Just Kidding: A Kohen’s life is not for sissies

By Joel H. Cohen

Joel H. Cohen

NEW YORK — Although it’s a tremendous honor serving as the conduit for divine blessing, and though Aaron, our founding father, is cited in prayer as a paragon of peace, being a Kohen is not for sissies.

Sure, there are perks –we’re called for the first aliyah (even the first two, if no Levi is present), we officiate at redemptions of first-born male children, and we’re granted mandatory absence from most funerals, Also, while there are still restrictions, many of the regulations have eased since Biblical days. So I’m not complaining.

But Kohen-envy (which, sadly, dates back to our beginnings and has continued through the ages) is more widespread today than one might imagine, even among people we’d least expect to be affected by the syndrome. Sometimes, it’s a matter of class- or caste-consciousness. Whatever the reason, the most common way it shows up is in the demand to “prove to me you’re a Kohen.”

DNA testing has become a means of alleviating some of the doubts, but many are still skeptical. The way that my family has dealt with the doubters is to fall back on an ages-old document signed by Aaron, the original Kohen Godol.   I can’t attest to its authenticity with certainty, but for a great many generations, dating back to Biblical times, we’ve believed it and abided by it.

A rough English translation of the ancient document appears below. Make your own decision.

Meanwhile, moving back to the present day, I would assure everyone – including those in arrears with their contributions of bullocks, those who never consider including gluten-free wheat in their sacrifices, and even those who can’t control their envy…we will transmit divine blessings to every one of you most wholeheartedly.


To Whom It May Concern (especially the cynical, the doubters and those afflicted with Kohen-envy):

This is to certify that [ancestor’s name redacted] is a legal descendant of the undersigned, and is therefore an authorized Kohen, with all attendant rights and privileges. Among these, but not limited to, are duchening (blessing the congregation); receiving the honor of the first aliyah (and the second, when no Levi is present); presiding at pidyan ha’benim ( redemption of firstborn male children), and receiving five shekels for that service, and being the authorized recipient and consumer of sacrificial lambs, bullocks and, when appropriate, grain products (including gluten-free ones).*

He should be given the respect due those of his exalted station, including such tangible acknowledgements as a coat with gemstones representing the 12 tribes (or, in poorer congregations,  a varsity jacket), and the polishing of his footwear when removed prior to duchening.

Keep the faith.

(signed)  Aaron ben Amram

Kohen Godol, the first

P.S. –If the aforementioned Kohen ia squeamish, he has the option of politely refusing to do any of the yucky (the Aramaic word for “yucky”) work assigned to the priestly caste, such as cleaning up intestines and the like.


San Diego Jewish World assures readers who are new to freelance writer Joel Cohen’s “Just Kidding” columns that they are satirical and should not be taken seriously.



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