Emor-the Malformed Cohen and Ishbitz

The parsha of Emor presents a real problem for our sensitivity. The Torah tells us that if a Cohen has various deformities, ie broeken limbs, or distorted eyes or head, that Kohen cannot serve and bring sacrifices. He can eat the holy food but cannot actually do the “Avodah.” (Chapter 21,19-22). This really flies in the face of our belief not to judge people by appearance or disabilities beyond their control. One would think the Torah would not stop someone from serving Gd just because they conform to what everyone else looks like. Such medieval thinking should make us uncomfortable… or look for a good answer.

The holy Ishbitzer provides a reason. The Ishbitzer says that a Cohen with disabilities could harbor anger that he is unable to perform the Avodah merely because of his deformity. However, the Isbhitz says the anger can distance him from Gd. What is the holy Isbitzer saying? The Shikkerdovid would like to chime in. It is not always so clear on how to serve Gd. We think we are given a clear roadmap with the Torah. We are taught, just follow the Torah. Here the Kohen wants to do the Avodah, but cannot because of his deformity. The answer might be that there are many ways to serve. It is not a uniform practice for all. According to Ishbitz, sometimes we serve Gd by not doing things exactly the right way and recognizing that this is from Hashem. Maybe sometimes we doing things according to procedure and perfectly, but our intent or action is not truly for Hashem.

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