Wednesday, February 05, 2014

bigdei kehunah for a kohen gadol she'avar

The gemara (Meg 9b) has a machlokes R’ Meir and R’ Yosi what the din is with respect to a kohen gadol she’avar, i.e. someone who served as a fill-in kohen gadol but then lost the job when the regular kohen gadol became available again. R’ Meir holds that he still has the din of a kohen gadol (with some exceptions) and would do avodah wearing the bigdei kohen gadol. R’ Yosi holds he is stuck in a catch-22. He cannot serve as kohen gadol, wearing eight begadim, because of eivah – it would make the regular kohen gadol jealous. However, he also cannot serve as a kohen hedyot in those begadim because of the principle of ma’alin bakodesh v’ain moridin, you go up in kedusha, not down.

Tosfos asks: Since in principle the kohen she’avar should be treated like a kohen gadol (if not for the factor of eivah), why do we need the sevara of ma’alin bakodesh to tell us that he cannot serve as a kohen hedyot? He's a kohen gadol, not a kohen hedyot, unless proven otherwise?

Tosfos answers that a kohen gadol can be fired from his job by beis din and his fellow kohanim (see Tos Yoma 12b). There is no guarantee that it’s a lifetime tenured appointment. Therefore, if not for the sevara of ma’alin bakodesh, we would have assumed that a kohen she’avar is someone whose kohen gadol is revoked, and therefore can do avodah wearing bigdei kohen hedyot. Kah mashma lan that because of ma’alin bakodesh, even if the status of kohen gadol is revoked, this kohen she'avar is not allowed to go back to wearing bigdei kohen hedyot.

The picture that emerges is a little strange, no? There is no problem of ma’alin bakodesh v’ain moridin in knocking someone who has kohen gadol status down to the role of kohen hedyot, but there is a problem of ma’alin bakodesh for that same person to wear bigdei kohen hedyot in place of bigdei kohen gadol once his status has been revoked.


  1. Is such a kohen gadol emeritus not required to bring the daily minchas chavitin?

    1. Correct. That is one of two nafka minos between them. (BTW, I like the lashon of K"G emeritus.)