it only takes a good set of priestly genes to be a Kohain,
qualifications for the position of Kohain Gadol (High
Priest) are a little more complicated. The first Kohain Gadol,
Aharon, was appointed by his brother, Moshe Rabaynu as
per Hashem's command. Ever since then, it has been the
job of the Sanhedrin (Jewish Supreme Court) to pick from
the pool of available Kohanim and choose the best qualified
one, once the former Kohain Gadol has died or left his
are five qualities to look for in a candidate for the position
of Kohain Gadol:
- Wealth, and
Not just good
old common sense. We're talking Torah. The Kohain
Gadol must be versed through and through with Torah
wisdom. There's a good reason for that too. When the Kohain
Gadol performs the Avodah (service) in the Bait
Hamikdash, he represents all of Klal Yisroel (the
nation of Israel). He needs to have a perfect understanding
of every ritual and what it means in order to fulfill his task.
for the "Great Kahuna" also has to be very handsome.
I know what you're thinking, but how would you like it, if you
had to show up to an important appointment and someone handed
you a dusty old pair of jeans and a ripped tye-dye tee-shirt.
Even if you bathed and brushed your hair, you'd still be embarassed.
The point is, we need to be proud of our leaders and when it
comes to the Kohain Gadol, he needs to be cheered on
by very enthusiastic crowds on Yom Kippur if we expect
him to represent us with full kavanah (concentration).
The Torah understands this and therefore urges us to
"put our best face forward."
The Kohain Gadol
has to be strong. Not that Superman is in the running, but
it does take strength to perform some of the more tiring tasks
of a Kohain Gadol. For example, the
Kohain Gadol has the distinct responsibility to welcome
Leviyim into the fold with a shake - not just a hand shake,
but an up-down-back-and-forth-in-the-air full body shake. Aharon,
the first Kohain Gadol was first to perform "the kahuna
shake." He lifted and shook 22,000 Leviyim in a single
day (maybe he was Superman after all...)!
Gadol must be richer than all the other Kohanim.
That rule applies to Jewish kings and Jewish leaders too. That
way there's no chance that he will be bribed.
Gadol must be mature. No youngsters need apply. That's because
with age comes life experience and wisdom.
Now, one thing
you need to know about these qualifications are, that they're
more like guidelines. Actually, the only real solid criteria
for the "Great Kahuna" is Torah wisdom. All the
other qualifications can be modified or reached with a little
creative accounting. For example, qualification number four,
where the Kohain Gadol's got to be richer than all the
Once there was
a Kohain known as Pinchas the stone-cutter. He was nominated
by the Sanhedrin to be the next Kohain Gadol.
When the Kohanim went out to see him, they found him
in a quarry cutting stones. Immediately, they showered him with
barrels of coins until the entire quary was filled. In this
way, they qualified him to become Kohain Gadol.
But then there
are the weak and ugly Kohanim. How could they ever qualify
- you ask. The answer is in the oil. It is the job of the Sanhedrin
to annoint the Kohain Gadol with oil. This oil has the
power to make the ugly handsome and the weak strong. Did you
know that after the future King David was annointed, he grew
tall and muscular enough to fit into King Saul's armor?
As for age, the
fact is that the Sanhedrin always gave first consideration
to the former Kohain Gadol's son. That way there was
a continuity in the line of the "Great Kahuna."
Worried about the youth factor? The annointing oil could also
add a little grey to the Kohain Gadol's beard, if that's
what it took to be the "Kohain HaGadol MayEchov"
- The Kohain who is greater than his brothers.