Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23) The “Blemish” of Personal Silos

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What does it mean to be a leader? The Torah this week reminds us that no priest who has any type of defect (moom) can be allowed to officiate a sacred rite. We have seen this in other portions, this ideal of bringing something to the Temple without blemish. In precious years we also have used this space to look at that Hebrew word for defect as it comes to us in Leviticus 21.17. Yet, when we extract ourselves from the text and from the sacrificial cult and Priesthood of Leviticus, and let the word speak to us, we can see a variety of meanings, many of which are very personal.
One thing we have all learned as we get older is that we all are blemished in some way. As we look back, all of us can identify moments in life that, if possible, we would re-do, re-live, erase etc. There are no “perfect” people as we all know. The emphasis on leadership and the fact that leaders must be above any reproach also shakes us today, for we do not have to look too far to see that we have certainly strayed from this idea. Leadership, as the commentaries teach, means modeling a life that is without blemish. Rabbi Sacks in his commentary on this passage writes: “People looked up to as role models must act as role models. Piety in relation to God must be accompanied by exemplary behavior in relation to one’s fellow humans. When people associate religiosity with integrity, decency, humility and compassion, God’s name is sanctified. When they come to associate it with contempt for others and for the law, the result is a desecration of God’s name” *
Now associating this text with our leaders is one thing but let us also be reminded that this is personal. We can apply these words to each of us, in our dealings with other people and in how we look at the world. This is especially applicable now when there is so much division. The “blemish” now may be the fact that we have lost the ability to be civil to one another, to be able “to agree to disagree”. Friendships have been strained, relationships have been lost because of our inability to listen and dialogue. So, this Shabbat, look at this word “blemish” (moom) as the portion begins and let it speak to you.
Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Richard F Address.
• “Essays on Ethics”: Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. P.198

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