This week’s haftorah projects to us the service of the kohanim (priests) in the Messianic Era. The prophet Yechezkel draws our attention to the priestly garb of the kohanim and their specific regulations. He speaks about the kohanim’s restrictions from drinking wine and shaving their head and makes mention of their prohibition to marry certain women. At first glance these details seem to be a perfect repetition of those in our sidra. However a more careful look reveals to us a shocking dimension about the era of Mashiach and the elevated status of the kohanim during those times. In essence it seems that the ordinary kohanim in the time of Mashiach will parallel the Kohain Gadol (High Priest) of earlier times. (See the comments of the Radak, Abravanel and Malbim throughout the haftorah.) The kohain of the future will have similar restrictions and regulations to those of the Kohain Gadol as set forth in this week’s sidra. The overall status of the Jewish people will be elevated to such a magnitude that even the ordinary kohain will assume levels of purity and sanctity equal to the most dignified and sanctified person of earlier times.
It is for this reason that the prophet draws our focus to the priestly garb. He restricts their garb while serving in the Bais Hamikdash to be those made exclusively of linen rather than the customary complex woolen structure of earlier times. In addition he forbids them from walking outside of the Bais Hamikdash with their priestly garb thereby restricting any mundane contact to the garb. Unlike the general freedom allowed to the earlier kohanim, those in the Messianic era will be restricted to the very specific hair length of the Kohain Gadol – not too long and not too short. The kohanim will even be forbidden to marry a widow, and permitted to marry only a virgin. All of these regulations render the future kohanim tantamount to the earlier Kohain Gadol. In fact, many of these specifications had been previously reserved for the Kohain Gadol during his elevated Yom Kippur service. The conclusion we draw from all this is that even daily Temple service in the Messianic era will be on par with the Yom Kippur service of earlier generations. The earlier experience of the Kohain Gadol on the holiest of all days while performing his service in the Holy of Holies will eventually become commonplace in the times of Mashiach.
In order to appreciate and digest this overwhelming discovery it is important to understand the inner workings of the Kohain Gadol. In this week’s sidra, the Torah gives us the reason for the elevated status of the Kohain Gadol. After listing his specific restrictions the Torah states (Vayikra 21:12) “And he should not leave the Mikdash so as not to profane the sanctity of Hashem because the crown of Hashem is upon the Kohain Gadol’s head.” The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzva 270) explains to us this concept of “the crown of Hashem”. He reflects the opinion of the Rambam (see Hilchos Klei Hamikdash 5:7) that the Kohain Gadol was required to remain in his designated chamber in the Bais Hamikdash throughout the entire day of service. In addition the Rambam notes that the nightly living quarters of the Kohain Gadol were restricted to Yerushalayim proper and he was actually forbidden under all circumstances to leave the Holy City. This constant and indescribable focus on Hashem and His service produced the supreme sanctity of the Kohain Gadol. The Chinuch says, “Although the Kohain Gadol was human he was designated to be holy of holies. His soul dwelled amongst the angels for his soul cleaved to Hashem and the Kohain Gadol was totally detached from mundane interests and concerns.” The Chinuch views the elevated status of the Kohain Gadol’s sanctity as a product of his total immersion in the service of Hashem. His perfect surroundings together with his constant focus on the sacrifices and his continuous awareness of the presence of Hashem produced the holiest man on earth. The Kohain Gadol’s elevated life-style was restricted to one of perfect sanctity because his entire interest and focus was reserved to purity and sanctity.
We can now begin to absorb the sanctity of the ordinary kohain during the Messianic era. In general the focus of the entire world will be one of sanctity. The prophet Yeshaya (11:9) speaks of the illustrious era of Mashiach in the following terms, “And the land will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem.” The Rambam (Hilchos M’lochim 12:5) elaborates upon this and states, “And in this time there will be no jealousy or quarrel… and the preoccupation of all will be ‘to know Hashem’…and the Jewish people will be great scholars who will understand Hashem to the maximum human capacity.” It stands to reason that if this will be the elevated level of the ordinary Jew, how much greater will be the level of the kohain who is privileged to serve Hashem in His presence?! Their indescribable understanding of Hashem together with their direct and constant contact with Hashem will truly yield the sanctity of “Holy of Holies” tantamount to the earlier Kohain Gadol who shared this similar status once a year on the holiest of all days, Yom Kippur. May we soon merit these elevated levels of sanctity, so sorely needed in our times.