Torah Study: Tetzaveh 2018: Coming to terms with the inherited Priestly caste system in the Torah

In this week’s Torah portion, for the first time in the Torah, we are faced with a social structure that includes a hereditary elite within the Jewish people: Aaron and his male descendants, the priestly caste. “Modern Judaism has a problem with the priesthood. The notion of hereditary holiness—that one segment of the Jewish people is set apart from others, given ceremonial privileges, and invited to bless the people—conflicts with our egalitarian ethos.” (Daniel Nevins, JTS).

It turns out that the rabbis of the Talmud, whose discussions over the course of hundreds of years during which Judaism went from being a religion centered on the Temple to one centered on legal scholarship, also had a hard time embracing the very idea of an inherited dynastic social order of elites.

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