Thereis a reason I am re-telling the “I want to be a Kohen” story again. A man came to the rabbi and said “I’ll pay $1,000 if you make me a Kohen.” You know what the rabbi said. The man came back and offered $2,000, and the rabbi said the same thing. The man offers to build a new wing on the shul, and the rabbi warms up and says, “Tell me why you want to be a Kohen”, and the man answers, “My grandfather was one, my father is one, and I want to be one!”
In last week’s parsha, Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron and the son of Elazar, had put an end to the devastating plague that had taken 24,000 lives. Recall that Pinchas zealously responded to the immoral act of Zimri and a Midianite princess by piercing them to death with a spear. As a reward, in 25:13 we see God telling Pinchas “It shall be for him [Pinchas] and his descendants after him a pact of priesthood for all time…”
We see genuine appreciation from God, but the issue is: Wasn’t Pinchas already a Kohen?
It is probably considered little more than a historical tidbit, but our commentators were piqued enough to address my query as to how history deviates from what we know to be a firm pattern. Rashi has no peer, and I would like to offer his explanation for your contemplation. It helps to read it a second time:
Although the kehunah [priesthood] had already been given to Aaron’s descendants, it was given solely to Aaron and his sons, who were anointed with him, and generations of their descendants who would be born after their anointment. Pinchas, however, who was born before and was not anointed, was not included in the kenunah until here.
In the same vein Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1164), known as simply Ibn Ezra, amplifies God bestowing eternal priesthood as a promise that the Kohanim Gedolim (Great Kohanim) would come from the line of Pinchas.
Thus, for all of our future Kohanim, including those in our community today, it is because of Pinchas standing up for our beliefs and way of life that we have the present-day system of Kohen and Levi.
For a most interesting view of present day Kohanim and Levim, I direct you to
Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham