Cohens are the Jewish priests, who are descendants of Aharon (the brother of Moses), who was the original high priest. Because they offer sacrifices to God, for themselves as well as for the people of Israel, they must maintain themselves in a place of holiness, and cannot do anything that would defile them or bring iniquity upon themselves or the people. They serve as the connection between God and man. See, e.g. Leviticus 21-22.

Interestingly, Kahuna is the word used for Hawaiian priests. It does not seem to be mere coincidence that the words are so similar.

Anyway, I read something on facebook today that I thought particularly thought provoking:

“What is a Kahu?  In Hawaiian culture, you do not call yourself your pet’s “owner.” You are referred to as their “Kahu.” The word Kahu has a deep meaning and is defined as the sacred role of a guardian, protector, steward or honored attendant. Essentially, someone entrusted with the safe keeping of something precious—something cherished. What a Kahu protects is not their property. What they protect is a part of their soul. We become better when we truly love an animal. We embrace the connection of all life when we embody what it means to be a Kahu.

Although much more can be said about the duties of a priest, this definition describes the end result of what a priest accomplishes if he is successful in carrying out his duties.  He protects that which is most precious and cherished – the souls of those he serves. And in doing so, he establishes an enduring relationship with these souls for whom he is responsible.