Along with the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Zephaniah, Rabbi Amichai Cohen of Tzfat in the Galilee is a descendant of Aaron, the first High Priest of Israel. These male descendants are known as kohanim.
I hereby take your fellow Leviim from among the Israelites; they are assigned to you in dedication to Hashem, to do the work of the Tent of Meeting; Exodus 18:6
Among traditional Jews, the lineage of male descendants of Aaron the High Priest is carefully preserved. Interestingly, over 98% of Jewish men who identify as kohanim, and who have had their DNA tested, have a specific genetic marker in common.
Certain vestigial laws apply to kohanim today, but when Jerusalem will once again have a Temple, their priestly roles will become significantly more influential.
Cohen and his partner, Rabbi Peretz Rivkin, want to prepare the living descendants of Aaron the High Priest to be ready to step into their Biblically-mandated roles as soon as the Third Temple is operational.
Together, the two men are launching Kehuna Academy, an online community and school for learning about the service of the Kohanim in preparation for the Third Temple. Kehuna is the Hebrew word for priesthood. Rivkin currently runs Igud HaKohanim, a New York-based non-profit educational organization devoted to educating the world about the importance of the Biblical priesthood.
Cohen explained that, since the Second Temple was destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago, kohanim today lack the practical knowledge to conduct the Temple service. He shared with Israel365 News that generations of major rabbis have spoken about the importance of this education. Until his death in 1933, Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan, popularly known as the Chofetz Chaim, oversaw a learning program in Poland to prepare kohanim for the Temple Service.
Prior to the launch of Kehuna Academy, no such program has existed for the past 100 years. As we get ever closer to the Messianic era, the need for kohanim to learn the relevant laws has become more acute.
Practically speaking, the Kehuna Academy, “aims to be a resource center for groups of kohanim from around the world,” explained Cohen. They want to encourage kohanim to create local groups. “Most don’t know where to start,” Cohen shared. “We aim to be a resource center, so they can have a curriculum to study from.”
Cohen currently runs Live Kabbalah which offers online instruction, “based upon the teachings of the great prophets of the Bible as well as upon the teachings of the Kabbalistic Sages that followed their vision.”
He elaborated that, “Kohanim don’t [currently] have the organization, the united front which kohanim should have. Because of my experience creating a school that students from all over the world can connect to, I saw the value and have the ability to unify kohanim worldwide. Someone needs to do it. It needs to happen. This consciousness needs to get out there and it really requires a team to do this.”
Kehuna Academy will begin instruction in English and expects to quickly expand to Hebrew. It’s a grassroots organization and suitable volunteers and donors are most welcome.
Rivkin commented about the role of non-Jews in the development of this project. They are looking for donors, Jews and non-Jews, who are willing to contribute “b’t’mimut (with pure intentions). You have many goyim t’mimum (God-fearing gentiles) as well. They want to connect with God. In Yechezkel (Eziekiel), all the nations of the world have their spot around the Third Mikdash (Temple),” he elaborated.
Animal Sacrifice and the Architecture of the Third Temple
Cohen is aware that the thought of animal sacrifice “rubs people the wrong way.” In fact, there is a difference of opinion among rabbinic scholars about whether or not animal sacrifices will be part of the Third Temple. In any case, “The ideas are really very deep,” he said reassuringly. The Kehuna Academy “will not just train kohanim in the external laws, but will connect them to a much deeper place.”
Another debate concerns the architecture of the Third Temple. The Temple Institute of Jerusalem promotes the idea that the Third Temple will be physically similar to the Second Temple.
In chapters 40-47, the prophet Ezekiel describes his vision of the dimensions of the Third Temple in a way that significantly varies from the structure of the Second Temple. “We disagree [with the Temple Institute] very strongly about the architecture of the Third Temple. Part of our agenda is to push Ezekiel’s Third Temple,” Cohen asserted.
Israel’s Spiritual Leaders
“The kohanim are really the leaders of Am Yisrael (the Jewish Nation) who are blessing the entire world with love. When we create that infrastructure, we’re bringing together Am Yisrael and the entire world. The entire world’s spiritual and material sustenance comes through the kohanim.
“All of us have to prepare for the geula (redemption). For kohanim, this takes it to the next level. Every kohen has an actual part to play and needs to learn the laws that apply to them.
“There is so much that is in front of the kohanim. If we really believe that Moshiach (Messiah) is coming, we have a special role. We have to learn about it. We have to get the consciousness out there.
“It’s exciting for the Levites, the Israelites and the gentiles. This project is much greater than just for kohanim. We are spreading this awareness of the Temple and of kehuna to the rest of the world.
“We are so bereft of leadership and clarity about Hashem’s (God’s) connection and love for us. The love of Hashem comes to the Jewish people through the kohanim, through the hands that are outstretched and bless the people with love,” he concluded.