SALT - Tuesday, 28 Adar I 5776 - March 8, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            Yesterday, we noted the question posed by the Or Samei’ach (Hilkhot Kelei Ha-mikdash 5:16) regarding the special status of the kohen gadol.  As we read in Parashat Tetzaveh and Parashat Pekudei, there were four special garments worn by all kohanim – including the kohen gadol – and then an additional four garments worn exclusively by the kohen gadol.  Seemingly, this indicates that the kohen gadol is, fundamentally, the same as ordinary kohanim, though he is given additional responsibilities and privileges.  According to this perspective, the status of the kohen gadol is merely an expansion of the status of ordinary kohanim.  Alternatively, however, we might view the kohen gadol as something else entirely.  His status is not an extension of the status of standard kohanim, but rather a fundamentally different status of kedusha.  As we saw, the Or Samei’ach suggested that this question underlies the debate recorded in the Gemara (Yoma 12a, Chulin 138a) as to whether the kohen gadol wears the same kind of belt as the belt worn by other kohanim.  If the kohen gadol wears a different kind of belt, and thus even his four basic garments are not the same as those worn by ordinary kohanim, then we would be more inclined to view his status as something fundamentally different than that of the other kohanim.

            The Or Samei’ach discusses this issue in the context of the Rambam’s ruling (there in Hilkhot Kelei Ha-mikdash) concerning the case of a kohen who was appointed kohen gadol before he had ever performed the service in the Beit Ha-mikdash.  As the Rambam rules in the previous halakha, a kohen who performs the avoda (service in the Temple) for the first time must first offer a special mincha offering.  Likewise, a kohen who is appointed kohen gadol must offer this mincha offering before he begins functioning as kohen gadol.  In a case where a kohen is appointed kohen gadol before having ever performed the avoda, the Rambam rules that the kohen must offer two mincha offerings – one as his consecration to serve as an ordinary kohen, and a second as his consecration to serve as kohen gadol.  Significantly, the kohen must first be consecrated as an ordinary kohen before he can be consecrated as a kohen gadol.  This would certainly seem to suggest that the kohen gadol’s status is an extension of that of ordinary kohanim.  If we viewed the kohen gadol’s status as something completely different from that of an ordinary kohen, then, seemingly, there would be no need for the newly-appointed kohen gadol in this case to offer the first mincha sacrifice.  His ascent to the position of kohen gadol would not depend on his previous consecration as an ordinary kohen, and thus it should suffice to offer only the mincha whereby he is consecrated for the position of kohen gadol.

            Another possible ramification of this question, as noted by Rav Asher Weiss (Minchat Asher, Parashat Pekudei, p. 458), relates to an issue raised by the Panim Yafot (Parashat Tetzaveh) concerning the intent required when making the priestly garments.  The Rambam, in Hilkhot Beit Ha-bechira (1:20), rules that all the utensils and articles involved in the Beit Ha-mikdash must be made “li-shmah” – specifically for their purpose in the Mikdash.  If a given article was made for some other purpose, then even if it meets all the precise specifications outlined by the Torah, it may not be used.  The Panim Yafot thus raised the question of whether the kohen gadol’s garments must be made specifically with the kohen gadol in mind, or whether it suffices that they were made for the purpose of being worn by kohanim generally.  For example, if a ketonet (tunic) was made with the intention that it would be used by a regular kohen, is it suitable for the kohen gadol?  This may likely hinge on the question raised by the Or Samei’ach.  If we view the kohen gadol’s status of sanctity as an extension of that of ordinary kohanim, then it stands to reason that a ketonet made for an ordinary kohen would be suitable for the kohen gadol, since he wears it as a regular kohen.  If, however, we view the kohen gadol’s status as something separate and apart from that of regular kohanim, then we would likely require that all his garments – including the four basic garments which are also worn by regular kohanim – be made specifically for the purpose of the kohen gadol.