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Kohanim

Levites: A Transjordanian Tribe of Priests

Pre-exilic biblical texts describe Levites as landless priests who can serve in any holy site. The origin of this status can be found in ancient times, when the tribe of Levi lost control of their territory in the Transjordan, but remained in the vicinity serving in the Nebo temple, where their ancestor Moses was buried.

Prof.

Alexander Rofé

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Sedition at Moab: Josephus’ Reading of the Phinehas Story

The Torah describes Phinehas as a zealot, who kills Zimri in an act of vigilante fervor, and is rewarded by God with eternal priesthood. Anticipating the rabbis’ discomfort with Phinehas’ vigilantism, Josephus transforms Phinehas into a military general and Zimri’s sin into a dangerous sedition requiring a military response.

Dr.

Yonatan Miller

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The Flowering Staff: Proof of Aaron’s or the Levites’ Election?

The story of the flowering staff in its current form and context, confirms YHWH’s previous designation of the Aaronides as priests. Originally, however, the story presented YHWH’s selection of the tribe of Levi as his priestly caste.

Dr. Rabbi

David Frankel

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How All Kohanim Became Sons of Aaron

The Bible knows about many priestly families, including the Levites, the Mushites (descendants of Moses), and the Zadokites. By the time of Ezra and Chronicles, however, only Aaronide priests were legitimate, and other families either merged with them or were demoted.

Prof.

Mark Leuchter

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DNA and the Origin of the Jews

Is there a genetic marker for cohanim (priests)? Are Ashkenazi Jews descended from Khazars? Why is there such a close genetic connection between Samaritans and Jews, especially cohanim? A look at what genetic testing can tell us about Jews.

Prof.

Steven Weitzman

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Why Are There No Israelite Priestesses?

Hittite texts show us that in the ancient Near East, women, including the queen, served as priestesses. The biblical authors, in their fervor for YHWH, monotheism, and centralization of worship through one Temple and one priesthood, strongly objected.

Prof.

Ada Taggar-Cohen

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Primeval Coats

Clothing, beginning with Joseph’s coat, functions both as a marker of distinction and as the source of undoing in the Joseph story. Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer adds layers of history to this coat: it is the original garments made from the sloughed skin of the serpent that God gave to Adam and Eve, which was then worn by Nimrod, Esau, and Jacob. Midrash Tanchuma claims it to be the (future) High Priest’s tunic.

Prof.

Rachel Adelman

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The Historical Circumstances that Inspired the Korah Narrative

Korah’s rebellion ultimately results in the placement of the Levites in a permanent subordinate position to the Aaronide priests. Set in the wilderness period, the story appears to be a narrative retelling of a historical process that occurred hundreds of years later, the demotion of the Levites reflected in Ezek 44, as demonstrated by a number of literary parallels.

Dr.

Ely Levine

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Purity of Priests: Contamination through Marriage

The Torah (Leviticus 21) and Ezekiel (ch. 44, Haftarat Emor) regulate whom priests may marry. What rationale lies behind these laws? 

Dr.

Eve Levavi Feinstein

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The Levite Rebellion Against the Priesthood: Why Were We Demoted?

Prof.

Adele Berlin

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Birkat Kohanim: The Magic of a Blessing

Why was the priestly benediction placed together with the laws of nazir and the laws of sotah

Prof.

Shawna Dolansky

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Relegating Redemption of the Firstborn to a One-time Event in the Wilderness

The Priestly Torah has two different conceptions of why/how the firstborn Israelites are exempt from serving as priests. Is a questionable firstborn census an effort to weigh in on this dispute?

Dr.

Eve Levavi Feinstein

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Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Whom May a Kohen Gadol Marry?

Rashbam’s New Peshat

Prof. Rabbi

Marty Lockshin

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