Emor-Zevachim 18-19: It is not About You Mr. Cohen

The SD was always a little uncomfortable with the idea of Cohen-Levi-Yisrael. The whole idea of a “priestly class” kind of felt antithetical to the rest of the Torah and kind of society Judaism preaches in the rest of the Torah.  Until Parshat Emor intersected this week with the daf Yomi- Zevachim 18 and 19.

In Emor we are told that a Kohen with a blemish, such a  long arm, messed up eye or other unmentionable things cannot do the “Avodah” or work of the Temple.  In itself that is strange. Maybe the guy is great, sensitive, sweet and we are not allowing him to do the work based on something as cosmetic defect or something as arbitrary as a tearing eye?  Here comes Zevachim 18-19.   The braisa on 18a and continuing with an objection 18b discusses whether a Kohen’s whose garment is too long or too short when doing the Avodha invalidates his Avoda (work). Even further, the Talmud on 19 questions whether wearing a bandage or a little “bendel” or wrapping invalidates his  Avodah as this would be an extra garment and deem him to be out of uniform.    (The Kohanim wear 4 or 8 when doing work)

What is all this about? The Shikkerdovid would like to weigh in.  The parsha of Emor disqualifies those who are not standard.  The Talmud disqualifies the Avoda when you are not dressed in a standard manner. It is not about the razzle-dazzle or personality of the individual. It is about subordinating himself to the work of the Temple.

The key here is not the person who is central but the Avoda is central. The values of the avoda are central.  By “standardizing” we are taking away the centrality of the person. We are not making it about Mr. Cohen, but  a person working on behalf of a nation.  The rigid almost arbitrary rules that govern the work of the Kohen, hopefully make it about the process, the system, the values,   As kids say: “its not about you!”.

This is how the SD understands the role of the kohen.

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