Please correct me if I'm wrong, but since the destruction of the Second Temple, (G-d, blessed be He, forbid), the roles such as that of a Priest/High Priest and the like, were removed and similar practiced stopped. Rabbinical authorities, who have already been on the rise prior to this, took over from there to continue the truthful practices in an appropriate manner.

If this is correct, then why do Ethiopian Jews still have roles such as:

  • Nabiyy (Prophet)
  • Monkosa (Monk)
  • Kahen or Kes (Priest/spiritual leader similar to Kohen and analogous to Rabbi or Hakham)
  • Liqa Kahnet (High Priest)
  • Debtera (itinerant holy man)
  • Shmagle (elder)

I've never seen some of these like a Monk/Solitary man, and have read that Rabbis generally discouraged such activity of getting away from the community and being solitary, but apparently Beta Israel doesn't follow the Talmud or the Oral Law.

By continuing to have, for instance, a High Priest, are Ethiopian Jews breaking any laws since Jews shouldn't have a High Priest if they don't have the Temple, etc.? Why do they still have such roles, and are so different from all the other Jewish communities even in the books they regard as authoritative?

  • 3
    As you have stated yourself, the kahen is a spiritual leader akin to a rabbi. The Liqa Kahnet is similar to a chief rabbi. Neither were intended to replace kohanim descended from Aharon; their roles are community-centered, not temple-centered. That said, there was great reluctance on the part of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate to recognize the legitimacy of the Ethiopian religious leadership when they began making aliyah.
    – Harel13
    Commented Apr 29, 2023 at 17:55
  • @RabbiKaii What is gadol-adar? I apologize if I posted this question in the wrong place, I'm still pretty new here.
    – setszu
    Commented Apr 29, 2023 at 21:32
  • @Harel13 Thank you for your explanation. I was just a bit thrown off by the usage of labels like "High Priest" for what seems to be non-temple/post-temple Jewish community.
    – setszu
    Commented Apr 29, 2023 at 21:34
  • 2
    For thousands of years, Ethiopian Jews were cut off from Miami Beach and had no place to dispose of their elders. The Shmagles therefore just remain with the rest of the community and interact with them every day, not just when they send birthday or Chanukah money. Commented Apr 30, 2023 at 2:55
  • 3
    @RabbiKaii No questions are "decided" here. This is just a forum to help find answers that are out there. So if a posek wrote a teshuva on the topic, it could be brought as an answer.
    – N.T.
    Commented Apr 30, 2023 at 5:38

1 Answer 1


Many of these roles are not practiced in the way you assume. A priest in the Ethiopian tradition is a role closer to a Rabbi than to a Priest in the times of the Temple. The Ethiopian Jewish tradition as it exists now seems to have developed separate from having a codified Talmud from Babylon or Israel.

We know the Ethiopian Jewish community has existed for a long time as they come in and out of history, and during the times of the Radbaz they were well known and he accepted them as Jewish. But we lack historical documentation about their development and beliefs. It's a similar situation to the Sadducees. We know they existed, we know they were a dedicated group that was separate from other groups. But we truly only know what everyone else said about them as we lack any first hand knowledge or documentation from them.

  • the first half of your answer is accurate, eloquent, and well sourced. The second half of your answer, however, is not befitting a man of your stature, particularly one who bears the name of our beloved rodef shalom. Commented May 1, 2023 at 18:17
  • Instead of a polemic, why not add in an excerpt from Rav Obadiah Yosef's ruling affirming the historical existence of the Beta Israel community and their unbroken mesorah to the tribe of Dan in the time of Shlomo HaMelech? Commented May 1, 2023 at 18:41
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    "Despite the unequivocal declaration of Radbaz with regard to the origins of the Falasha community, Radbaz' halakhic decision, handed down in the sixteenth century, may not be valid in the twentieth. In the course of the intervening four centuries it is entirely possible that there has been extensive intermarriage between the Falashas and the indigenous Abyssinian population." [Rabbi J.D. Bleich, Contemporary Halakhic Problems, Vol I, Part II, CHAPTER XIV] [Available on Sefaria] Commented May 1, 2023 at 22:23
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    Note: The quote I posted does NOT state the Jewishness of Ethiopians is fiction. He merely posits that there remains a doubt. Most Israelites can prove their connection, by virtue of showing that their ancestors were people who were presumed to have been Israelites. However no such connection, or presumption of connection, exists for the so-called Ethiopian Jews. As for so-called Jewish practices by mainstream Jews, I would agree that some of those practices might be questionable, but they don't impugn the core lineage of those practitioners, which is presumed to be 100% Jewish Commented May 1, 2023 at 23:17
  • 1
    Rabbi J. D. Bleich already pointed out that even if we were to fully accept Radbaz's halakhic decision, the question still remains if that decision is still relevant some 450 years later. Commented May 2, 2023 at 7:38

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