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My understanding of Mashi'ach related to this question:

  • According to one of Maimonides's principles, we are to expect it to come at any time
  • The Temple will be rebuilt and sacrifices will be offered, there as before.

Thus, we would assume that there will be Cohanim and Levi'im ready to offer these sacrifices. They should be prepared and knowledgeable regarding how to do this - at least a few should so that they could teach the other ignorant.

While everyone should study these laws as they are part of the Torah, I wonder if there is a special obligation for Cohanim and Levi'im to prioritize and emphasize their studying of these laws more than their studying other Torah laws? These groups of people have to be ready to perform their duties, so, perhaps, they should master their knowledge in this subject prior to mastering other subjects?

  • 1
    Check out templeinstitute.org – sabbahillel Dec 16 '15 at 19:14
  • It is known (see for example the end of this article in Dei'ah veDibbur) that the Chofetz Chaim felt that Kohanim should learn the laws of kodshim (sacrifices). – Avrohom Yitzchok Dec 16 '15 at 21:57
  • According to this answer the Chofetz Chaim said yes, but it is an unsourced assertion – Yishai Dec 16 '15 at 22:23
  • Regarding bullet point #1: the Gemara (RH 11a) says that Mashiach will come in Nissan, and I think there’s another one that says he won’t come on Shabbos. That said, there’s the derasha of “today - if they only heed His voice,” which the Gemara (San. 98a) seems to take very literally, so I have no idea which way we’re supposed to understand this; maybe R’ Yehoshua Ben Levi only understood “today” so literally because the story happened to be on a weekday in Nissan? – DonielF Jan 3 '18 at 0:03
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This was the opinion of the Chafetz Chaim. In the biography by M. M. Yoshor (The Chafetz Chaim – The Life and Works of Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin) we are told:

In the years after the first world war, Poland, successfully resisting Bolshevik aggression, was gradually restored to peace. Soon the Polish yeshivas were established again in their former homes, although this restoration took longer for those rabbis and students who came back from Russian Exile. The kollel (academy for young married scholars) in Kovno-Slobodka also re-opened. One of the first 10 members of this resurrected kollel was Rav David HaKohen Leibovitz, a grandson of the Chafetz Chaim's brother. When the Chafetz Chaim himself returned from his years of exile in Russia, Reb David came to visit him. In the course of their conversation, he told his great-uncle that "Torah had returned to its home" – the kollel in Kovno had re-opened – and that he was one of its members. The Chafetz Chaim wanted to know what the program of study was. Reb David replied that the main subject was the Takmud tractate Shabbos – and the concerted study by the group was helpful in clarifying many important areas of halacha that are dealt with in the tractate. The Chafetz Chaim was surprised.

"Reb David, my dear friend," he said, "you have to realize that the days of the Redemption are not far off for us. Soon our righteous Messiah will appear. When this great hope of ours is fulfilled, and the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt and the Kohanim return to minister and serve at the Sanctuary, people are going to come and ask questions about the Sanctuary and the holy matters connected with it. You are a Kohen, Reb David, aren't you? So a duty lies on you to study and know the multitude of halachos concerning holy offerings. You have to become fully versed in them, so that you will know how to give instructions and answers for actual practice – what people should do and should not do. As Scripture says, They shall teach Yaakov your rules, and Yisrael your Torah (Devarim 33:10)."

Reb David, taken aback in turn, replied, "But what about the laws of the holy Shabbos? The halachos of Shabbos and the 39 categories of work forbidden on the holy day are like mountains hanging by a thread!"

The Chafetz Chaim answered simply, "For the laws of Shabbos there is the Mishnah Berurah!" (p. 445-446, emphasis added.)

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This was also the opinion of Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohein Kook (1865-1935). I remember reading about this in Simcha Raz's biography on Rav Kook, titled "An Angel Among Men."

Can't find my copy of the book, but found the same idea attributed to Rav Kook in a Times Of Israel article: (among other results)

According to Rabbi Kook, the process of national revival of the Jewish people was perceived as a Revealed End, and was ultimately due to lead to the full redemption of Israel, namely: the establishment of the religious kingdom and the renewal of the rites on the Temple Mount. To this end, [Rav Kook] established the Torat Cohanim yeshiva in 1921. This institute of religious higher learning was intended, as its declared intentions stated, to study “the talmudic order of Kodshim, the regulation of worship in the Temple, the commandments that relate to the Land of Israel and the religious laws relating to the state.”

The yeshiva was founded on the basis of the expectation that the movement of national revival led by Zionism, which was characterized by a disconnection from religion, would rapidly return to the fold of sanctity, the completion of ultimate redemption and the building of the Temple. As is clear from his pamphlet “Sefatei Cohen,” (Lips of a Priest) in which he described the goals of the new yeshiva, Kook believed that the revival of the Hebrew nation, despite the fact that it constituted primarily a secular initiative by Jews who rejected religious authority, was nevertheless intended to secure a sublime spiritual purpose. It would ultimately emerge that the final purpose of this revival was to bring the religious redemption of the Jewish people, the zenith of which is the building of the Temple:

“The anticipation of seeing the priests at their worship and the Levites on their stand and Israel in their presence — this is the foundation that bears this entire revival.”

According to Rabbi Kook, this day was steadily emerging, and preparations must therefore be made. Torat Cohanim yeshiva was thus intended to attend to the practical preparation of priests and Levites for their worship in the Temple, based on the acute messianic expectation that the Temple would indeed be built “speedily and in our days.”

Rabbi Kook taught the tractate of Kodshim in the context of this hope that the sacrifices would be reinstated, and this seems to have formed the background for the establishment of Torat Cohanim yeshiva.

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