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

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7