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The Hebrew word HaKohen
means "the Cohen or descendant of Aaron, the High Priest."

In the
Ten living

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The Hebrew word, HaKohen,
is found in fourth line from the bottom,  first word from the left on the stone of Aaron Cohen.  Click here for a complete translation.

Aaron Cohen's tombstone has the word for HaKohen, which you see in the top right.  The engraved hands on the gravestone are held as if making the blessing and are the sign of a HaKohanim. 

The Levim were responsible for seeing that before embarking on their duties, the Kohanim did the washing prescribed by God in the book of Exodus. 

Aaron Cohen is buried at Mt. Zion, Maspeth in Queens, NY.  Also buried there is Ethel Rubenstein's  husband, Harry Varonok. His older daughter, Rose Varonok Sollender, told her nephew, Larry Varon, that Harry was a Levi.  We don't yet know why his headstone is not engraved with the customary pitcher (click here for photo).  

year 2000,
family claimed
Kohanim and

Harold Caine
David Caine
Harvey Caine
Donald Caine
Joshua Caine
Martin Cohen
Hyman Cohen
Samuel Cohn
Lew Cohn
Ari Cohn

Harris Faberman
Max Faberman
Archie Faberman
Ira Faberman
Robert Faberman
Larry Isaacson
Douglas Isaacson
Shlomo Simcha Isaacson
Chaim Boruch Isaacson
Shaya Mordechai Isaacson
Dovid Yitzchok Isaacson
Barry Varon
Larry Varon
Asher Varon
Israel Varon
Avrum Varon

The DNA mapping of the Y chromosome carried only by males is how modern science can determine whether a man  is a Cohen. 

Researchers in Haifa, Israel, at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, have found, according to a New York Times article published September 28, 1998, that there are "at least 350,000 priests in the world today -- 5 percent of all Jewish men -- with the telltale Y chromosome."  While the Cohens can be identified, the much larger group of Levim cannot. 
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The hands (above) were carved on the gravestone of Barnet Cohen 53 years after his father's (top left).  Click here for more photos
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The Hebrew word HaLevi  (above) means "the Levi or descendant of the tribe of Levi."  The engraving of a water pitcher on the grave- stone signifies a Levi. 

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Click here for more photos
of gravestone of Harris Farberman.  His living male descendants are listed in the middle column.

Aaron and Moses were brothers, and both were of the Tribe of Levi.  (Their father, Amram, was Levi's grandson.) 

The descendants of Aaron were chosen by God as His high priesthood in the Book of Exodus.  They had the duty of saying special prayers four times a year, including the High Holy Days

Sources:  Old Testament Book of Exodus; cousins Sandi and Douglas Isaacson; cousin Larry Varon,  The New York Times; and cousin Eli Schwartz for loan of the photo that brought the Levim to our attention.

In the Book of Exodus,
It is written just how...

The Kohens and the Levis were the subject of a letter from a cousin in Ethel's branch, who immigrated to Israel in 1980. There he has since pursued Torah study along with his "day job" as a microbiologist.

Larry Varon is on a course of intense study that another cousin characterized as "the Rabbinic track."  In a letter Larry sent in November 1998, he wrote:

... a Kohen is also a Levi.   Levi was the son of Jacob, our third patriarch [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- and Jacob's 12 sons became the 12 tribes of Israel.  All 12 tribes were in the desert with Moses and his brother, Aaron, but that's jumping ahead]. 

Levi's grandson, Amram, had three children in Egypt:   Aaron, Moses and Miriam. [But] Amram had other brothers and a good number of nephews, so the family of Levi was of considerable size at the time of the Exodus.

With the inauguration of the Jewish people in the dessert after a rebellious episode [the golden calf] halted by the shattering of the first Tablets, the Levis were singled out as faithful nonparticipants.  From them, Aaron and his children were singled out to be the priests (Kohanim).     

More explicitly, all the descendants of Levi became the general priestly class.  Within that, the two surviving sons of Aaron -- Eleazar and Ithamar -- and their descendants became the HIGH priesthood.  The duties they are to fulfill are spelled out in explicit detail in Exodus. 

How do you know who is a Cohen, and who is a Levi?
Descendants of the Levim are identified by word of mouth, passed from generation to generation.  They do not have the Y chromosome arrangement possessed by the Kohanim, which is believed to be that which would have been found in the DNA of Aaron's sons, Eleazar and Ithamar. 

Exodus cannot be improved upon, and so what follows are quotations, one after another, with ellipses to indicate omissions. 

Thick darkness
After God first presented the 10 Commandments to Moses, "The people remained at a distance," while he approached "the thick darkness where God was." God then said, "These are the laws you are to set before them…"  He presented many, many laws, which follow:

Bribes blind
"Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death." … "Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt." … "Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous." …

Moses told the people what the Lord had said, and the next day he built an altar at the foot of the mountain and "set up 12 stone pillars representing the 12 tribes of Israel."  The 12 tribes derive from the descendants of the 12 sons of Jacob, of which the Levi were but one.

Then God gave instructions about the temple and its furnishings, and then the ark, the altar, and the priestly garments:

Have Aaron, your brother, brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve Me as priests.

God ordered Moses to have made "sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve Me as priests. Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen…"

Repetition makes point
"After you put these clothes on your brother Aaron and his sons, anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they may serve Me as priests. … This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants. … The priesthood is theirs by a lasting ordinance. In this way you shall ordain Aaron and his sons. … Aaron's sacred garments will belong to his descendants so that they can be anointed and ordained in them.

"So I will consecrate … Aaron and his sons to serve Me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God."

Levim to wash Kohanim
"This shall be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come: Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from "a bronze basin with its bronze stand for washing."… "They shall wash their hands and feet…so that they will not die…before they enter the Tent of Meeting or present an offering."  And specifically, the Levim are to assist the Kohanim in this washing ritual.

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On stone of Harris Farberman, died 1945

God's recipe
God also spelled out for Moses His recipe for a special anointing oil.  It was to be made, roughly speaking, from cinnamon bark and the aromatic gum resin myrrh, using as a base olive oil, and made in batches of about four quarts. 

Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve Me as priests.

Then God tells Moses that he has "chosen" a man from the tribe of Judah and another from the tribe of Dan to make certain decorations for the temple and clothing for the priests, and "they are to make them just as I commanded you."

`Inscribed by the finger of God'
Finally, God tells Moses how the Sabbath must be observed. When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, "the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God."

Then Moses came down with the tablets and saw that while he was gone, the people had made a golden calf to worship, and at this point, you might turn to the last pages of Exodus.

HaKohen: Commander Spock of Star Trek
Hands raised, palms facing outward, fingers spread apart in pairs -- that was traditionally the way a Kohen made the blessings on the High Holy Days.  It is also the gesture used by Mr. Spock on the popular space age television series, Star Trek. The actor claims to be a Kohen.  

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On stone of Aaron Cohen, died 1905

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On stone of Barnet Cohen, died 1958

Rushing the Messiah
It is believed by some Jews that the Messiah cannot be expected to return until the Kohanim and Levim "are organized and fulfill their obligation to serve as spiritual guides for their people," said a member of a group of Levim organized in 1998 in Manhattan, who was interviewed by The New York Times for the article mentioned above. 

Many devout not Levim
Being a Levi does not presuppose rigorous observation of Jewish traditions.  "I am proud of this ancestry," said one, "but I have no interest in religion." Some Kohanim barely practice, while some of the most observant members of our family do not descend from a Kohen. The devout among us, and they are many, as well as our family's leaders in the Jewish community,  should be the subject of a future story.  

Click here for the photo feature about Larry Varon's family and their lives in Israel.

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