You are not to profane my holy name; on the contrary, I am to be regarded as holy among the people of Isra'el; I am Adonai, who makes you holy, (Leviticus 22:32)
WAYS TO DESECRATE THE NAME.
There are many ways to desecrate HaShem's Name. Among the most common ways are:
- To write it in places where it can be defiled such as clothing that will end up in the dirty laundry bin, or a car bumper where it will be soiled by dirt and mud.
- Perjury (Exodus 20:7;13)
- Using it as part of foul language or cussing sentences.
DISTINCTIONS YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER.
The text of the previous parasha was addressed to all the Children of Israel:
"To the entire community of Isra'el; tell them, 'You people are to be holy because I, Adonai your God, am holy. (Lev 19:2 CJB)
The text of this parasha is addressed to the priests.
"Adonai said to Moshe, "Speak to the cohanim, the sons of Aharon; tell them: 'No cohen is to make himself unclean for any of his people who dies,(Lev 21:1 CJB)
In this statement, the word טמא/tameh is the antonym of the word טהור/tahor
Itameh refers to a desecration of ritual purity and has practically nothing to do with sin.
The reason for the commandment in Leviticus 21:1 is found in verse 21:4
"...because he is a leader among his people;"
This teaches us about the very important but often forgotten principles of distinction (which we talked about in last week's parasha). The idea is that, though there is one Torah, this Torah applies differently for different people, even within the community of Israel.
There are applications of the Torah particular to the king, others to the High-Priest, while others are particular to men, women, soldiers, and gers (resident aliens).
Distinction between people is not something well accepted in our 'modern' world, especially when we talk of religious distinctions. The irony is that while today's society claims homogeneity, its own laws contradict that very claim. For example, in the US, distinction between people’s civic and financial responsibilities is made according to income bracket, gender, and still today, according ethnic groups. Also, while a soldier has the right to kill, (while of course obeying certain rules of engagement), if I do it, I am a murderer. A policeman can arrest someone for breaking the law, but no matter how much I know the law, I cannot do it without being accused of kidnapping. I just cannot take the law into my own hands. I have to go to the people who are charged with that duty. Those are all very well understood ideas that tell us of distinction between people. Some are good, some are necessary, while some are just elitist.
In our parasha today, we are looking at the laws of distinctions because someone "is a leader among his people." One of the main jobs of the cohen was to be a custodian of the Temple and of the Word of God. He was also to be a teacher of the Word of God, a teacher through his words and also through his lifestyle. The High-Priest even had a sign on his head saying: 'Mashiach,' meaning: 'anointed one' or: 'Messiah'!
As if this idea of distinction of people because of their societal rank was not already hard to swallow for us, in the Tanach, this priest/leader of the people, is afforded that position by HaShem mainly through biological descent. He has to be from the dynasty of Aaron.
While we may surmise that some of the details that denote this priestly distinction may be irrelevant to us today without a Temple, the principle of distinction still applies to our lives, especially when it comes to leadership structure. Because of his privileged status, the cohen had to maintain a particularly high standard of purity and perfection concerning his appearance, his way of life, the running of his family, and even in his choice of a wife.
THE GREATER RESPONSIBILITY.
Here is another form of distinction between people.
Those who are ignorant of the commandments can be forgiven, but those who know them are guilty of rebellion when found in disobedience.
Therefore the principle of distinction applies to those who proclaim to be Rabbis, Pastors, and Torah-teachers among the Congregation. It even applies to all of us who claim to be followers of Messiah.
Yeshua agreed with this principle when He challenged some who claimed to understand the Torah,
"If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin. But since you still say, 'We see,' your guilt remains.
(Joh 9:41 CJB)
Yeshua also challenged his disciples to a greater form of holy living when he said,
"... unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P'rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!" (Mat 5:20 CJB)
From this statement until the end of chapter 7 of the Book of Matthew, the Master gives examples of how His disciples need to hold to higher standards of conduct and behavior, just because they are His disciples.
Paul also concurred giving many examples of this. In 1 Corinthians chapter 9 he challenges the loose and casual Greek Corinthian congregations to a much higher standard because of their calling as disciples. He gives his own lifestyle as an example saying:
Am I not a free man? Am I not an emissary of the Messiah? Haven't I seen Yeshua our Lord? And aren't you yourselves the result of my work for the Lord? Even if to others I am not an emissary, at least I am to you; for you are living proof that I am the Lord's emissary. That is my defense when people put me under examination. Don't we have the right to be given food and drink? 1Co 9:1-4 (CJB)
or... aren't we entitled to support from the congregations?
Don't we have the right to take along with us a believing wife, as do the other emissaries, also the Lord's brothers and Kefa? 1Co 9:5 (CJB)
Meaning: ... don't we have the right to marry instead of choosing to remain single in order to devote ourselves to the mission at hand? He continues with,
Or are Bar-Nabba and I the only ones required to go on working for our living? 1Co 9:6 (CJB)
Then the apostle continues by showing from his own life an even higher standard of righteousness as he does not avail himself of what is even right to expect:
Did you ever hear of a soldier paying his own expenses? Or of a farmer planting a vineyard without eating its grapes? Who shepherds a flock without drinking some of the milk? ... in the Torah of Moshe it is written, "You are not to put a muzzle on an ox when it is treading out the grain." If God is concerned about cattle, all the more does he say this for our sakes. Yes, it was written for us, meaning that he who plows and he who threshes should work expecting to get a share of the crop. ... Don't you know that those who work in the Temple get their food from the Temple, and those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrifices offered there? In the same way, the Lord directed that those who proclaim the Good News should get their living from the Good News. But I have not made use of any of these rights. … (1 Corinthians 9:7-15 CJB)
Paul believed in being an exemplary leader going above and beyond in being above reproach. This is what our parasha teaches us in the extra purity requirement imposed on the Levite High-priest.
In our days, with so much cynicism toward religious people, it behooves us that, any of us who would be Torah-teachers, adopt standards that also go above and beyond what is expected of us. The Master commands us, "... let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven." So in all things, a congregation leader and Torah teacher needs be more than exemplary in:
- his business dealings,
- his hospitality,
- his generosity,
- his patience and longsuffering when teaching,
- his peace-seeking behavior emulating that of Aaron
- his words,
- his deeds.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, since you know that we will be judged more severely. (James 3:1)
MAY WE ALL KNOW OUR CALLING AND ABIDE IN IT.
MAY WE ALL LIVE LIVES WORTHY OF HIS HIGH CALLING IN US.