Why Can’t a Lame Priest Serve in the Temple?

This week’s Torah reading, concerned mainly with regulations governing the Temple service, forbids any member of the priestly caste with a physical deformity (e.g., lameness, blindness, or a lazy eye) from performing the sacrificial rites, although he is nonetheless eligible to a share in tithes. Reflecting on the sharp discordance between this law and modern sensibilities, William Herlands writes:

It’s hard to imagine that the same God who is venerated by the Psalmist as “the father of orphans, the champion of widows” would reject the ritual service of [a disfigured priest]. Indeed, Moses is referred to as having “uncircumcised lips,” which the midrash . . . explains is a physical disability that made it difficult for him to speak. Yet Moses served God with unparalleled intimacy, and the Talmud states that God initially desired that he be the first High Priest.

Perhaps we can approach this tension by examining a parallel law with respect to animal sacrifice. In Leviticus 22 the Torah forbids sacrifices of disabled or disfigured animals [referred to with the same Hebrew term used to describe disqualified priests]. . . . The Torah fears that people will view sacrifice as a means of ridding themselves of a burdensome beast. Left to market forces alone, people would bring sacrifices from old cows that cannot produce milk or injured goats that cannot be sold at market.

Similarly the Torah is concerned that without a clear place in society, people may relegate the disabled to the Temple. The disfigured were an unsettling enigma to ancient (and even modern) eyes. We can imagine the desire to remove them from the community and hide them away in the sanctuary, assuaging our lingering guilt with the thought that their tasks are sanctified. . . .

Instead, the Torah requires us to embrace the disabled into society.

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Read more at Bronfman Torah

More about: Leviticus, Priesthood, Religion & Holidays, Temple, Torah

 

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela