Are there leviyim in the Beta Israel Community? If so, how does their role in the Beta Israel Community differ from other Jewish Communities? (Do they get the second aliyah, etc.)


1 Answer 1


I want to preface my answer by noting that I am very far from an expert or authority on the Beta Israel or their traditional minhag (known as haymanot).

However, from what I have been able to understand, there are no levi'im (in the genealogical sense) among the Beta Israel (nor kohanim, for that matter). The main clergy of the Beta Israel, the qessoch (sing. qes), are also known by the title kahen, and do claim priesthood from the Aaronic lineage, although it is not a hereditary title. They are served by debteroch (sing. debtera), who were a combination of teachers, healers, cantors and musicians (since Beta Israel services were accompanied by instruments), so in that sense they might be analogous to levi'im.

The traditional Beta Israel liturgy was very different than the liturgical cycle of other Jewish communities, and there was no weekly ritual reading of the Torah (and therefore no 'aliyot). With the arrival of European, and eventually Israeli, Jewish educators, Beta Israel religious life underwent massive changes to align itself more closely with other branches of Judaism, and of course this process has only intensified in Israel. I know there are some Beta Israel synagogues emerging in Israel today and would be very interested to hear how they run their prayer services, and what they do with the Torah reading, aliyot, etc.

To learn more about Beta Israel liturgy, prayer, and religious life, check out these scholars (among others): Kay Kaufman Shelemay, Margaret Hayon, Frank Alvarez-Pereyre and S. Ben-Dor, Olivier Tourny, and Ron Atar.

  • Thank you. This is informative, but I don't know that I can accept it as authoritative. Is there no one from the Beta Israel community on Mi Yodeya?
    – הראל
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 21:54
  • What do you mean by "do claim priesthood from the Aaronic lineage, although it is not a hereditary title" How can it be Aaronic but not hereditary?
    – הראל
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 7:28
  • @KinnardHockenhull as I said I am far from an expert on the Beta Israel, so I encourage you to do further research (and of course it would be ideal to hear from a member of the community themselves, although I doubt they are on Mi Yodeya). Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 17:25
  • What I mean by "lineage" is that although being a qes is not hereditary, several sources that I read reference the belief that the qessotch are continuing the institution of priesthood as described in the TaNaKh as assigned to Aaron. Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 17:39
  • I see. So it's sort of like an Aaronic rather than Mosaic Semikhah? Is there an argument that the priesthood was not always hereditary(I believe I once heard such a thing) or is it just unknown?
    – הראל
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 22:09

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .