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Jun 15, 2006

it couldn't happen to me

Tonight in daf yomi we learned about the Kohanim Gedolim of the Bet Hamikdash. The Lishkat HaPalhedrin was so named because each new Kohein redesigned the chamber to suit his needs, and every year was a new Kohein. That is, because they were Reshoim, evil people, for the most part, they were unworthy of being Kohanim Gedolim and purchased from the Roman Authorities the rights to the High Priest-hood every year. Many would de on Yom Kippur from entering the Holy of Holies in an unworthy status.

I asked what were they thinking? Did this years kohein not realize that the 10, 20, 50 kohanim before him all died because they were unworthy? Did he not realize he was the same and would also die? Why would anybody bid for such a position, where they knew chances were high they would not complete the year??!!

We discussed it and decided that by nature people always think it won't happen to them. That guy last year died- sure, he was a real jerk. He did not deserve the kehuna! He cheated on his taxes, stole, ate treif food, whatever. I am fine. I have reasons for what I do and I am a man with integrity. Everybody thinks he is better and deserves to live rather than die.
We all think we are better and mroe deserving than the other guy.
Only on Yom Kippur would he actually find out that he was not.

What do you think?


  1. I remember hearing that explanation back in beis yaakov. I think it was R' Pearlstein's class. At thetime it was certainly the best of the available answers we found.

    Anouther explanation was that their deaths were not from god but were an allegory.
    A second explanation yet tied in with the allegory is the idea that there was a time, especially during a long streatch of rampant corruption, where succeeding kohen's who had purchased the kohanet were murdered/died/assassinated and none lasted long. So while the deaths themselves may be real the rapid succession of the priests were reffered to allegorically. This makes alot more sense when you don't want to diminsh the stature of the kohanet but still need to kill the roman based kohen. So you kill him and make it poetic justice, death by god. The institution remains sacrosant and the evil individual was tossed aside.
    This explanation still bodes the underlying question "it couldn't happen to me." as the new kohen could also be "punished"
    But someone who is rich and powerful and has paid off theromans would believe they were protected from man made threats, whereas his predessesor may not have paid enough etc...
    In fact, "it couldn't happen to me." makes alot more sense when someone is facing a man-made threat rather then facing the immediate wrath of god, facing down a miracle.

  2. I think the opposite. I often am worried that things will happen to me. I don't think I am better than another.

  3. Exactly...you don't think you are better. Thats why you're a good person. We are talking about greedy corrupt rich powerful people.

  4. Like the Kohen Gadol, we stand alone on YK. We are no better.

  5. Perhaps "better" is the wrong word. Maybe "powerful"should be used.

    For example, most dictators meet an unhappy end, yet people still become dictators thinking "it couldn't happen to me" The reason is because as powerful people they recognise the danger but feel they can avoid that pitfall.

  6. Dan - it could have been man made. It does nto say. When the talmud discusses the priests who were sudduccees it says they died every year after goign into the holy of holies (because they performed the ketores offering differently). This mention in the gemorrah is not referring to the tzedokim (sadduccees), rather referring simply to reshoim (evil people). They could have been killed off by rivals. Another option after discussing it more is that the high priesthood was simply auctioned off every year and nobody necesarily had to die for it to be re-auctioned..

    Neil - I agree with Dan that better is the wrong word. It is a difference in attitude. More powerful people usually have that attitude..


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