A Spiritual Defect...Moom--Parshat Emor

Leviticus 21:21

כָּל־אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר־בּוֹ מוּם מִזֶּרַע אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן לֹא יִגַּשׁ לְהַקְרִיב אֶת־אִשֵּׁי יְהוָה מוּם בּוֹ אֵת לֶחֶם אֱלֹהָיו לֹא יִגַּשׁ לְהַקְרִיב׃

No man among the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the LORD’s offering by fire; having a defect, he shall not be qualified to offer the food of his God.


It might seem strange that according to the Torah a person who has a physical defect is disqualified from serving God in holiness. After all, God created all of us with our so-called physical imperfections, right? 

How can we explain this?

The following commentary by Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra (biblical commentator 1089-1167) helps us to see this in a light that takes us beyond the literal understanding of a "defect"  being a purely physical manifestation.

אבו עזרא
וטעם מום בו. כמו אביו ואמו קלל:

The reason there is a defect in him. For example, he cursed his mother or his father.

The commentary above understands that the essence of the defect (the moom) is a spiritual one. One who has committed an act that violates basic decency, one that hurts and curses the very one who gives him/her life, acquires a defect (like cursing one's mother or father). It is interesting that Ibn Ezra chooses the transgression of cursing one's mother or father since that example is quite a direct metaphor for one who curses God, the Holy one who gives life to all (a father and mother to all). 

When we curse the source of our life, whether mother, father or God-- we may hurt that person (or God) but we hurt ourselves far more! For in having done that deed it becomes clear that we have lost touch with: THE TRUTH, the truth of who we are, what we are, our true significance and  the true source of our lives, and to whom we owe our gratitude. 

It is easier to understand why someone who has such a spiritual defect would not be worthy or suitable to serve in holiness rather than a person who simply has some physical defect. 

Even though the Torah lists a series of physical defects that disqualify the Priest, Ibn Ezra relates to these defects as having their source in the spiritual realm. Today we might speak in terms of a mind, body and soul connection that connects those physical manifestations with spiritual impediments. From my point of view, that is certainly not to say that all physical defects are caused by spiritual deficiencies.  But I would say that there is a mind, body and spirit connection that affects us all; and that the defects that we need to be concerned with when we speak of living in holiness are the spiritual ones. We can heal from those defects but we need to understand where they come from in order to begin a healing process. 

It comes down to a question of significance. We all want to feel significant; but sometimes in order to feel significant we tell ourselves a lie about the source of our significance. We fall into the trap of  attributing our significance to our own personal "greatness", the work of our own hands rather than the one who gave those hands--it is a sort of idolatry, it is a place of ego that attributes all significance the the "I" rather than to the "Source". In order to live in holiness, we must always stand in awe of the miracle of our lives and in gratitude to the source of our every breath, a mysterious yet ever present force we call - God.
Something to think about...

Shabbat Shalom


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