EMOR (Leviticus, 21:1-24:23) — “When In Rome…?”

I normally don’t make it a practice to write about other religions.  I have no expertise in other religions, and don’t see it as my role to comment. (Especially considering the fact that I don’t, to my knowledge, have any Catholics on my mailing list. :-)) However, when the major events of the day are affected, I am willing to make an exception.

(I should point out that it is my personal belief that every Jew in Americashould give thanks to G-d that we live in what is basically a Christian country.  Although it has not always been this way — Spain, for example, is a painful exception – we currently fare much better in Christian countries than in Muslim ones.  Current events seem to indicate thatIsrael’s best friend is the Christian Right.)

Sanctify him (the Kohain-Priest) … he will be holy to you because I, the G-d who sanctifies you, am holy.” (Leviticus, 21:8)

In Judaism, one does not enter the priesthood by choice.  It is a privilege/obligation that comes to the descendants of Aaron. The Kohain is required to live a holy lifestyle.  Among other things, he has limitations on whom he may marry and where he may go.

The Kohain Gadol, or High Priest, has additional rules that go beyond those of a regular priest.  One of the requirements is that he MUST marry.  (Marriage is actually a requirement for every Jew.  The Torah emphasizes this obligation in reference to the High Priest.) It is considered so imperative that he be married that there is even an authority in the Talmud who maintains that he should have TWO WIVES, in case wife #1 dies. (This opinion is not accepted.)

Unlike the opinions of others, the Torah does not consider marriage to be a lower level of sanctity, or an indulgence to “pursue sins of the flesh.” On the contrary: “G-d said, ‘It is not good that man be alone; I will make for him a helpmate.'” (Genesis,2:18)  Until a man finds the woman with whom he is destined to share his future, he is considered incomplete.

It would be naïve to assume that marriage prevents all evil.  To be sure, the jails and mental hospitals have no shortage of married men who have perpetrated despicable misdeeds.  However, a person’s decision to embark upon a career that precludes ever fulfilling G-d’s natural plan of a marital relationship, should, at the very least, raise concerns as to that person’s all-around stability.

Is anybody in Rome listening?

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When I was a Yeshiva student in Jerusalem, I took on, as an extracurricular project, the study of “Sofrus,” scribal arts.  A Sofer is a highly trained rabbi who writes and repairs sacred texts, such as Torah Scrolls, and Mezuzahs.  It is considered an act of intense holiness to infuse ink and parchment with the sanctity of a Torah.  One is judged, not only by his artistic and legal expertise, but by his piety as well.

After spending two years studying the laws and serving as an apprentice, I appeared before a Rabbinic Tribunal in B’nei Brak to be tested and certified as a “Sofer STA”M,” a Scribe for Torahs, Tefillin, and Mezuzahs.  The rabbis reviewed a Megillah that I had written — they found it acceptable.  They quizzed me on several of the intricate laws involved in this endeavor — I responded to every question satisfactorily.

The rabbis huddled together in a whispered conference. Would I receive my certification? Finally, the Chief Rabbi of the court rendered his decision:

“You have passed the test…

                                               …Come back when you’re married.”

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

“Kaddish and Other Overrated Mitzvahs” (2010)

… What is the magic of Kaddish that it draws even the most non-observant Jew into the synagogue? What does it mean? What is its significance? …

Read more.

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“Beauty and the Priest” (2007)

… The Torah goes on to give a list of “blemishes” that disqualify the Kohain from officiating in theTempleService.  (Mr. Cohen, I hope your lawyer is taking notes!):

“’… a man who is blind or lame or whose nose has no bridge, or who has one limb longer than the other… who has a broken leg or broken arm… abnormally long eyebrows, a membrane on his eye or a blemish in his eye… any man from the offspring of Aaron who has a blemish shall not approach to offer the fire-offerings of G-d…’” (Ibid, verses 18-22)

There you have it — discrimination against people with disabilities!

What’s going on here?  Shouldn’t there be a “Kohain with Disabilities Act”?!!  Why is the Torah discriminating against a Kohain just because he looks a little different?  Is this a beauty contest?!!

This is not a concept that is easy to explain.  I called a colleague of mine and told him, “Give me a clear, Politically Correct, Jewish-outreach-to-the-uninitiated explanation to these rules.  How do I explain the Torah’s apparent prejudice against Kohanim with disabilities?”

My colleague’s response:  “Good luck!”…

Read more.

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“The Passion of the Pharisees” (2004) 

… The world is abuzz about “The Passion.”  …

I recently heard a fellow on the radio defending the movie from charges of being anti-Semitic.  “The Jews are NOT being blamed.  The people at fault were a small number of Jews who controlled theTemple.  The common folk had nothing to do with this murder.  It was the fault of the corrupt priests and the Pharisees!”

…I do want to clear up one thing.  My father-in-law was a Priest, and I am a Pharisee.  And neither of us was portrayed fairly in the movie…

Read more.

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“When In Rome…?” (2002)

… In Judaism, one does not enter the priesthood by choice …  Among other things, he has limitations on whom he may marry and where he may go.

The Kohain Gadol, or High Priest, has additional rules that go beyond those of a regular priest…there is an authority in the Talmud who maintains that he should have TWO WIVES…

 … After spending two years studying the laws and serving as an apprentice, I appeared before a Rabbinic Tribunal in B’nei Brak to be tested and certified as a “Sofer STA”M,” a Scribe for Torahs, Tefillin, and Mezuzahs…  The rabbis huddled together in a whispered conference. Would I receive my certification? Finally, the Chief Rabbi of the court rendered his decision…

Read more.

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“Is There a Middle of the Road?” (2001)

 … How about acting in a way that creates neither good P.R. nor bad?  What if we live our lives quietly and anonymously, without calling attention to ourselves in any way?  Can’t we just do what we have to do without desecrating G-d’s name but not grabbing positive headlines for Him either? …

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2010 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain inMonsey,New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on April 25, 2002 at 10:56 am  Leave a Comment  

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