Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Using a Kohen

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The Rambam rules that a Jewish servant who is a Kohen cannot become a nirtza, for he will be rendered a baal mum (a blemish, which will disqualify him from performing the Temple service).

The Mishnah La’melech asks that the Maggid Mishnah understands in the Rambam that there is no required amount for how large the piercing of the servant’s ear must be. If so, why can’t the Kohen servant become a nirtza, and they will pierce his ear in a manner which will not cause a blemish?

He answers based upon a Yerushalmi which says that we are concerned that they will forget and create a large hole, which will render him a baal mum.

The Sma”g writes that it is evident from our Gemora that it is permitted to have a Kohen work for you as a servant. He says that the prohibition is only when the Kohen is working for free; however, if he is receiving compensation for the work, it is permitted.

The Makneh asks: Accordingly, the Kohen servant should not be allowed to become a nirtza because then, he will be working for free!?

He answers based upon the Mordechai in Gittin, who says that the Kohen, if he so desires, can be mochel, and then it would be permitted for him to work for you.

The Mordechai (Gittin 461) relates that Rabbeinu Tam once instructed a Kohen to pour him some water. This caused one of his students to inquire as to how he could allow a Kohen to serve him, being that the Yerushalmi states that whoever uses a Kohen for his own needs is in violation of the prohibition of me’ilah (since the Kohen is sacred). Rabbeinu Tam's response was that the Kohen who served him in 12th century France was without the clothing of the Kohen and, therefore, not a Kohen (based upon the Gemora Sanhedrin 83b). The student persisted that if so, we shouldn’t give a Kohen the first aliyah. Rabbeinu Tam remained quiet. Rabbeinu Peter then suggested that a Kohen can voluntarily forfeit the respect due to him as a Kohen and, therefore, there was no problem with Rabbeinu Tam's use of him.

The Ta”z asks that the Kohen is not permitted to forfeit his kedushah and marry a divorcee!? What is the difference between the two?