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Shabbat Emor (Leviticus 21:1–24:23)

In parsha Emor we continue with the “holiness code” that was started last week in Kiddushim. The quality of sacrifices which can be brought is specified – it should be pure and without blemish. So far so good.

Things go south when we discover that  WE should be without blemish or defect also, especially when it comes to approaching the bema. People with physical deformity are not allowed to approach the mishkan. Ever. The blind, the lame, those who are too long of limb (I guess this is why there are so few Jewish basketball players), those with a broken leg or a broken arm or a scab. (A scab?!? I can just hear Jewish mother’s of old “Oy vey, Yossie! If you keep riding your bike like that you’ll NEVER become a Priest!”) This is where the trouble (and undoubtedly the discussion) begins.

Limited only by your creativity and the category of food assigned, please bring something which is “blemished” – overripe, formed (and/or MALformed) or defective. Conversely, you can instead choose to bring something which is perfect, pure and without blemish. The choice (and the challenge) is yours.

2 Responses to “Shabbat Emor (Leviticus 21:1–24:23)”

  1. Frume Sarah says:

    This is one of those sections that I really believe ought to be revisited in light of modern advances. For example, there now exists a way for the blind to learn Torah. That was not even imaginable during Biblical times. What message are we sending to those who have some sort of physical handicap?

    • leon says:

      A good friend brought up that two priests had to bring the sacrifice up the ramp to the top of the altar, and they couldn’t trip or falter during that ascent. The act required physical strength and a good amount of coordination – both verbal and nonverbal. Taken in that context, it’s clear why you wouldn’t want someone who’s leg might give out, or who couldn’t hear (or see) their partner to participate. Not as a punishment but as a protection.

      Finally, the injunction against offering the physical sacrifice on the altar didn’t preclude the priest from any other duty. It was JUST that one activity.

      I know that taken in modern context, all of that sounds apologist. So maybe her and now we choose to interpret it on the level of metaphor. Could the injunction against the blind be a variation of “don’t try to teach a pig to sing”? ie: When you have people who turn a baleful / blind eye to your message, who aren’t engaged, don’t demand that they perform “sacrifice” (in today’s context, tefillah) because they will either come away with the wrong message or will begin to mock it and turn others aside.

      Which may very well be a compelling argument for not forcing 6th grade Sunday school students to daven.

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