than one possible position, a congregation must follow the ruling of its rabbi, who as mara d'atra, local authority, has the sole responsibility in making such a p'sak, decision.

  • One position of the CJLS is that daughters of Kohanim and Leviyim can be accorded the same aliyot that are normally accorded to Kohanim and Leviyim, whether they are single or married. Their status regarding being called to the Torah should not be determined by the lineage of their husbands, but by their own paternal lineage. (Rabbi Joel Roth "The status of daughters of Kohanim and Leviyim for aliyot" 11/15/89) Another position is that women do not receive such aliyot. The law committee of the Masorti movement (Conservative Judaism in Israel) has also ruled that women do not receive such aliyot. (Rabbi Robert Harris, 5748)

  • In regards to the ritual of pidyon ha'ben women may perform it on a newborn son. However, it is forbidden to perform this ceremony on a new-born daughter.

  • In regards to the ritual of the the Priestly Blessing, the CJLS has approved two positions. One view holds that a Bat Kohen may participate in Nesiat Kapayim, another view holds that a Bat Kohen is not permitted to participate in Nesiat Kapayim because as a continuation of a Temple ritual, the Priestly Benediction should be performed by those who were authentically eligible to do so in the Temple. (Rabbis Stanley Bramnick and Judah Kagen, 1994; and a responsa by the Va'ad halakha of the Masorti movement, Rabbi Reuven Hammer, 5748)

Reform Jewish views

The majority of Reform Jews consider all rules and ceremonies regarding the priesthood to be outdated; many consider it to be anti-egalitarian, and thus discriminatory against Jews who are not Kohanim (plural). Thus these rules are no longer observed in Reform Jewish communities. Many Reform Temples forbid the practice of these ceremonies. Both Orthodox and Conservative Jews strenuously disagree with this latter view.

Historical views

This section will use modern critical historical scholarship, including the documentary hypothesis to explain how the priestly codes evolved and became a part of the Torah. This section will summarize how modern scholarship has elucidated the development of the priestly codes in Leviticus.

Bibliography Isaac Klein "A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice, p.387-388

Isaac Klein "Responsa and Halakhic Studies, p.22-26

"Proceedings of the CJLS: 1927-1970", volume III, United Synagogue Book Service

Encyclopaedia Judaica, Keter Publishing


The below text has been taken from the public domain 1906 "Jewish Encyclopaedia". It should be used to help construct an entirely new entry. It is not yet in a form useful for laypeople, nor does it represent any modern scholarship.

In ancient Israel one was not required to be specially consecrated in order to perform the sacrificial functions; any one might approach the altar and offer sacrifices. Thus Gideon, of the tribe of Manasseh (Judges vi. 26), and the Danite Manoah (ib. xiii. 16, 19) sacrificed in person at the express command of God and the angel of God respectively; similarly, David sacrificed on the altar he had built at God's command on the thrashing-floor of Araunah (II Sam. xxiv. 25); and Solomon, before the ark in Jerusalem (I Kings iii. 15).

In accordance with this usage in ancient Israel, the ordinances contained in the Book of the Covenant concerning the building of altars and the offering of sacrifices are addressed not to the priest, but to the people at large (Exodus xx). Even where there was a sanctuary with a priesthood, as at Shiloh, any layman might slaughter and offer his sacrifices without priestly aid . As access to the altar was not yet guarded in accordance with later Levitical ordinances, so the priesthood was not yet confined to one family, or even to one tribe. The Ephraimite Samuel became priest of the sanctuary at Shiloh, wearing the priestly linen coat ("efod bad") and the pallium (I Sam. ii. 18 et seq., iii. 1). The kings of Israel ordained as priest whomever they chose (I Kings xli); David, too, invested his own sons, as well as the Jairite Ira, of the tribe of Manasseh, with the priestly office.

Since, in pre-exilic times, the whole tribe of Levi was chosen "to stand before God in order to minister unto Him," It is but consistent that the office "of blessing in God's name" (which in the Priestly Code is assigned to Aaron and his sons—Num. vi. 23) should, in the Deuteronomic code, pertain to all the Levites (comp. Deut. x. 8, xxi. 8).

