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.

Read more at Bronfman Torah

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


Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy