Parshat Emor introduces us to the laws of the Kohein and his unique laws. The Kohein was granted to exclusive role of serving in the Temple. His service granted him special access to the Temple and the Temple services. Being a Kohein meant having a special status amongst the Jewish People. He would receive the first fruits, the choicest sacrifices. Being a Kohein, meant that you had a unique status amongst all Jews.
However, there is one Kohein who for no fault of his own is banned from the Temple service. This Kohein had a blemish, a mark or scar that prevented him from serving in the Temple. How can the Torah ban this man, who by no fault of his own is cast out of the Temple? It’s not fair! Let’s unlock an incredible lesson about our lives by studying this unique law of the Kohanim.
Parshat Emor Summary
- Laws of the Kohanim
- Laws of the Kohein Gadol
- Disqualification of the Kohen
- What the Kohein and his family can eat
- The laws of Shabbat and festivals
- The blasphemer
The Unique Role Of The Kohen
The Kohein has a unique status amongst the Jewish People. Although we teach that we are all equal in the eyes of the Creator. This is not true regarding our responsibilities. There are those amongst us who have greater responsibilities and obligations than others.
The Kohen in Judaism had this unique and special role. The Torah legislates a limitation as to who he can marry, bans him from coming into contact with the dead, and warns him as to his responsibility regarding the food he can eat. (Lev chapters 21-22)
On the other hand, we read of the obligation of the community towards the Kohein. The Torah teaches us the law of וקידשתו and you shall honour him. The Talmud teaches that there is an obligation on the community to offer the Kohein the first call up in shul. They are asked to lead the benching.
There is however one rule that is difficult to accept. A Kohein that has a blemish, called a מום-moom, is forbidden to serve in the Temple. (Lev: 21:16-24)
What Is The Definition Of A Moom?
The Torah explains if they have a physical disability, a facial feature that is different, a weeping eye, for example, they cannot serve in the Temple.
Why not? This seems unfair. The Kohein is banned from the service of Hashem in the Holy Temple, owing to a blemish that was not his fault. Surely he has suffered enough because of his birth defect? Now he is excluded from the Divine service in the Temple! To quote my kids, “This isn’t fair!”
It’s Not Fair!
The answer to the question is even more shocking. He is banned because we will look at him and mock him. The Kohein would be shamed and mocked by the People. They could lose respect for the Temple as a whole!
Unfortunately, people see with their eyes, and what they see is only the surface. It would not matter that this Kohein was the most pious and knowledgeable Kohein. The Torah rules remain in force and the Kohein must accept his fate.
Parashat Emor: A Unique Mitzvah
Is there nothing more heroic than this Kohein? He is born within the family who have the unique privilege to serve Hashem in His Temple. He is the envy of all of the Jewish People. But alas he is prevented from his service.
This Kohein is asked to put aside his personal feelings and submit his ego to the Divine will. It certainly is not an easy thing to do. But in the same way, as there is a mitzvah for the Kohein to serve Hashem, this Kohein has his unique mitzvah to serve Hashem by not entering the Temple. This is his unique mitzvah, one that no other Kohein had.
In Life, we are all challenged with opportunities, frustrations, and obstacles. Unfortunately, many of us look at the situation, like our Kohein, and bewail the fact that we cannot contribute and serve in the way that we want. We launch into a passionate rant and complaint about how unfair life is. How we have been given the short stick.
Reframing Our Lot In Life
It is at times like this that we need to be able to step back. True, I cannot serve Hashem in the way that I would like to, but, I still have a unique path to serve Him. One that is unique to me. I get to serve Hashem in a way that no other Kohein can. That is my legacy and heritage.
Parshat Emor is teaching us an incredible lesson in being שמח בחלקו being happy with your lot. Too often we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others and putting them on a pedestal. However, if we can reframe our situation. We may not ask for it but the path that we are on is still a path to serve Hashem.
I once counseled a madrich- youth leader. He came to me very down. When I asked him what the problem was, he responded, “That in his group there is an incredibly talented and charismatic madrich. All the kids flock to him. Whereas I only have a couple of kids who follow me and are willing to learn with me.”
I responded by saying, “I understand. There will always be people better, smarter, and more talented than you. However, look at the picture in this light. You have chanichim- students- who prefer to be with you and learn from you. You have a connection with these kids, that the talented superstar cannot connect with. In other words, these students cannot connect with him, but they do with you.”
That is the answer. We keep comparing ourselves to others. We think that if we haven’t figured it out by 30 we are a failure. If we haven’t made the million-dollar business by 35 we are nobodies. Gary Vaynerchuk, a media and business guru, explains it in his own indomitable style. We have to reframe our terms of success. For every UBER and GOOGLE, there are many other companies that are doing well, making 110k or a million dollars. Why do we compare ourselves with the biggest companies? No wonder we feel like failures.
Emor: A Lesson For The Ages
Parshat Emor is teaching us a lesson for the ages. We are born with our abilities, strengths, and skills. Stop focussing on what you don’t and can’t do. Reframe and learn to be the best that you can be.
Life deals us all sorts of challenges, do we complain or do we embrace? To have a mitzvah that no one else in the Jewish People can fulfill- that makes our Kohein special. In fact, he is as special as the only other Kohein that has unique mitzvot- The Kohein Gadol- The High Priest himself.
It just requires a rethink. To step back to appreciate the unique situation you are blessed with.