A strong proof that all members of the Levitical tribe were entitled to priesthood is furnished in the provision which was made by the Deuteronomic code for those Levites who were scattered through the country as priests of the local sanctuaries, and who, in consequence of the Deuteronomic reformation, had been left without any means of support. It stipulated that those Levites who desired to enter the ranks of the priesthood of Jerusalem should be admitted to equal privileges with their brethren the Levites who ministered there unto God, and should share equally with them the priestly revenues (Deut. xviii. 6-8). However, this provision was not carried out. The priests of Jerusalem were not willing to accord to their brethren of the local sanctuaries the privileges prescribed by Deuteronomy, and although they granted them support from the priestly dues, they did not allow them to minister at the altar (comp. II Kings xxiii. 8, 9). In this way the Deuteronomic reformation marks, after all, the first step toward the new development in the priesthood in exilic and post-exilic times.

The attitude of the priests of Jerusalem toward those of the local sanctuaries was sanctioned by Ezekiel. In his book (and later in II Chron. xxxi. 10) the priesthood of Jerusalem is called "the house of Zadok," after Zadok, who replaced Abiathar, Eli's descendant, when Abiathar, because of his partizanship for Adonijah, was deposed by Solomon (comp. I Kings ii. 27, 35). Ezekiel ordained that of all the Levite priests only the Zadokites, who had ministered to God in His legitimate sanctuary at Jerusalem, should be admitted to the service of the altar; the rest, who had defiled themselves by officiating at the local sanctuaries, should be degraded to the position of mere servants in the sanctuary, replacing the foreign Temple attendants who had heretofore performed all menial services (Ezek. xl. 46, xliii. 19, xliv. 6-16). Naturally, the altar-gifts, the tribute of the first-fruits, and the like, were to be awarded thenceforward to the Zadokites alone (xliv. 29, 30). Though Ezekiel assigns to the priests the duty of sitting in judgment in legal disputes, as before (xliv. 24), he makes their ritual functions, not their judicial functions, the essential point in his regulations governing the priests. Administering the Law, according to him, extends only to matters of ritual, to the distinctions between holy and profane, clean and unclean, and to the statutory observance of Sabbaths and festivals (xliv. 23, 24).

The Priestly Code.

Ezekiel's new regulations formed, in all essentials, the basis of the post-exilic priestly system which is formulated in detail in the Priestly Code. A striking difference between Ezekiel and the Priestly Code, however, is at once evident in that the latter betrays no idea of the historical development of things. Whereas Ezekiel records the old usage and, by virtue of his authority as a prophet, declares it abolished, the Priestly Code recognizes only the new order of things introduced by Ezekiel, which order it dates back to the time of Moses, alleging that from the very first the priest-hood had been confined to Aaron and his sons, while the mass of the Levites had been set apart as their ministers to fill the subordinate offices of the sanctuary.

The priestly genealogy of I Chron. v. 29-41 and vi. 35-38 was but the logical result of this transference of post-exilic conditions back to the period of the wandering in the wilderness. This genealogy, the purpose of which was to establish the legitimacy of the Zadokite priesthood, represents the Zadokites as the lineal descendants of Phinehas (the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron), who, for his meritorious action in the case of Zimri, according to Num. xxv. 10-13, had been promised the priesthood as a lasting heritage. That this genealogy and that of I Chron. xxiv. 1-6, in which the descent of the Elite Abiathar is traced from Aaron's son Ithamar, are fictitious is evident from the fact that they conflict with the authentic records of the books of Samuel and Kings: (1) they know nothing of the priesthood of Eli; (2) Ahitub, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, and father of Ahimelech of Nob (comp. I Sam. xiv. 3; xxii. 9, 11), appears in them as the son of an unknown Amariah and the father of Zadok; (3) contrary to I Kings ii. 27, 35 (see above), Abiathar and his descendants remain priests at the Temple of Jerusalem.

The Priestly Orders.

Regarding the characteristic attribution of postexilic conditions to pre-exilic times, a notable example may be pointed out in Chron. xxiii.-xxvi. Both priests and Levites were, in post-exilic times, divided into twenty-four families or classes, with a chief (called "rosh" or "sar"; comp. especially I Chron. xv. 4-12; xxiii. 8 et seq.; xxiv. 5, 6, 31; Ezra viii. 29) at the head of each. The institution of this system, as well as of other arrangements, is, in the passage cited, ascribed to David.

As the guardians of Israel's sanctity the priests formed a holy order (comp. Lev. xxi. 6-8), and for the purpose of protecting them against all profanation and Levitical defilement they were hedged about with rules and prohibitions. They were forbidden to come in contact with dead bodies, except in the case of their nearest kin, nor were they permitted to perform the customary mourning rites (Lev. x. 6, xxi. 1-5; Ezek. xliv. 20, 25). They were not allowed to marry harlots, nor dishonored or divorced women (Lev. xxi. 7).They were required to abstain from wine and all strong drink while performing sacerdotal duties (Lev. x. 9; Ezek. xliv. 21). Any priest having incurred Levitical defilement was excluded, under penalty of death, from priestly service and from partaking of holy food during the time of his uncleanness (Lev. xxii. 2-7, 9; Ezek. xliv. 26 et seq.). If afflicted with any bodily blemish the priest was held permanently unfit for service; such a one was, however, permitted to eat of the holy food (Lev. xxi. 17-23).

