December 27, 2004

First Born

From last week's Parsha:

Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them. And Israel said unto Joseph: 'I had not thought to see thy face; and, lo, God hath let me see thy seed also.' And Joseph brought them out from between his knees; and he fell down on his face to the earth. And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and brought them near unto him. And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the first-born. And he blessed Joseph, and said: 'The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God who hath been my shepherd all my life long unto this day, the angel who hath redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named in them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.' And when Joseph saw that his father was laying his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head. And Joseph said unto his father: 'Not so, my father, for this is the first-born; put thy right hand upon his head.' And his father refused, and said: 'I know it, my son, I know it; he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; howbeit his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.' And he blessed them that day, saying: 'By thee shall Israel bless, saying: God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh.' And he set Ephraim before Manasseh.

Judaism seems to place great value on the "First Born." But is this really the case?

Let's think about this. In history: Abraham was not the first born, Isaac was not the first born, Jacob was not the first born, Levi and Judah were not the first born, Moses was not the first born, David was not the first born, Solomon was not the first born.

The first born of every family was supossed to serve in the Temple ala Samuel, but G-d appointed the Sons of Aaron due to the sin of the Golden Calf.

I once had Shabbat with a convert. This person went on and on about how amazing it was that I was a Kohain. I laughed. "I didn't do anything to be a Kohain but be born." I was in awe of this woman. She chose Judaism and lived an observant lifestyle by choice. That is impressive.

I guess we can learn from this that status is a nice thing, but not what ultimately matters. It is character.

Just a thought.


Yaakov said...

Kabbalah and Chassidus explain that the root of the soul of a Kohain is in the highest levels, which is why they are able to bestow blessing upon all of Yisroel. This is the natural right of the first born, which was removed from them only due to the sin of the Golden Calf. When the sin is completely rectified, with the coming of Moshiach shortly in our generation, the first born will resume their role.

At the same time, the sages tell us that a talmid chochom is worthier than a Cohen who is an ignoramus. Because failure to utilize one's potential is a great disgrace. But the potential is still there.

Judah HaKohain said...

Interesting, Yaakov. But what will become of the Kohanim when Moshiach comes?

Yaakov said...

When Moshiach comes the Cohanim will resume service in the Bais Hamikdash, along with the first born (according to the chassidus of the Tzemach Tzedek). At that time, however, the souls of the Cohanim will be drawn from the level which is the source of the Leviim because at that time it will be revealed that the Leviim will be higher.