In last week's Dvar Torah, I suggested that impurities uniquely define us. We should embrace that which makes us impure.
According to Parshat Emor, this is not the case:
In reference to Kohanim:
כִּ֥י כָל־אִ֛ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־בּ֥וֹ מ֖וּם לֹ֣א יִקְרָ֑ב אִ֤ישׁ עִוֵּר֙ א֣וֹ פִסֵּ֔חַ א֥וֹ חָרֻ֖ם א֥וֹ שָׂרֽוּעַ׃ א֣וֹ אִ֔ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־יִהְיֶ֥ה ב֖וֹ שֶׁ֣בֶר רָ֑גֶל א֖וֹ שֶׁ֥בֶר יָֽד׃ אֽוֹ־גִבֵּ֣ן אוֹ־דַ֔ק א֖וֹ תְּבַלֻּ֣ל בְּעֵינ֑וֹ א֤וֹ גָרָב֙ א֣וֹ יַלֶּ֔פֶת א֖וֹ מְר֥וֹחַ אָֽשֶׁךְ׃ כָּל־אִ֞ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־בּ֣וֹ מ֗וּם מִזֶּ֙רַע֙ אַהֲרֹ֣ן הַכֹּהֵ֔ן לֹ֣א יִגַּ֔שׁ לְהַקְרִ֖יב אֶת־אִשֵּׁ֣י יְהוָ֑ה מ֣וּם בּ֔וֹ אֵ֚ת לֶ֣חֶם אֱלֹהָ֔יו לֹ֥א יִגַּ֖שׁ לְהַקְרִֽיב׃
No one at all who has a defect shall be qualified: no man who is blind, or lame, or has a limb too short or too long; no man who has a broken leg or a broken arm; or who is a hunchback, or a dwarf, or who has a growth in his eye, or who has a boil-scar, or scurvy, or crushed testes. No man among the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the LORD’s offering by fire; having a defect, he shall not be qualified to offer the food of his God.
Essentially, any sort of defect excludes a Kohen from being able to serve in the houses of worship. And so in spite of the progress we made last week in dissecting difficult questions regarding purity, we again face a question of double standards:
Why is it that an inherent defect of an individual excludes them communal involvement?
Instinctively, this will disturb our progressive minds. Particularly as Jews. We, as a community are highly involved in integrating members of our community who have some sort of permanent (as well as temporary) disability. The thought of excluding these people is repugnant to many. Additionally, to exclude one based on attributes beyond one's control is fundamentally discriminatory.
The Kohanim are a holy family line, who until now, seemed to all be eligible for communal service. The Tur HaAroch aptly observes: " The possibility of any priest being stricken with a physical blemish in the future therefore had to be approached in a very sensitive manner". However this still does not resolve our issue of exclusion based on discrimination.
We, must unfortunately, live with the reality of the truth.
The places of worship required very active and constant work. They were perceived as places of immaculate perfection. To request of someone with a "defect" to serve in these places would not only be impractical, but would likely lead to embarrassment of the individual who may not be able to perform to the same standards. And so to avoid this awkward and possibly offensive situation, the text decided to exclude them from the outset, citing reasons (perhaps inappropriately) of impurity.
Regardless of your thoughts towards this approach, we will all recognize that throughout our lives, there has be a time and place where to solve complex and pragmatic issues, unconventional and perhaps, sometimes, slightly offensive responses are used. These solutions likely made us feel bad or excluded us. We may have had strong feelings at the time but these choices were ultimately designed to protect the individuals at who they were aimed.
As Madrichim and Madrichot we are often faced with the issue of how to solve issues without directly revealing certain problems to our chanichim/ot. This part of conflict resolution is perhaps one of the hardest parts of being a boger/et.
Let us despair in the reality that humans have always struggled to find nuanced ways to approach tough issues and questions. Let us find solace in the reality that we have always tried (as we do in the case of the Kohanim) to solve them.