A Kingdom of Priests
G-d called Moshe and spoke to him from the Appointed Tent, saying,
the Children of Israel that when any of them offer an animal to G-d, it
should be ei-ther from cattle, sheep, or goats." (Vayikra 1:1-2)
Having completed Sefer Shemos, we now begin Sefer Vayikra, otherwise known
as Toras Kohanim, since it deals with the priestly service inside the
Mishkan. The question is, why must the rest of us be privy to this
information as well? We're not kohanim, and so much of the service that is
recorded there will never be relevant to us, and the parts that are
relevant will be taught to us by the kohanim when the situation demands it.
The answer was recorded in a previous parshah:
" 'You will be a kingdom of priests to Me, a holy nation.' These are
words to tell Israel." (Shemos 19:6)
Thus, as it turns out, although the vast majority of Klal Yisroel are not
the officiating type of priests, we are, nevertheless, priests of G-d,
even as Levi'im and Yisroelim. Therefore, even though we may never be able
to actually carry out the service described therein, we have what to learn
from all of it, at least on a conceptual level.
Just to show how true this is, the Arizal taught:
A person must fulfill all 613 mitzvos. Any lacking is reflected in his
Nefesh according to the amount of mitzvos yet to be fulfilled. With
respect to the 248 Positive Mitzvos, there are five categories. The
Category One consists of those mitzvos which a person is prevented from
performing because they depend upon the existence of the Temple, such as
sacrifices and other similar mitzvos. There is no point in reincarnating
to perform such mitzvos as long as the Temple doesn't exist. Once the
Temple is re-built then he will fulfill them. The Category Two consists of
those mitzvos that a person can perform such as Tzitzis and Tefillin, etc.
If the person has yet to fulfill such mitzvos, he must return in a gilgul
even if it takes many times until he completes them all. However, if a
person has already fulfilled some mitzvos then it is enough that he
reincarnates to fulfill only those mitzvos which he lacks and never
fulfilled. When this is the case, it is also possible that he will sin and
come to commit many transgressions. The Category Three consists of those
mitzvos which a person is not obligated to perform unless the situation
arises to do so, such as taking tithes, or sending away the mother bird.
In general, there is no obligation to pursue such mitzvos, and
nevertheless, a person will have to reincarnate to fulfill them. However,
since he is reincarnating for the sake of such mitzvos, he will not come
to sin as in the case of Category Two. Category Four consists of a group
of mitzvos that cannot be performed unless G-d creates the necessary
circumstance, such as redeeming a first born son, or performing Yibum or
Chalitzah, or divorce. For, a man has no obligation to divorce his wife
unless she fails to find favor in his eyes (as it says in the Talmud):
Difficult is divorce . . . even the altar weeps (Gittin 90a). If such
mitzvos do not present themselves then he will not have to reincarnate to
perform them, but rather he will return b'sod ibur at the appropriate time
to fulfill them, after which he will leave the world immediately. However,
if he had the chance to perform such a mitzvah and didn't, then he will
have to reincarnate, though I did not learn from my teacher if he will be
prone to sin in such a gilgul . . . Category Five consists of mitzvos that
a person must try to perform, such as having children. This is the
severest category of all the types of mitzvos; it will not be enough for
someone who died without having children to simply reincarnate . . .
Category Six is the group of mitzvos such as learning Torah which is equal
to all of the mitzvos as it says, "the learning of Torah is equal to all
of them" (Pe'ah 1:1). There are four levels and the pneumonic is "PaRDeS":
Pshat (simple understanding), Remez (hint), Drush (exegetical), and Sod
(Secret). A person needs to toil in all of them to the extent that he can
seek out a teacher to educate him. If a person lacks one of these four
levels relative to what he could have achieved, then he will have to
reincarnate. A person must also fulfill all 613 mitzvos in action and in
speech, as Chazal say that one who is involved with the section dealing
with the Burnt-Offering is considered to be one who has not only offered
it, but toiled in it in thought as well. One who has not performed a
mitzvah on these three levels must reincarnate until all three levels have
been achieved. (Sha'ar HaGilgulim, Ch. 11)
So, even though physically-speaking you can't be a kohen unless your
father was one, you can and will have been one through reincarnation. You
may be a Levi or a Yisroel in this life, having been born to one, but your
soul, at some point in time, will have been born to a kohen, and you will
have done the avodah. Or, perhaps you already have done the avodah in some
"But," but you say, "Must I learn the laws of the priestly service in this
gilgul for another gilgul?"
Not necessarily. Although learning Torah in this world affects your soul
in eternal ways, and could prepare it for another station in life in
another gilgul, more than likely the intended effect is for THIS gilgul.