A noteworthy feature of the post-exilic priestly system is the place which the high priest occupies in it, for which see High Priest.

To Make Atonement.

—In Rabbinical Literature:

The status of the priesthood in later Judaism and the views that prevailed concerning it were in full accordance with the Priestly Code. Judaism saw in the sanctuary the manifestation of God's presence among His people, and in the priest the vehicle of divine grace, the mediator through whose ministry the sins of the community, as of the individual, could be atoned for.

According to the rabbinical decision, "the priests were the emissaries, not of the people, but of God"; hence, a person who had sworn that he would not accept a service from a priest might nevertheless employ him to offer sacrifices and might make atonement for sin through him (Talmud, Yoma 19a; and Nedarim)

Importance of Pedigree.

Later Judaism enforced rigidly the laws relating to the pedigrees of priests, and even established similar requirements for the women they married. Proof of a spotless pedigree was absolutely necessary for admission to priestly service, and any one unable beyond all doubt to establish it was excluded from the priesthood. Unless a woman's pedigree was known to be unimpeachable, a priest, before marrying her, was required to examine it for four generations on both sides, in case she was of priestly lineage; for five generations if she was not of priestly descent. Neither might a priest marry a proselyte or a freedwoman. Regarding a daughter of such persons, opinion in the Mishnah is divided as to whether or not it was necessary that one of the parents should be of Jewish descent. The decision of later authorities was that, in case both of the woman's parents were proselytes or freed persons, a priest should not marry her, but if he had done so, then the marriage should be considered legitimate.

Contact with Dead Prohibited.

The Levitical law which forbids the priest to defile himself by coming in contact with a dead body is minutely defined in the Talmud on the basis of Num. xix. 11, 14-16. Not only is direct contact with the dead prohibited, but the priest is forbidden to enter any house or enclosure, or approach any spot, where is lying or is buried a dead body, or any part of a dead body—even a piece of the size of an olive—or blood to the amount of half a "log" (about a quarter of a liter); he is forbidden also to touch any one or anything that is unclean through contact with the dead. In contradistinction to Lev. xxi. 2-4, the Talmudic law includes the wife among the persons of immediate relationship. It specifies, moreover, that it is the duty of the priest to defile himself for the sake of his deceased wife or, in fact, for any of his immediate kin, and that compulsion must be used in the case of any priest who refuses to do so, as in the case of the priest Joseph on the occasion of his wife's death.

But even while occupied in burying a relative, the priest may not come in contact with other dead bodies. The Talmud prescribes, further, that if any priest, even the high priest, finds a corpse by the wayside, and there be no one in the vicinity who can be called upon to inter it, he himself must perform the burial. Finally, the Talmud permits and indeed orders the priest to defile himself in the case of the death of a nasi; it relates that when Judah ha-Nasi died the priestly laws concerning defilement through contact with the dead were suspended for the day of his death.

Bodily Defects Incapacitate.

The Talmudic law also specifies minutely what constitutes a bodily defect sufficient to render the subject unfit for priestly service. Bek. vii. and Sifra, Emor, iii. enumerate 142 cases; whether the defect is permanent or only temporary is not taken into account.

The division of the priests into twenty-four classes, mentioned in Chronicles, continued down to the destruction of the Second Temple, as statements to this effect by Josephus ("Ant." vii. 14, 7; "Vita," 1) and the Talmudic sources show. These divisions took turns in weekly service, changing every Sabbath, but on the festivals all twenty-four were present in the Temple and took part in the service. These twenty-four divisions or classes were subdivided, according to their numbers, into from five to nine smaller groups, each of which was assigned to service in turn. The main divisions were called "mishmarot," the subdivisions "batte abot" (terms which in Chronicles are used interchangeably). There was a chief at the head of each main division, and also one at the head of each subdivision.

According to Talmudic law, the regulations demanding an unimpeachable pedigree and relating to Levitical defilement continued to be binding on the priest, even after the Temple had been destroyed, in order that he might be fit for priestly service when, on the advent of the Messiah, the Temple in Jerusalem would be rebuilt and the service of the altar renewed. Any one not complying with these requirements is not allowed to give the priestly blessing, the pronouncing of which remained the duty of the priest, according to Talmudic law, even after the destruction of the Temple. Talmudic law prescribes further that the honor of being first called upon for the reading of the Torah should belong to the priest.

