Haftarah for Emor

The Kohanim, descendants of Tzadok, who remained true while the rest of the nation was straying, will serve in all priestly functions and matters of holiness.

The priests are to wear linen vestments when they serve in the inner court; they are not permitted to wear wool. They must gird themselves in a place that does not sweat, which is why their belts were worn rather high. When they go to the outer court, they are to change clothes and not mingle with others in their priestly garments. They must keep their hair neatly trimmed, neither shaved nor too long. The priests may not drink wine before performing their service in the inner court. They may not marry divorcees or women widowed from Israelites, only Israelite virgins or the widows of other Kohanim.

The Kohanim are to instruct the people in religious matters, teaching them to differentiate between holy and profane and between pure and impure. They shall serve on courts to judge financial disputes and, of course, they are responsible for the sacrifices of Sabbath and holidays. The kohanim may not become impure for a corpse, except to bury a parent, sibling or child. ("Wife" is not listed here, as a kohein is permitted but not required to do so.) The kohanim have received the priesthood as their inheritance, rather than real estate. They get to eat certain sacrifices and gifts as their payment. While they may eat many things that others may not, they may not eat non-kosher animals, so they must be careful in performing sacrifices not to do anything to render them unfit.

You will notice that many of the rules for kohanim outlined in this chapter are more stringent than the way we know them to be (for example, that a kohein may not marry the widow of an Israelite, which according to the Torah he may). In fact, the rules in this chapter more closely approach those of the High Priest. The Radak says that this reflects the greater spirituality in the third Temple.

Excerpted from The OU's Nach Yomi