Dear Rabbi,
I am a college student doing research and would like to know the hierarchy of the Jewish faith.

Answer:

The basic hierachy among the Jewish nation is stated in the Mishnah (Horios), which gives the order in which lives must be saved, where it is impossible to save everybody: “A priest takes precedence over a Levite, a Levite over an Israelite, an Israelite over a bastard (mamzer), a bastard over a Nathin [a descendant of the Gibeonites], a nathin over a proselyte, and a proselyte over an emancipated slave. This order of precedence applies only when all these were in other respects equal. If the bastard, however, was a scholar and the high priest an ignoramus, the learned bastard takes precedence over the ignorant High Priest.”

Although the Gemara (13a) writes that the same idea, whereby a scholar takes first precedence, applies even to the king, Rambam, in his commentary to the Mishnah, writes that this is only in threory, but in practice, there is no doubt that the king must take first precedence. According to Maimonides, it follows that king takes first place, followed by the High Priest, and so on. A scholar would come before the High Priest, but not before the king.

In biblical times, the position of the scholar was taken by the prophet, who would offer guidance and councel to the king or leader.

Please submit another question if you require further details.

Tags: faith Judaism King levite prophet

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