|May 11, 2012 / 19 Iyar, 5772
While being a Cohen today is certainly an honor, it does not have the same stature as it did in Biblical times. Leaders of the community, the Kohanim were granted many special privileges and honors.
But were the Kohanim holy by the mere fact that they were born into a Priestly family? Or did they have to attain holiness? Does just being born a Kohen make a person holy?
Rabbi Elazar Muskin points out that the great 19th Century Lithuanian commentator, The Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin believed that no Kohen is born holy. Instead, he became holy if his behavior demonstrated it. In other words, the Kohen could not regard himself as holy, he had to regard himself as obligated to be holy.
The Netziv proves his argument by quoting the haftorah read from the Book of Ezekiel in conjunction with our Torah portion, Emor.
The prophet maintains that after "the priests return from the sacrificial service Ö they must take off the clothes they wore during the sacrificial service and put on their clothes, and they will not imply holiness to the people by their clothes" (Ezekiel 44:19).
The Netziv explains that the Kohanim had to change to everyday clothing when they left the sanctuary and went out in public because they were not to impute holiness to themselves by wearing special garments. The prophet warns that if they attempt to look holy, rather than being truly holy, they desecrate rather than honor God. The custom of not looking at the Kohanim when they bless the congregation is part of the same idea. The blessing is not from them - it is from God. They are just transmitters, not originators of holiness.
This message still applies today. In this election year, can we elect men and women who are truly special leaders instead of elected officials who attempt to bring honor upon themselves through the positions they hold?
More than ever, we need leaders who are genuine, humble, and are truly empathetic to the needs of their constituents.
There still remains a difference between appearance and reality. Clothes didnít make the Kohen and an office doesnít make the leader. Only character creates true greatness.
This week's Haftarah commentary was written by Rabbi Brian Strauss of Congregation Beth Yeshurun in Houston, TX.
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|It's time for Build-A-Pair
The best way to teach about tefillin!
The "Build a Pair" Program is a comprehensive and fun learning program to introduce 5th, 6th or 7th graders to the joy and mitzvah of Tefillin in Jewish life.
Multiple components interplay to explore the religious significance, the construction of, and the practice of "laying" Tefillin.
A comprehensive education program with videos helps the religious school teach students the meaning of Tefillin in Jewish life and practice.
Students practice writing their Hebrew/Jewish names and the SHEMA (first line) to insert into pre-made wooden Tefillin boxes.
Students decorate the boxes in any creative way they wish, allowing for personal expression.
Students either compete or cooperate in writing a "wRAP" song to sing at a Big Event.
The Big Event can be the World Wide Wrap (WWW), sponsored by the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs (FJMC), held annually on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. The WWW program is designed to introduce and re-introduce Jewish men [and women] to the significance of "laying" Tefillin.
The "Build a Pair" student program attracts the parents to see their children in their model Tefillin sing the "wRap" songs, allowing two generations (or more!) to join in the mitzvah together, and to let the students' sing their "wRAP" song for an appreciative audience.
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