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Dear Mogen David Family,

The beginning of Parshat Emor outlines many of the laws of the Kohanim still relevant today. Kohanim, because of their heightened level of Kedusha may only [intentionally] come into contact with a corpse if the dead is one of their seven possible close relatives (father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter, spouse). 

The Parasha also lists the many mumin, blemishes, which disqualify a Kohen--even today, perhaps--from fulfilling the Mitzvah of Nessiat Kappayim/Birchat Kohanim. Yisraelim are also commanded to treat the Kohanim with extra Kavod, stemming from their Kedusha. The pasuk (21:8) tells us, "V'Kidashto," we must sanctify him, meaning we also must recognize the Kohanim and their special status.

Practically, Rashi writes, quoting the Gemara, that we must offer Kohanim the first portions at a meal; give him the first Aliyah by Kriat HaTorah; allow the Kohen to lead the Mezuman for Birchat HaMazon, etc... . Interestingly, the Gemara in Masechet Megilla daf 27b-28a writes that Rebbe Preida attributed his long life, amongst other reasons, to the fact that he never made a beracha [on the Torah, or for Birchat HaMazon] before a Kohen. This is a perplexing attribution, as we have seen, because the halacha states clearly that this is how one is supposed to act in deference to the Kohen.

How are we to explain this statement of Rebbe Preida?

The Gemara continues to explain--al pi din-- that a Talmid Chacham is really on a higher level than a Kohen, and really should be Oleh L'Torah even before a Kohen! What Rebbe Preida is teaching is that if a Kohen was in attendance who also was a Talmid Chacham, even if he wasn't on the same level as Rebbe Preida, he still deferred to the Kohen because of the Mitzvah of "V'kidashto." Rabbotai, there is no Kedusha or Kavod that could match Torah. May we continue to show the proper Kavod to both Kohanim and Talmidei Chachamim!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yehuda Moses Rav HaKehillah/Senior Rabbi

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