Orthodox Judaism/Judah Priesthood


I sent this question to Rabbi Ari Enkin here and he responded:

~~~~I'm sorry, but the question is too long and involved to give it the considered answer it deserves. Unfortunately our free service can only answer short, discrete questions.~~~~

Which is confusing since the question is pretty much a yes/no question.  Perhaps you would be willing to help (especially since I'm a fellow high school teacher? :D )

Within the Torah, is there any explicit prohibition against any other tribe being priests?  If not, is the fact that God specified the tribe of Levi, specifically Aaron and his descendants, sufficient to implicitly prohibit any person from any other tribe from being a priest?

Another way to ask would be:  Is it sinful for anyone not descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses, to be a priest?  If so, why?

Thanks for your time!

Hi Ernie

There is no clear prohibition in the Torah against another tribe being priest. G-d chose which family/ tribe He wanted to have as priests and no human has the option to join or leave that special group. In fact, the infamous rebellion of Korach (Numbers 16) hinged on his interest in upsetting the balance of who was or was not a priest.

So, I wouldn't use the expression "sinful", but "impossible". Just as you cannot change your genetics, you cannot change your tribal heritage.

That said, Maimonides teaches that each of us can be a priest "conceptually". The priest's life was to be totally dedicated to service of G-d and that should be the aspiration of every one of us- not to take the formal priestly role, but to focus on becoming totally dedicated to the service of G-d.


Rabbi Shishler

Orthodox Judaism

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Rabbi Ari Shishler


I am a rabbi who loves teaching, through writing and speaking. In 1999, my wife and I started our own Chabad House and it's grown exponentially. I'm also the learning director at Chabad House of Johannesburg, a high school teacher and the father of young children. As you can imagine, I get to answer lots of questions every day. I'd be glad to answer your questions on Judaism, Jewish spirituality and practice.


I have been a practicing Orthodox rabbi since 1997 and have headed my own community since 1999. I teach Talmud at a religious high school in Johannesburg and give daily lectures to adults on Jewish practice, spiritualty, Chassidic philosophy and Kabbalah. I'm the campus rabbi at our two major universities in Johannesburg.

Chabad-Lubavitch South African Rabbinical Association.

Monthly column in Jewish Life magazine, South Africa. Jewish Tradition, South Africa. Jewish Report, South Africa. South African Union of Jewish Students annual Holiday guide. Jewish Observer, South Africa. Nshei Chabad Newsletter, NY. Jewish Online Magazine. www.chabad.org

After completing high scool, I spent six years studying in Rabbinical seminaries in South Africa, Israel and New York.

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