Previously, I mentioned the fact that if you are a Cohen you should avoid going to the cemetery. But who are Cohanim (the plural of Cohen) and why can’t they go to the cemetery?
Basically, back in the day, there were twelve tribes, one for each of the sons of Jacob from whom we all descend. But over the course of time all but 2 of the tribes got mixed into one lumped up category. There are Levites, those who descend from Jacob’s son Levi and Yisraels, those who descend from everybody else. Amongst Levites there are two groups, regular Levites and Cohanim; in the times of the temple in Jerusalem these families of Cohanim were the ones responsible for all the work that was done in the temple, they were the priestly tribe. Nowadays, the Cohanim bless the people on holidays (or in Israel, everyday) and get various other honors.
But why can’t they go to the cemetery? Because in order to do the work in the temple Cohanim could not come in contact with or be close to dead bodies, because God and the temple symbolize life, they needed to be pure from death to do the work. It was forbidden for a Cohen to intentionally come in contact with a dead body except under certain circumstance. These days, Cohanim are still careful to follow this rule.
So, why does this matter to you or me? Well, this relates to a very important concept that Judaism brings to the table, uniqueness. Each of us is unique and has our own special role and job to do, this is the theme of Cohanim. Cohanim are special, but no more special than the Levites of Yisraelim or any other tribe. Each us has a job to do and a special purpose.
Today’s Jewish mission is to figure out what tribe you come from and try to think about your uniqueness and your special role in the world.