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A Call to the Priest

A Call to the Priest

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In the Parsha of Tetzaveh we read how the Priests ("Kohanim") were consecrated to serve in the Sanctuary. The Priests were selected by G‑d to fill a sacred position, requiring them to be on a higher level of holiness than the rest of the people. But over and above them, there was to be the High Priest ("Kohen Gadol") who occupied a position of even greater sanctity.

With regard to the High Priest's needs, the Torah specifically commands his brother priests to support and elevate him. This is somewhat surprising; it would seem that the Torah should exhort all Israel, the plain person as well as the kohen, to lend their support to the High Priest. But here a strange phenomenon becomes evident: When it comes to helping the High Priest, the righteous, you would think that our religious functionaries, etc., would be the first to lend their assistance. If anyone would need persuasion -- it would surely be the plain folk.

In fact, however, the reverse is true. The ordinary person needs no command. The fundraiser approaches him: "Listen, the High Priest is in need of support. Would you like to participate in this mitzvah? Would you see that all your friends and acquaintances also participate?" It will never occur to the ordinary person to run to the rabbi and inquire what is written about this in the Code of Torah-Law.

Quite the contrary; he will be afraid that he might lose the precious opportunity, the mitzvah of participating in aiding the great High Priest. The simple man knows that G‑d does not desert the righteous, so the High Priest will surely receive all his needs from the Almighty ultimately. But G‑d might "channel" His benevolence through another and he might lose out on the mitzvah. Consequently, he grasps the opportunity, gives as much as he is able, and influences others to participate -- so that the support and elevation of the High Priest should come about through his efforts.

When a "priest" is approached, however, the response might be somewhat different: "Why are you approaching me? I am a kohen, not an ordinary person; I know what my duties are; give this mitzvah opportunity to others." Or he might say: "Are you asking me to get involved with supporting the High Priest? Don't you know that I bear the responsibility for performing the service in the Sanctuary? Ask the High Priest himself, he'll tell you what's more important. If I get involved with supporting the High Priest the entire Sanctuary service might collapse! What the code of Jewish precepts and the Torah-law authorities say about this must be thoroughly investigated."

The Torah forewarns this attitude by expressly commanding the priests, the functionaries, to support and to raise up the High Priest (and sometimes, even the Torah's urging doesn't help!).1

Footnotes
1.
Adapted from Likuttei Sichos, Vol. V, p. 295. See Talmud Yoma 19a.
Rabbi Yitschak Meir Kagan was associate director of the Lubavitch Foundation in Michigan. An innovative educator and author, he compiled A Thought for the Week adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Rabbi Kagan taught chassidic philosophy at various universities in Michigan, untill his tragic passing in a car accident in 2001.
From A Thought for the Week, reprinted with permission of Lubavitch of Michigan.
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