See also: Judaism, Bible, Priest

The High Priest; Kohen Gadol

Aaron, though he is but rarely called "the great priest," being generally simply designated "as ha-kohen" (the priest), was the first incumbent of the office, to which he was appointed by God (Ex. xxviii. 1, 2; xxix. 4, 5). The succession was to be through one of his sons, and was to remain in his own family (Lev. vi. 15). Failing a son, the office devolved upon the brother next of age: such appears to have been the practice in the Maccabean period. In the time of Eli, however (I Sam. ii), the office passed to the collateral branch of Ithamar. But Solomon is reported to have deposed Abiathar, and to have appointed Zadok, a descendant of Eleazar, in his stead. After the Exile, the succession seems to have been, at first, in a direct line from father to son; but later the civil authorities arrogated to themselves the right of appointment.

King Herod nominated no less than six high priests; Archelaus, two. The Roman legate Quirinius and his successors exercised the right of appointment, as did Agrippa I., Herod of Chalcis, and Agrippa II. Even the people occasionally elected candidates to the office. The high priests before the Exile were, it seems, appointed for life (comp. Num. xxxv. 25, 28); in fact, from Aaron to the Captivity the number of the high priests was not greater than during the sixty years preceding the fall of the Second Temple.

Age and Qualifications.

The age of eligibility for the office is not fixed in the Torah; but according to tradition it was twenty. Aristobulus, however, was only seventeen when appointed by Herod, but the son of Onias III. was too young to succeed his father. Legitimacy of birth was essential; hence the care in the keeping of the genealogical records (Josephus, "Contra Ap." i., 7) and the distrust of one whose mother had been captured in war. The high priest might marry only an Israelite maiden (Lev. xxi. 13-14). In Ezek. xliv. 22 this restriction is extended to all priests, an exception being made in favor of the widow of a priest.

His Costume.

The ceremonial of consecration included certain rites which all priests were required to undergo: purification; the sacrifices; the "filling" of the hands; the smearing with blood. But Aaron the high priest was anointed with sacred oil, hence the title of the "anointed priest"; other passages have it that all priests were anointed (Ex. xxviii. 41, xxx. 30; Lev. vii. 36, x. 7; Num. iii. 3). The high priest's vestments of office, which he wore, during his ministrations, above those prescribed for the common priests, were: the "me'il," a sleeveless, purple robe, the lower hem of which was fringed with small golden bells alternating with pomegranate tassels in violet, red, purple, and scarlet; the Ephod, with two onyx-stones on the shoulder-piece, on which were engraved the names of the tribes of Israel; the breastplate ("ḥoshen"), with twelve gems, each engraved with the name of one of the tribes; a pouch in which he probably carried the Urim and Thummim. His Head-Dress was a tiara, or, perhaps, a peculiarly wound turban, with a peak, the front of which bore a gold plate with the inscription "Holy unto God." His girdle seems to have been of more precious material than that of the common priests.

The first consecration was performed by Moses; the Bible does not state who consecrated subsequent high priests. Lev. xxi. 10 states emphatically that every new high priest shall be anointed; and Ex. xxix. 29 et seq. commands that the official garments worn by his predecessor shall be worn by the new incumbent while he is anointed and during the seven days of his consecration (comp. Num. xx. 28; Ps. cxxxiii. 2).

Sanctity and Functions.

The distinguished rank of the high priest is apparent from the fact that his sins are regarded as belonging also to the people (Lev. iv. 3, 22). He was entrusted with the stewardship of the Urim and Thummim (Num. xxvii. 20 et seq.).

On the Day of Atonement he alone entered the Holy of Holies, to make atonement for his house and for the people (Lev. xvi.); on that occasion he wore white linen garments instead of his ordinary and more costly vestments. He alone could offer the sacrifices for the sins of the priests, or of the people, or of himself (Lev. iv.); and only he could officiate at the sacrifices following his own or another priest's consecration (Lev. ix.). He also offered a meal- offering every morning and evening for himself and the whole body of the priesthood (Lev. vi. 14-15, though the wording of the law is not altogether definite).

Powers

The Great Sanhedrin alone had the right to appoint, or confirm the appointment of, the high priest. His consecration might take place only in the day-time. Two high priests must not be appointed together. Every high priest had a "mishneh" (a second) called the Segan, or "memunneh," to stand at his right; another assistant was the "catholicos"("Yad," l.c. 16-17). The right of succession was in the direct, or, the direct failing, the collateral, line, provided the conditions concerning physical fitness were fulfilled (ib. 20; Ket. 103b; Sifra, Ḳedoshim). For offenses which entailed flagellation the high priest could be sentenced by a court of three; after submitting to the penalty he could resume his office ("Yad," l.c. 22).

