Friday, April 30, 2010

The Perfection Within Us All

היום אחד ושלשים יום שהם ארבעה שבועות ושלשה ימים בעמר
Today is the thirty-first day, making four weeks and three days of the omer
תפארת שבהוד

A day of compassion in a week of humility

In this week Torah parsha, Emor - Lev 21:1 - 24:23 - we read that in order for one of the priestly tribe to be able to offer a sacrifice, they must be "perfect"

Adonai spoke further to Moses: speak to Aaron and say: No man of your offspring throughout the ages who has defect hall be qualified to offer the food of his God. No one at all who has a defect shall be qualified: no an who is blind, or lame, or has a limb too short or too long; no man who has a broken leg or a broken arm; or who is a hunchback, or a dwarf, or who has a growth in his eye, or who has a boil-scar, or scurvy , or crushed tested. no man among the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a defect shall e qualified to offer Adonai's gift; having a defect, he shall not be qualified to offer the food of his God. He may eat of the food of his God, of the most holy as well as of the holy; but he shall not enter behind the curtain or come near the altar, for he has a defect. he shall not [profane these paces sacred to Me, for I, Adonai, have sanctified them."
--Lev 21:16 - 23

Many who read this now have real problems with this passage. Why do those who offer the sacrifices have to be perfect? Are not we all perfect before God, before the Transcendent, perfect within ourselves--as long as work to be the best of ourselves. Does this not propagate the images blasted all around us of outward, societally excepted beauty as perfect? Are we not good enough to make these offerings?

I always teach that we need to look at the words of the Torah in the context of the culture they were written in to find the meaning that is meant to speak to us today. And about eight years ago I found a way to unlock the teachings of those words.

For in that time, in that society, the Israelites weren't constantly faced with a false sense of beauty everywhere the looked. They saw themselves and they saw those around them. I that time, having the "perfect" priest perform the sacrifices didn't mean they weren't good enough. I believe they could look at the "perfect" priest as the one who represents them to God. That priest symbolized, embodied who each of them were. So, instead of feeling inferior to that person, not "perfect" enough to offer the sacrifice--especially those who were even of the priestly class--they saw that "perfect " priest as themselves--they were that perfect person before God. Each one, whatever their exterior being, was, at that moment of offering--perfect.

It was true for the Israelites then, and with this interpretation, we see that it can be true for us now.

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