The importance of studying Kodashim
Translation of Letter #7 of the Chofetz Chaim Dealing with the Bais HaMikdash and its Holy Service
Behold the Community of Israel, Klal Yisroel, believes in the coming of the Mashiach and in the advent of Eliyahu HaNavi to herald his arriva.l In every one of our prayers we beseech Hashem to send Mashiach Tzidkeinu and to establish the Bais HaMikdash speedily, in our day. The entire
wish and purpose of reestablishing the Bais HaMikdash is to reveal the Glory of Hashem as in days of old and to bring the Korbanot, as described in the Torah. To this end we have a specific blessing in the Shmoneh Esrei “…restore the service to the Holy of Holies of Your Temple…and may the service of Your people Israel always be favorable to You” Similarly, at the conclusion of the Shmoneh Esrei we pray “May we serve You there, in reverence, as in days old…Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to Hashem” etc.
In sum, there is no prayer or supplication which we recite, that calls for the coming of Mashiach Tzidkeinu that does not have as its focal point and essence, our ability to once again perform the Temple service as described by the Torah.
It is obvious that the Sacrificial Service calls for Kohanim, to the exclusion of all others, even if another is a great Torah scholar on the level of a prophet. We have no one as great as Moshe Rabbeinu, O”hSH, yet, even he was not qualified to serve in the Temple because he was not a Kohain. (The only exception was during the seven days of inauguration when Hashem specifically commanded Moshe at that time to perform the service. Even so he was not permitted to wear the unique clothing of the Kohanim. Rather, he served while wearing only a white robe.)
Therefore, my brothers and friends, according to what we have explained here, even were Eliyahu HaNavi and also Mashiach Tzidkeinu to come in our time, would there not be an immediate need to begin with the sacrifices and the rest of the Temple service? Would it not be absolutely essential for us to have Kohanim knowledgeable of the laws of the Temple service? Without the Kohanim there is no purpose in building the Bais HaMikdash.
The bottom line is, at this time there is not even one Kohain who knows the sacrificial laws as required. How great will be our disgrace and shame for it will become obvious that our prayers and supplications were merely lip service and not genuine and whole hearted.
If we truly yearned for Mashiach to come wouldn’t it behoove us to prepare ourselves accordingly? Only that is not the case! As it is found, during the Babylonian exile, even before the Second Temple was built, the prophet Haggai was commanded by Hashem to question the Kohanim about the laws of the Korbanot and to question them about their knowledge of the Temple Service.
It is clear to me that were we to have a prophet today, surely he too would receive such a prophecy, to question the Kohanim regarding the Law and urge them to fulfill it with alacrity.
Therefore my brothers and friends, it is incumbent upon all of us, but especially upon the Kohanim and Levi’im to prepare in every possible way, to learn the laws of the Temple and its services. It is a commandment and an obligation of the highest order for them since, since they will be the very first required to account for their lack of preparedness regarding the Korbanot.
Even the Torah scholars who are not Kohanim must study the laws of the Korbanot in order that there be to whom to look for guidance, just as it was in times of old, when the Sanhedrin convened in the Lishkas HaGazis.
Moreover, when Eliyahu HaNavi does come, many Kohanim who because of this long and bitter exile lost track of their lineage and considered themselves Yisraelim , will discover that they are indeed Kohanim.
The conclusion we must come to, from all that has been said, is that we must prepare ourselves through learning the laws of the Temple service in order to face Mashiach Tzidkeinu without shame. Only then can we truly beseech G-d to send Mashiach Tzidkeinu for then we will indeed be prepared for his arrival. In turn, Hashem will surely send Eliyahu HaNavi and Mashiach Tzidkeinu,, speedily and in our day! Amen!
Ma’ale Hazeitim 3/1 Jerusalem