Please do not forget to consult a trusted Talmid Chacham prior to following something written on this website. This is especially important for matters such as marriage and divorce. The opinions and halachic ruling of Rabbi Yitzchok Berkowitz and Rabbi Michael Taubes do not necessarily reflect those of KohenLevi.org
- Rabbi Yiztchok Berkowitz: Psak of Rav Moshe
The Magen Avraham along with many other poskim clearly says that the minhag haolam is that fully observant Jews have not been careful (at least since the 1600s) to treat people who claim to be Kohanim with kedima (going first and the-like) because they lack yichus.
The Magen Avraham taught that minhagim should be respected. In the case of the blessing of "giving strength to the weary" he writes that one does not undo an old custom, and believed that opponents like Rabbi Yosef Karo likely repented of changing minhag at the end of his life.The Magen Avraham was giving a valid reason for the accepted minhag, he was not challenging it. (46:6)Sources: "Magen Avraham סי"רא ס"ק ד מובא גם במ"ב שם ס"ק יג", "Nishmat Avraham, Yoreh Deah 252:2, The Yavetz, מגדל עוז, אבן בוחן, פנה א ס"ק פט, Yaakov Eden, Op. cit., part 1:89. “Tiferet Yisreol - Yevukash Da’at” 39. “Rivosh 94", “Mahrashdam E.H. 235, "Rambam’s Commentary to Mishna” Horiyos 3:8, "Beis Ephraim 6". "Halacha Hotline of 5 Towns", Rav Binyomin Forst Shlita of the 5 Towns and Far Rockaway (says not to give Kohen preference for charity or first portion at a meal etc). Rabbi Yaakov Klass- Jewish Press
It is highly recommended that you listen to or download the shiur above
Why is a Kohen not give priority status in our times? Mishna Berura & Shulchan Aruch
You can download or read the full sforim below in pdf format by clicking on their respective images.
Source 1: Medicine and Jewish Law, Volume 1 chapter 5, 1993) (Author: Fred Rosner, Talmid of Rav Moshe Feinstein). Nishmat Avraham, Volume 2, Yoreh Deah 252:2.
The Maharashal (Solomon Luria, 1510-1573) declared in his famous work Yam Shel Shlomo that Kohanim and Leviem today have become "mixed-up" and lost due to our long exile; a seemingly endless history muddled with chaos, re-settlement and tragedy.
Unlike, a Yisroel that can convert to Judaism if there is any sort of doubt regarding what he is, one cannot convert to be a Kohen or Levi in a case were there is a doubt.
The Maharshal was one of the latest Rishonim, the leading ashkenazic posek of his generation and has been brought down countless times by modern Gedolim. The following halachic rulings come from the most authoritative Rishonim and Achronim in Jewish history (such as the Magen Avrohom and Yakov Emden). Such rulings are not mere minority opinions. In fact, every orthodox community today relies on these rulings to a certain degree. Communities and individuals differ with regards to extent.
Why make this website?
For a long time there has been confusion regarding Hilchos Kohanim, particularly regarding the issue of Honoring Kohanim and marriage and divorce. When do we honor a Kohen and when do we not? Why do we not give a Kohen priority when giving tzedaka or when saving a life in a hospital yet we do give him priority in the receiving the first alliya? We see as far back to the 1600s in the Magen Avraham and later in the Mishna Berura that the Minhag HaOlam was that people were not granting Kohanim precedence for nearly all things due to a lack of yichos (pedigree) of modern-day Kohanim. Is there a difference between what one is obligated to do on an halachic level and what is voluntary to do regarding people who claim to be Kohanim today? Why is there so often a different answer when asking a Rabbi a theoretical question about Kohanim apposed to real-life cases? To answer these questions: after much thorough and objective research, this website has been created.
Sources: "Magen Avroham סי"רא ס"ק ד מובא גם במ"ב שם ס"ק יג", "Nishmat Avraham, Yoreh Deah 252:2, The Yavetz, מגדל עוז, אבן בוחן, פנה א ס"ק פט, Yaakov Eden, Op. cit., part 1:89. “Tiferet Yisreol - Yevukash Da’at” 39. “Rivosh 94", “Mahrashdam E.H. 235, "Rambam’s Commentary to Mishna” Horiyos 3:8, "Beis Ephraim 6". "Halacha Hotline of 5 Towns", Rav Binyomin Forst Shlita of the 5 Towns and Far Rockaway (says not to give Kohen preference for charity or first portion at a meal etc).
"Kohanim today do not have the yichos which they had during the days of the Beit Hamikdash. Nor do Kohanim have today the yichos which they had after the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash during the times of the Tannaim and Amoraim. Due to our long exile, the Kohanim and Leviem have without a doubt become mixed up amongst the people. Our divorce'es have become mixed up amongst the people- and it should only be that the seed of the holy should not become mixed up with the seed of the secular. However, the seed of the Kohanim and Leviem- if not all of them have become mixed up then most of them have become mixed up. If not most of them have become mixed up then half of them have become mixed up." "We do not give challa to a even a child Kohein, let alone an adult Kohein, because they do not have yichos and we do not know if they are true Kohanim."
1) Nearly all of the Kohanim and Leviem have become mixed-up (נתבלבלו) and no one knows who they are.
2) A chezkas kehuna cannot override a chezkas mamon. There is a kal vechomor for more important cases. Therefor.....
3) When we do treat people who claim to be Kohanim today as Kohanim, this is only done when no significant loss is involved.