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Shabbat Parashat Emor| 5763
Breaking Family TiesHarav Yosef Carmel
We find, in our parasha, the pasuk: “Should a kohen’s daughter desecrate herself (teicheil) through illicit relations, she thereby desecrates her father…” (Vayikra 21:9). The word “teicheil” can be connected to two verbs: "L'hatchil" (to begin) or "l'challel"(to desecrate), as we translated. Although the Ibn Ezra (ad loc.) cites those who understand our pasukaccording to the former explanation, he prefers the latter one of desecrating or profaning. According to this approach, the pasuk is purposely repetitive, stating that the daughter profanes herself and profanes her father.
We need to understand the meaning of desecration, in respect to both father and daughter. The pasuk seems to imply that there is some practical, halachic ramification… but is there? A kohen’s daughter does not seem to have any special kedushat kehuna (priestly sanctity). She may go to a cemetery, marry anyone a Jewish girl can marry, and loses the right to eat teruma as soon as she marries. The father also does not appear to be halachically affected by his daughter’s promiscuity. He can continue his priestly activities, in regard to service, eating from holy foods, and entering holy places.
In only one way is the daughter of a kohen halachically different from her “regular” Jewish counterparts. Her firstborn son is exempt from pidyon haben (redemption of the firstborn). Thus, a kohen grandfather passes on, through his daughter, the status of priestly lineage, which affects the exemption, despite the child’s clear status as a Yisrael. However, if the kohen’s daughter has a boy, fathered, Heaven forbid, by a non-Jew or resulting from an even greater sin, then the boy requires a pidyon haben (Bechorot 47a, Shulchan Aruch, YD 305:18; see Bemareh Habazak II, pg. 98).
We can now explain the concept of halachic desecration, referred to by the pasuk, in the following manner. Should the daughter of a kohen be involved in a severely illicit relationship, she, in addition to being punished for the sin, will lose the halachic link to her father’s kehuna. Instead of her father being able to transfer the exemption from pidyon haben, she causes a break in the family, priestly lineage, which the Torah mandated, preventing herself and her father from continuing the imprint of kehuna for another generation.
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