Do Your Own ThingBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
God told Moshe to place Aharon’s staff in the Mishkan, alongside the Ark, to serve as a memorial. He did so. But now the people were afraid of the Mishkan, worried that it caused death. God told Aharon that the job of the kohanim and Leviim would be to erase any trace of sin associated with the Divine service.
“Let’s be clear about this,” God said. “Only kohanim do kohein things and only Leviim do Levite things. If everybody can stick to that game plan, everything will work out swell.” (Do I really need to remind you that quotes are extremely loosely translated? No? I didn’t think so.)
The kohanim were to support themselves with portions they received in exchange for their service. They were given portions of certain sacrifices (such as sin offerings) and the grain offerings, all of which were considered “most holy” and could only be eaten by eligible kohanim in a state of ritual purity on Temple grounds. Wave offerings could be eaten by the kohein’s entire family, provided that they were ritually clean. The kohanim would also receive portions of oil, wine and grain, as well as the first fruits once they settle the land. The kohanim would receive the “cheirem” (refer back to parshas Bechukosai, Leviticus chapter 27), and the first-born of the sacrificial species. (The first-born of donkeys and people needed to be redeemed. See Exodus chapter 13.) The first-born of oxen, sheep and goats were sacrificed and the kohanim received a portion. The kohanim would not receive a territory in the land of Israel. God Himself would be their inheritance.