An Israeli rabbi is making the case the Hebrew priesthood can be re-established through genetics, making it time to rebuild the Temple.
"Genetics connects modern Judaism to the Bible, confirming 3,000 years of Jewish tradition," explained Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman to Breaking Israel News. "This is an amazing testament to God's covenant and the Jewish people. Despite more than 2,000 years of exile we have maintained our religion, our customs, our Torah, and our genetic identity."
Kleiman opened the Center for Kohanim in Jerusalem nine years ago as a practical endeavor, and has authored a book on DNA evidence of the priesthood. Kohanim, or priests, are Jewish men believed to be descendants of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel. Only kohanim are permitted to conduct Temple services, according to the Bible.
The tools he is using only became available in the last 20 when genetic researchers in Haifa discovered a Y chromosome, a genetic marker passed from father to son, that indicated a common ancestry for Jewish men whose family traditions hold that they are descended from the biblical priestly class.
"According to prophecy, there will be a Third Temple, and when there is, we will need to identify the priests," Kleiman said. "Kohanim are the manpower of the Temple. Without them, it is an empty building."
He cites Ezekiel 44:15 as the authority.
"This scientific proof is an affirmation that, as the Torah said, the priestly covenant would be eternal," the rabbi said, citing also the Book of Numbers 25:13.
Priests are a subset of the tribe of Levi, but this genetic tool has proven ineffective in identifying the Levites, who also have a role in the Temple.
"Levi is the same concept and you would expect the same genetic markers but there is not the same percentage of the J group, the genetic marker showing that Jews originated in the Middle East," he said. "This indicated that the tradition of being a Levi is not as strong as that of kohanim."
The rabbi noted that genetics will not have the final word. According to Malachi 3:23, Elijah the prophet will appear before the Messiah to clarify precisely this issue: who is a priest and who is not, and the tribe to which each Jew belongs.
"When Elijah arrives, If he wants the DNA information, we will be happy to give it to him," Kleiman joked. "But he will probably be making his determinations based on a higher source."