Thursday, September 25, 2008

Kohen takes Precedence, even after Ressurection - Gittin 59

It is written [Vayikra 21:8]: You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. And it was taught in the Beis Medrash of Rabbi Yishmael: You shall sanctify him teaches us that in all matters pertaining to holiness, the Kohen takes precedence. He should be the first one called to read the Torah. He should be the first to recite the blessing by a meal. He takes the first portion (if he is dividing something with a Yisroel, the Kohen has the right to choose the first portion).

The Gemora in Megillah records the following incident: Rabbah and Rabbi Zeira ate the Purim meal together. They became intoxicated. Rabbah got up and slaughtered Rabbi Zeira. On the following day, Rabbah pleaded for mercy and he revived Rabbi Zeira. On the next year, Rabbah invited Rabbi Zeira to eat with him. Rabbi Zeira replied: A miracle does not occur at all times.

The Kli Chemda at the end of Parshas Breishis cites a kuntrus called Over Oreach. In this sefer, a question is asked: The Gemora Brochos (46a) records an incident where Rabbi Avahu honored Rabbi Zeira to recite the blessing and cut the bread. The Rashba asks that this is inconsistent with the halachah which states that this honor should be reserved for the host. The Rashba answers: since the meal was on behalf of Rabbi Zeira (he had recovered from a sickness), Rabbi Zeira was considered the host. Why didn’t the Rashba answer that Rabbi Zeira was a Kohen (Yerushalmi Brochos 8:6)? He answers that since this incident happened after the episode of Rabbah with Rabbi Zeira mentioned in Megillah (Rabbah slew him and the following day revived him), Rabbi Zeira lost his sanctity of being a Kohen and did not merit the right of this honor.

The Kli Chemda is greatly perplexed by this answer. Every Kohen is considered a Kohen because his father was a Kohen. It is obvious that he did not lose his relations with his relatives because he dies, so why shouldn’t he be a Kohen? (Rabbi Chaim Berlin cites a Gemora in Sanhedrin, proving that the Kehunah remains even after resurrection.) Perhaps he would have required a new inauguration to serve in the Beis Hamikdosh but he definitely did not lose the status of being a Kohen. He cites proof from the story with Elisha that one does not relinquish his relations with his relatives after he dies.

(Look at the Ramban in the beginning of Parshas Emor, where he writes that a Kohen has certain halachos because he is a descendant of Aharon HaKohen and other halachos are because he is a Kohen himself.)

After his resurrection, would he be required to marry his wife again? Reb Elchonon Wasserman discusses the status of the wife of Eliyahu after he ascended to Heaven without dying.