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)
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 go 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.
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 is the opposite of טהור
It refers to a desecration of ritual purity and has practically nothing to do with sin.
The reason for the commandment is found in verse 21:4
"...because he is a leader among his people;"
This teaches us about the very important but 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 alien).
Distinction between people is not something well accepted in our 'modern' world, at least, religious distinctions. Today's society would love to claim homogeneity, but its own laws contradict that very claim. For example, in the US, distinction is made according to income bracket, gender, and still today, according ethnic groups. Also, a soldier has the right to kill, (while of course obeying certain rules of engagement), but if I do, I am a murderer. A policeman can arrest someone for breaking the law but no matter how much I know the law, I cannot myself do it without being accused of kidnapping. I have to go to the people in charge; to those who are charged with that duty. Those are all ideas that tell us of distinction; some are good, some are necessary, while some are jut 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. But he was also to be a teacher of the Word of God, a teacher through his words but 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 is chosen by HaShem through genetic appurtenance. He has to be from the the dynasty of Aaron.
While we may surmise that some of the details that denote of 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.
Here is another form of distinction between people and 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 also 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 even avail himself of what is even is 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 being beyond reproach. This is what our parasha teaches us in the extra purity requirement imposed on the Levite High-priest in our parasha.
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 also commanded, "... 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.
James the brother of the Master also concurs with his brother and with Paul with the principle of teachers needing to adhere to higher standards of behavior. He says,
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, since you know that we will be judged more severely. (James 3:1)