Parashat Emor: Embodied Leadership and Its Discontents

In Parashat Emor (Leviticus 21-24), read this past week in synagogues around the world, we are introduced to the relatives for whom Kohanim (priests) are permitted to mourn, as well as a list of various classes of priests who, owing to a mum (blemish), are barred from performing the sacrificial service in the Mishkan (Leviticus 21:16-21). They include those who are blind, lame, have a limb which is too short or too long, one who has a broken arm or leg, one with dwarfism, a hunchback, one who has a growth in his eye, a boil-scar, scurvy or crushed testes. Our Torah starkly states that people with a “mum” are forbidden from going behind the curtain or approaching the alter, lest they profane a place that G-d has made sacred (Leviticus 21:23). However, they are permitted to partake of the sacrificial meat, just as all other Kohenim are.

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