The 32nd mitzvah is that we are commanded to exalt, honor, and elevate the descendants of Aaron [i.e., kohanim]; to treat them in a way of holiness and respect. Even if they refuse to accept it, one should not listen to them. All this is to honor G‑d (exalted be He), since He singled them out to serve Him and offer His sacrifices.

The source of this mitzvah is G‑d's statement,1 "You must keep him holy, since he presents the food-offering to G‑d."

Our Sages explained,2 "The word 'vikidashto' ('keep him holy') refers to every matter of holiness: he should be the first to read in the Torah; first to recite the blessing [after meals]; first to take the choicest portion."

The Sifra3 also says, "The word 'vikidashto' ('keep him holy') implies 'even against his will.' " This means that this commandment is given to us, and does not depend on the de­sire of the kohen.

The Sages also said,4 "The phrase,5 'they shall be holy unto their G‑d,' means even against their will. 'They must remain holy,' comes to include even those kohanim who have a blemish." We should not say, "Since he is not fit6 to 'present the food-offering to G‑d,' why should we give him special treatment and show him honor and respect?" The Torah there­fore said [the apparently redundant phrase], "they must remain holy" — to teach you that it applies to all from this distinguished lineage, whether blemished or blemish-free.

The proper conditions7 under which they must be honored are explained in various Talmudic passages: Makkos,8 Chullin,9 Bechoros,10 Shabbos,11 and others.