The high priest was expected to be superior to all other priests in physique, in wisdom, in dignity, and in material wealth; if he was poor his brother priests contributed to make him rich (Yoma 18a; "Yad," l.c. v. 1); but none of these conditions was indispensable. The high priest was required to be mindful of his honor. He might not mingle with the common people, nor permit himself to be seen disrobed, or in a public bath, etc.; but he might invite others to bathe with him (Tosef., Sanh. iv.; "Yad," l.c. v. 3). He might not participate in a public banquet, but he might pay a visit of consolation to mourners, though even then his dignity was guarded by prescribed etiquette (Sanh. 18-19; "Yad," l.c. v. 4).

Restrictions

The high priest might not follow the bier of one in his own family who had died, nor leave the Temple or his house during the time of mourning. The people visited him to offer consolation; in receiving them, the Segan was at his right, the next in rank and the people at his left. The people said: "We are thy atonement." He answered: "Be ye blessed from heaven" ("Yad," l.c. v. 5; and Mishneh Kesef, ad loc.). During the offering of consolation he sat on a stool, the people on the floor; he rent his garments, not from above, but from below, near the feet, the penalty for rending them from above being flagellation (Semag, Lawin, 61-62). He could not permit his hair to be disheveled, nor could he cut it ("Yad," l.c. v. 6). He had one house attached to the Temple (Mid. 71b), and another in the city of Jerusalem. His honor required that he should spend most of his time in the Sanctuary ("Yad," l.c. v. 7). The high priest was subject to the jurisdiction of the courts, but if accused of a crime entailing capital punishment he was tried by the Great Sanhedrin; he could, however, refuse to give testimony (Sanh. 18).

The high priest must be married; to guard against contingencies it was proposed to hold a second wife in readiness immediately before the Day of Atonement (Yoma i. 1); but polygamy on his part was not encouraged ( = "one wife"; Yoma 13a; "Yad," l.c. v. 10). He could give the "ḥaliẓah," and it could be given to his widow, as she also was subject to the Levirate; his divorced wife could marry again (l.c.; Sanh. 18). When entering the Temple ("Hekal") he was supported to the curtain by three men (Tamid 67a; this may perhaps have reference to his entering the Holy of Holies; but see "Yad," l.c. v. 11, and the Mishneh Kesef ad loc.). He could take part in the service whenever he desired ("Yad," l.c. v. 12; Yoma i. 2; Tamid 67b; see Rashi ad loc.). On the Day of Atonement he wore white garments only, while on other occasions he wore his golden vestments (Yoma 60a; comp. 68b, ). The seven days preceding the Day of Atonement were devoted to preparing for his high function, precautions being taken to prevent any accident that might render him Levitically impure (Yoma i. 1 et seq.). The ceremonial for that day is described in detail in Mishnah Yoma.

Political Aspects.

Ecclus. (Sirach) l. is another evidence of the great reverence in which the high priest was held. The assumption of the princely authority by the Maccabean high priests (the Hasmoneans) was merely the final link in this development, which, beginning with the death of Zerubbabel, was to combine the two ideals, the politico-Messianic and the religio- Levitical, in one office. But after the brief heyday of national independence had come to an inglorious close, the high-priesthood changed again in character, in so far as it ceased to be a hereditary and a life office. High priests were appointed and removed with great frequency (see above). This may account for the otherwise strange use of the title in the plural (ἀρχιερεῖς) in the New Testament and in Josephus ("Vita," 38; "B. J." ii. 12, 6; iv. 3, 7, 9; iv. 4, 3). The deposed high priests seem to have retained the title, and to have continued to exercise certain functions; the ministration on the Day of Atonement, however, may have been reserved for the actual incumbent. This, however, is not clear; Hor. iii. 1-4 mentions as distinctive the exclusive sacrifice of a bull by the high priest on the Day of Atonement and the tenth of the ephah (that is, the twelve "ḥallot"; comp. Meg. i. 9; Macc. ii. 6). But even in the latest periods the office was restricted to a few families of great distinction.


External Links The Jewish priesthood (http://shamash.org/lists/scj-faq/HTML/faq/09-01)

Judaism after the end of sacrifices in the Temple (http://shamash.org/lists/scj-faq/HTML/faq/11-index)



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