The Religious Life Committee has revised its Kohen/Levi aliyah policy.
The majority of rabbinic opinions say that the requirement to give the first aliyah to a Kohen and the second aliyah to a Levi is Rabbinic, not Biblical, in origin. The justification for reserving these aliyot for Kohen/Levi was Mipnei darchei shalom, for the sake of community peace. Its purpose was to give proper respect to a group of people who had a great deal of responsibility and honor in Biblical times, but lost much of it following the destruction of the Temple.
Mipnei darchei shalom is a sociological norm and as such it changes with time and circumstances. In certain congregations and situations the limitations and restrictions created by maintaining the Kohen, Levi, yisrael procedure, tend to interfere with communal harmony, rather than add to it. Where a Rabbi feels that a congregation or service would better be served by calling people up to the Torah as rishon, sheni, shlishi, it is entirely permissible to do so.
Therefore, the Religious Life Committee has adopted the following practice:
- The first two Aliyot (rishon and shayni) Aliyot may be offered to any Jew of post Bar/Bat Mitzvah age even if a Kohen or Levi is present. Non Kohen/Levi honorees may be reassured that this is “kosher.”
- If a Kohen or Levi is offered an aliyah and will accept only if called up in the customary position this request will be honored. Their names will be so designated in the usher book. Otherwise a Kohen or Levi may take any aliyah.