Therefore, it must be that even though we cannot function as real kohanim
in terms of the Temple service, we must be able to do so on some kind of
conceptual level. The question is now, what does it mean to be a kohen?
Death will be absorbed forever. (Yeshayahu 25:8)
One of the main aspects of being a kohen is taharah (ritual purity). As a
result, the kohen is limited in what he can do and where he can go in
order to maintain a level of spiritual purity, so that he can enter the
Temple grounds and participate in the service whenever necessary.
This is obvious, but what is less so obvious is what remaining tahor
really means. To answer this question, we have to first appreciate where
and when spiritual impurity entered the picture, and that was after the
eating from the Aitz HaDa'as Tov v'Rah (the Tree of Knowledge of Good and
Evil). Since death came into the world as a result of eating from the
tree, tuma (ritual impurity), came into the world as well, since there is
no greater source of tuma than death itself.
What is unique about death that it should be such a source of ritual
impurity? The essence of death is the removal of the soul from the body,
which is completely pure, which results in tuma. However, is this a new
state, or an existing one that the pure soul was able to overcome while
attached to the body? In other words, does the removal of the soul simply
allow the body to return back to its former state of impurity, or does the
body achieve this state for the first time because the soul was once
there, but left it? And if the latter, what changed?
It is the latter, and what changed has to do with the Chitzonim,
literally "externalities," the technical Kabbalistic term for that which
exists in Creation to act as the source of spiritual impurity. More
precisely, their job is to block the light of G-d from man, or at least
give the impression that this is being done, so that man can choose to
deny the reality of G-d. And, wherever there is an absence of belief in G-
d, there is tuma (spiritual impurity).
However, like all evil in Creation, the Chitzonim have no independent
existence of their own, but rather they feed off Kedushah, for there is no
real "source" of evil, as the Arizal explains:
We have already mentioned that as a result of the sin of Kayin and Hevel,
the Neshamos became mixed together in the K'lipos (another name for the
Chitzonim) and this is called, "the mixture of good and evil." From that
time onward, the souls have been undergoing a process of "separation"
(birrur) from within the K'lipos, just as silver is smelted from waste.
This process will continue until all the souls that fell into the 248
Limbs of Adam HaBli'al (the name of the entire complement of sefiros on
the side of impurity, and another name for the K'lipos), are separated out
from the full length of its being, which is until the bottom of Adam
d'Kedushah which overlaps with the legs of Adam d'K'lipah. This is hinted
to in the Zohar (Pekudei): Until the legs reach the legs, as it is
written, "His feet will stand On that day" (Zechariah 14:4). Once the
separation of all the souls has been completed, Adam d'K'lipah, the
spiritual "refuse" which is only removed through deeds, will collapse on
its own and be absorbed to the point of "bal yira'eh" and "bal yimatzeh"
(these terms refer to the law of Pesach to rid oneself completely of all
Chometz, which symbolizes the K'lipos, to the point it will "not be seen"
and "not be found"). For, holiness is the life that results from
separating from spiritual impurity called "death." Therefore, they will no
longer have any life and will disappear like smoke, as it says, "Death
will be absorbed forever" (Yeshayahu 25:8), but not until all of the souls
are separated out. (Sha'ar HaGilgulim, Ch. 20)
Thus, we see that the Chitzonim "feed off" of Kedushah. And, there is
nothing more kadosh in this world than a soul, to such an extent that even
after the soul has left a person, a residual kedushah remains behind in
the dead body, drawing the Chitzonim to it like bees to honey (Ohr
HaChaim). This is the source of tuma, and this can happen through death,
or even partial death, which is why there are varying degrees of tuma,
even for living people.
For, even if the soul only partially leaves a body, perhaps only
temporarily as it does as a result of a sin, this is an aspect of death
and a cause of tuma. For, life is about keeping the body and soul tightly
united, so that the soul can elevate the body and bring to it eternal
life, symbolized by the idea of Kesones Ohr, "Clothing of Light." Illness
and death, on the other hand, are the result of the soul moving away from
the body, allowing it to become so physical it can actually decay.
Thus, if a person sins, and causes his soul to detach even a little from
his body, the Chitzonim will zoom in on that void to become nourished from
the residual kedushah that was once there. And, after this happens, the
impact on the person is profound, and teshuvah becomes essential, although
not easy. Thus, the entire Torah and its mitzvos are the instructions and
the means to keep the soul and body together as long as possible to ward
off partial death, and worst, tuma as a result of it.
