אמור

This week’s parsha begins by detailing the special place of the priests in ancient Israelite society.  “They shall not make a bald spot on their heads, and they shall not shave their beards, and shall not make a marking on their flesh.  They will be holy to their God, and they will not desecrate the name of their God, because they offer the burnt offerings to Hashem, the bread of their God they bring near, and they will be holy” (21:5-6, translation mine).  Sforno has a concern with this excessive distinction for the sake of holiness that sounds very modern.  He addresses the question: what if a priest does not want to lord himself over his fellow Israelites so much?  Sforno’s answer: ‘Even though all of these [distinctions for the sake of holiness] are for his [the priest’s] honour, he has no right to forgo his honour, because, at root, the honour of the priests is for the honour of God, and when the priests forgo their honour they desecrate His name” (commentary to 21:6, translation mine).  I think that part of our obsession with individualism leaves many of us identifying with the implicit question here, even if the answer makes sense, for the time it was written.  We want our leaders to be able to forgo symbolism that separates them from the masses if they so choose, especially if forgoing such honour will allow them to create a closer connection with others.  I think that the parsha, here, is teaching us what we learned again in the wake of the tragedy in Boston – leadership is needed at tough times.  And if the book of Vayikra / Leviticus has taught us anything, it is that priests are there for people at some of the toughest points of their lives.

Let us not forget

The need for distinction;

To transform us

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