This week, we read פרשת אמור. It contains the special rules that apply to the Kohanim, and how they are to be treated.
In Temple times, they had a larger role to fulfill, as they were responsible for Temple service. They also needed to be available to receive their twenty-four gifts, as enumerated in the Torah. The most common gift was Teruma, where they received a portion of one’s harvest. They also received Bikurim, the first fruits, and others that were mainly related to sacrifices.
Technically, there are still animals, or parts of animals that belong to the Kohein today. The first born male Kosher animal belongs to him. Similarly, the זרוע לחיים וקיבה, the limbs, cheek bone, and parts of innards, also belong to the Kohein. These are not given as it involves issues of purity and impurity.
The one gift that a Kohein does receive today are the five silver coins he receives for Pidyon Haben. (I usually give them back as a gift to the first born baby.)
There are other laws that make being a Kohein, a special privilege. The Torah says, regarding a Kohein, וקדשתו, that he should be sanctified. He gets called to the Torah first, leads the Bircat Hamazon, and is supposed to be offered the first portion, when food is distributed.
In Israel, the Priestly blessing is recited 450 times. Outside of Israel, around ten times.
Because of the Kohein’s special spiritual role, he has other restrictions. To maintain his sanctity, he must not come in contact with the dead or visit cemeteries. He also has restrictions as to who he is allowed to marry.
Now that we know these details regarding the Kohein, special care needs to be taken to show respect for “the sons of Aaron.” And the Kohanim, themselves, should behave in a way that makes them worth of such respect.