Emor – People or Priests

If only Vayikra had ended last week. The message of holiness that shapes how we live, how relate to one another, how we care and how we love was inspiring. Unfortunately, the rupture of Nadav and Avihu’s death is still not healed. The Cohanim are treated to a whole new set of laws this week. Degraded and dehumanized, they are forced through examinations like show dogs. The Torah is not concerned with their mind or their soul, but only with heir height, weight, and the symmetry of their eyebrows. Their relationships are limited, and the law will now control whom they can love and whom they may grieve. The one priest, who exceeds all his brothers, who has the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies is further objectified. His mobility is limited, and his wife is chosen by the most crass of qualities – only a virgin.
Thank God he did not make me a priest. Thank God he only limited this horrific life to a few. Nadav and Avihu showed us that when personality and care merge with the Holy, the results can be disastrous. The reaction is to clamp down, to eliminate the human from the direct encounter with God. That is the role of the priest. The person whose humanity is stripped to be God’s servant.
The rest of us still have Kedoshim. We still have the world where we partner with God, or take his place in the world. Where we merge our desires and loves with God’s will and do what he will not do in our world. We do not encounter God directly, but rather let God enter our world through our lives.
Imagine what it meant for Korach to rebel against Aaron – to say that we should all be priests. That difficult complicated life, where God’s existence weaves with our own, is insulting to Korach. He does not want humanity, he wants the pure encounter with God, where our own selves disappears. Where thought and logic reign supreme, and love and emotion are left behind. That is the world of the ancient Cohanim. Instead, today, we have Kedoshim.

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