If a Kohen is not found in Shul, may a Levi be called up in place of the Kohen?

If a Kohen is not found in Shul, may a Levi be called up in place of the Kohen?[1]

If there is no Kohen present in Shul, it is permitted for a Levi to go up in his place [if there is no Yisrael of greater stature than the Levi[2]]. [However, other Poskim[3] rule a Levi may never go up in place of a Kohen, and thus when there is no Levi in Shul, a Yisrael is to receive all first three Aliyos of Kohen, Levi, Yisrael, calling up a different Yisrael for each Aliya.[4] Practically, each community is to follow their custom in this matter.[5] Most communities, Ashkenaz and Sefarad are accustomed like the former opinion, that a Levi may go up instead of a Yisrael.[6] There is however no obligation to call a Levi in place of the Kohen, and it is left to the discretion of the Gabai whether to call a Levi or Yisrael[7], unless the Levi is of greater stature than the Yisrael[8], or the Levi has a Chiyuv.[9] In all cases, whether or not a Levi was called up in place of a Kohen, a Levi is not to be called up for the 2nd Aliyah of Levi, and it is rather given to a Yisrael.[10]]

How to call up the Levi:[11]  Upon calling the Levi [or Yisrael[12]] instead of Kohen, the Gabai is to recite “Bemakom Kohen”, in order so they do not mistake him as a Kohen.[13]  [However, when the Yisrael is called up in place of Levi, there is no need to say “Bimakom Levi.”[14] However, when a Kohen is called up instead of a Levi, the Gabai is to say “Bemikom Levi”.[15]]

 

Summary:

Whenever there is no Kohen present in Shul, it is permitted for a Levi to go up in his place. There is however no obligation to call a Levi in place of the Kohen, unless the Levi has a Chiyuv.  In all cases, whether or not a Levi was called up in place of a Kohen, a Levi is not to be called up for the 2nd Aliyah of Levi, and it is rather given to a Yisrael. Upon calling the Levi [or Yisrael] instead of Kohen, the Gabai is to recite “Bemakom Kohen”, in order so they do not mistake him as a Kohen.  

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[1] Rama 135:6; M”A 135:10; Taz 135:6; Peri Chadash 135:6; Elya Raba 135:9; Mamar Mordechai 135:8; Machazik Bracha 135:4; Biur Hagr”a; Rashi Gittin 59b in accordance to his second and main explanation; Rosh in name of Ritzba; Tur 135; Maharil, and Beis Yosef 135 in name of Minchas Kohen, that this applies even according to the first Pirush in Rashi Gittin ibid; One way of learning Rabbeinu Yerucham, Rambam Tefila 12:19 and even 1st Pirush in Rashi ibid; Or Letziyon 2:9; Yabia Omer 6:24; Piskeiy Teshuvos 135:10

Background of opinions: The Gemara Gittin 59b states that when there is no Kohen in Shul “the package falls apart.” It is unclear as to the intent of this statement, and Rashi ibid offers two explanations, the first that “The Levi is not called at all” and the second explanation that “He can call up whomever he wants.” Now, there is a total of two interpretations amongst the Poskim as to the understanding of the first explanation in Rashi, which consequently created three opinions in Halacha as to whether a Levi may or should be called up first when a Kohen is not present: a) That one may not call up a Levi at all, neither for the first Aliya in place of the Kohen, nor for the second Aliyah which is generally designated for Levi. [1st explanation of Rashi as learns Kesef Mishneh on Rambam ibid and Taz ibid; One way of learning Rambam and Michaber 135:6, and so learns to be their opinion: Peri Chadash 135:6; Bach 135; Kneses Hagedola 135:5; Beis Yehuda 2; Kaf Hachaim 135:40] Or b) That we no longer need to honor the Levi with an Aliya prior to a Yisrael, even if the Levi and Yisrael are of equal stature, and thus its left to the discretion of the Gabaiy as to whether to call up a Levi or Yisrael for the first Aliyah of Kohen. If, however, a Yisrael if of greater stature, the one must honor the Yisrael. [1st Pirush in Rashi ibid, as understood by Maharil ibid, Darkei Moshe 135:6, Maharil, and Beis Yosef 135 in name of Minchas Kohen; explained in Machatzis Hashekel on M”A 135:10] Or c) That we no longer need to honor the Levi with an Aliya prior to a Yisrael, if the Yisrael is of greater stature, and thus its left to the discretion of the Gabaiy as to whether to call up a Levi or Yisrael for the first Aliyah of Kohen. If, however, the Levi and Yisrael are of equal stature, and certainly if he is of greater stature, then one must precede the Levi. [2nd Pirush in Rashi ibid; See Rosh; Taz ibid; Machatzis Hashekel ibid]

[2] M”A 135:10 [in suspicion of 1st Pirush in Rashi as explains Machatzis Hashekel]; Taz 135:6 in compromise of first and 2nd Pirush in Rashi; 1st Pirush in Rashi ibid, as learn some Poskim ibid; Peri Chadash 135:6; Elya Raba 135:9; Mamar Mordechai 135:8; Machazik Bracha 135:4; Ledavid Emes 5:16; Zera Emes 15;  Kaf Hachaim 135:45

[3] 1st explanation of Rashi as learns Kesef Mishneh on Rambam ibid and Taz ibid; One way of learning Rambam ibid and Michaber 135:6, and so learns to be their opinion: Peri Chadash 135:6 and so practically rule: Iggur, brought in Darkei Moshe ibid, that so is custom in Ashkenaz; Bach 135; Kneses Hagedola 135:5; Beis Yehuda 1-2; Mor Uketzia 135 based on Kabala that one should not begin with Midas Hadin; Kaf Hachaim 135:40;

[4] The reason: As if the Levi is called up for Kohen people may think that he is a Kohen. [Bach ibid]

[5] Kaf Hachaim ibid

[6] Or Letziyon 2:9; Yabia Omer 6:24; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid;

[7] Implication of Rama ibid who says “Yachol Lalos” seemingly in suspicion of the 1st Pirush in Rashi; Piskeiy Teshuvos 135:10 [Vetzaruch Iyun that he omits all the opinions brought below!]

Other opinions: Some Poskim learn that whenever the Levi is of equal stature to the Yisrael, then he must be called up first. [2nd Pirush in Rashi; Taz ibid; Machatzis Hashekel ibid; Levushei Serud on Taz ibid]

[8] Machatzis Hashekel ibid that according to M”A ibid and other Poskim, this applies according to both Pirushim in Rashi; Taz ibid according to 2nd Pirush in Rashi;

[9] Kaf Hachaim ibid; Yabia Omer ibid; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid

[10] Taz ibid; M”A 135:11; Beis Yosef 135; See Shaareiy Efraim 1:13; Kaf Hachaim 135:40

[11] Rama ibid Tur ibid

[12] Shaareiy Efraim 1:13; Derech Hachaim 1; Kaf Hachaim 135:46

[13] The reason: As otherwise people may think that he is a Kohen, and come to give him Teruma or Challah. [Poskim ibid]

[14] Tur; Kaf Hachaim ibid

[15] Mamar Mordechai 135:10; Shaareiy Efraim 1:15; Kaf Hachaim ibid

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