Torah-Inspired, Reflection of The Day…it's back, after the High Holy Day hiatus.
Today we look at Emor, Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23 - rules about relationships, for priests, including an ostensibly offensive rule for the priesthood, quoted here:
Lev. 21:17 Speak to Aaron, saying: A man of your seed, throughout their generations, who has in him a defect is not to come-near to bring-near the food of his God.
This limits the participation of the Levites to those who are born with no defects whatsoever. A student from our synagogue who only has nine toes read this section for his Bar Mitzvah, and started out understandably outraged.
Reading on, we discovered a way, perhaps to rehabilitate the text, in a small way:
Lev. 21:22 The food-offerings of his God from the holiest holy-portions, or from the holy-portions, he may eat;
Allowing Levites who are prohibited from participating in Levitical work, namely the maintenance of the Temple and the sacrificial system, to nonetheless eat from the food that the Levites receive as their donation shows the inherent concern for fairness even in ancient Israelite society. After all, these disabled Levites were also barred from other employment in the community, just like any other Levite, and so they needed to receive sustenance from somewhere.
While physical limitations may make certain jobs unavailable, no one should be left out of the basic needs of social welfare.
Thank you to Benjamin Meyerson, the Bar Mitzvah student, who helped come up with this insight.