Kenneth Cohen

Special Laws For the Kohein and Levi

After establishing that Aharon was the one designated to serve as the Kohein Hagadol, the Torah listed some of the laws connected with the Kohanim and Leviim.

Both the Kohanim and Leviim were given the responsibility of guarding the Temple. They were to make sure that its sanctity was not compromised. There was nightly guard duty surrounding all of the entrances to the Temple. The Kohanim were on the inside, and the Leviim on the outside.

There was another commandment that the Kohanim should not do the work of the Leviim, and the Leviim were not to do the work of the Kohanim. Each one’s role, needed to be respected.

There was another negative commandment that forbade a non-Kohein for taking part in Temple service. This was related to maintaining the sanctity of the Temple.
There were also special gifts reserved for the Kohanim and Leviim. The Kohein was given the task of Pidyon Haben. He was entitled to keep the five silver coins necessary to redeem the first born. The major gift given to the Levite was Maaser Rishon, or the first tithe. They received ten percent of the produce of the fields of all of Israel. This was their major source of sustenance, as the Leviim were generally considered poor.
All of these laws mentioned, are found in the latter part of Parshat Korach. This was a clear indication of the special role of the Kohein and Levi. Someone once said that the very slogan written on some police cars, described the Kohein and Levi, with the simple words, “to protect and to serve.”

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at