They will go out and see the corpses of the men who rebelled against
This is what it means to be a Mamleches Kohanim (Kingdom of Priests). It
means to be committed to a lifestyle that maintains the connection between
body and soul to the best of one's ability. This is what the Torah is
affording to the Jew, between what we are commanded to eat or not to eat,
to what we are commanded to do, or not do.
This is the basis of a sin, that which loosens the connection between the
soul and its vessel, resulting in a void that leaves residual kedushah for
the K'lipos that feed off it and become stronger, and then turn against
those who would seek to destroy it. The holier the soul, the more
spiritually powerful the soul, the greater the impact of the sin is on the
K'lipos and the world.
It's like a relationship between two people. There are many things that
people can do to one another, but there are only certain things that draw
people closer to them. People with chayn are like magnets for other
people; self-centered and selfish people repel others. And, some things
attract some people but repel others, and vice-versa. Likewise is this so
between body and soul.
And, once the soul feels repulsed by the body, it moves "away," and its
spiritual impact can no longer be felt. As a result, spiritual sensitivity
is lessened, and the person becomes less repulsed by actions not
sanctioned by Torah. If they keep going in that direction, eventually they
will become disgusted by that which the Torah does command.
No longer inhibited, they think they have simply "woken up" to a more
modern way of life, when in fact what they have done is fallen into a
sleep regarding the holier way of life. Sinning pains their soul, but not
their body, for their pain numbs the soul and distances the body from the
soul. They have become a spiritual feeding ground for the Chitzonim, the
Observing Pesach once a year is supposed to safeguard the Jewish people
against such damaging situations. It is supposed to remind us that we are
meant to be a Kingdom of Priests, which means doing that which maintains
and strengthens the bond between body and soul. Matzah may look quite
plain according to the standards of this world, but it is extremely holy
by the standards of the World-to-Come.
They got up early the next day and brought burnt-offerings and peace-
offerings. The people sat down to eat and to drink, and were licentious.
That is why it is no coincidence that these parshios occur at this time of
year, just as we ready ourselves for the liberating impact of Pesach.
Freedom is a popular word throughout history, and many have died to attain
or preserve it, but few have ever really understood it. For the Jew, it
lies in understanding and attaining the status of Mamleches Kohanim.
What we fail to understand is that if the body wins, the soul never
acquiesces; it just drowns in its sorrow. However, if the soul wins, then
the body becomes elevated above the mundane physical world, and becomes
more like a soul. Eventually, the body will look more like a soul than
like a body, and it will be able to live like one, even defying gravity as
in the period of Techiyas HaMeisim (Resurrection of the Dead). This was
the level of Adam HaRishon before the sin, the level of Kesones Ohr,
The removal of all "extraneous" ingredients from the matzah symbolizes,
according to the Maharal, the simplicity of Olam HaBah (the World-to-
Come). And although poverty is generally considered inhibiting and
negative, in this case, explains the Maharal, it represents freedom from
the trappings of this world. A poor person has little to tie him down in
one place or another, little to worry about from day-to-day, except for
his own survival.
Pharaoh's name represented the essence of an Egyptian lifestyle from which
we were meant to break away. It means "licentiousness," as in the kind
that was celebrated by the Erev Rav after the golden calf emerged from the
furnace amidst the rebellion against G-d. It is a life designed to push
the soul away from the body as much as possible without actually killing
Indeed, that is the religion of the Erev Rav - licentiousness. They may
disguise their intention in fancy terms that make it seem as if they are
doing their business for the sake of Heaven, but the bottom line is that
their "new world order" is meant to eradicate devotion to G-d, a theme
that has echoed throughout the millennia, going back all the way to Midgal
Bavel (the Tower of Bavel).
The Erev Rav is not only about "chometz," they ARE "chometz." It is their
goal to draw Jewish "stragglers" away from the idea of Mamleches Kohanim.
Sefer Vayikra is not only unimportant to them, it is sacrilege to their
philosophical approach to life. If anything is the anti-thesis of their
philosophy of life, it is holiness, the pursuit of which, they will argue,
has led to more wars in the course of human history than anything else.
Only the wise man knows that the concept of holiness has become so
convoluted, that so much has been perpetrated in the Name of G-d! More
chometz! You can just hear the Chitzonim laughing to themselves. You can
just hear them feasting on the sins of mankind, growing stronger until
truth disappears from the world, and falsehood and immorality rules.
Had we been the Kingdom of Priests we were freed from Egypt to become,
this would never have happened. Should we work on becoming a Kingdom of
Priests, the "chometz" of our time will become lessened and weakened. We
were destined to become one, and eventually the only question remains:
Will we coronate ourselves, or will G-d have to do it His way?
Have a great and holy Shabbos,
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.