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The role of Priests in Jewish law-making

Question
Hi there! Thanks very much! My question is that the Pharisees removed the role of the Priests in ancient times because they were concerned they had become corrupt. I think this has had a significant impact on Jewish law because the Priests were supposed to minister the law to the Israelite people. Do you think the function of the Priests will ever be reinstated? Do you think this affects the legality of Jewish law today? With thanks
Answer
ב"ה Shalom To answer your question shortly, I would just simply say, we do expect the Priests to return to an active role in the spiritual leadership of the Jewish people and to the worship in the Temple. This is something we pray for and it is part of the redemption process of the Jewish people. Your question has historical aspects to it, which I would like to clarify a bit, though it is not my goal here to be too academic, although this is period which I have been researching historically. Indeed, the Talmud mentions that during the second Temple there were many High Priests who were corrupt. (Yoma 9A). However, there were many priests who were righteous. Also, it wasn’t so much that the Pharisees removed the priests, but rather with the destruction of the Temple, the priests become somewhat irrelevant, since the basis for their special status had been destroyed. The Rabbis/ Pharisees then stepped in the vacuum created to a more significant role of leadership and they actually tried to preserve the status of the priests by trying to enforce as much as possible the continuation of the Terumot and Ma'sserot, which were the tithes given to the priests from the fruit of the land. Furthermore, whether the priests had a more significant role in expounding the Torah or the Rabbis did, there was no change in the Torah. Maimonides does not emphasize any special role of the Priests in expounding the Torah or in the transmission of the Torah, although they did receive a special blessing in the Torah to do so. (See Devarim 33:10, Talmud Yoma 26, Moed Katan 17a) The Torah being expounded after the destruction of the Temple remained the same, and the Rabbis continued in the transmission of the Oral Law, with no change of laws, other than some additions of customs to commemorate the Temple. So, although we pray the priests will be reinstated in their roles in the Temple, there is no real effect on the legality of Jewish law today. All the best
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