Celebrating the Spiritual Levels of Torah

Torah is a teaching that continues to unfold, guiding us to appreciate the text more fully
as our awareness evolves.

Torah Portion for week of May 12 - 18:

(Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23)

To profane holiness

The Torah usually speaks with sensitivity about those with handicaps. Last week, for example, we were told, You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind (19:14). But parashah Emor seems to contradict this by prohibiting handicapped priests from offering sacrifices:

No man, of the seed of Aaron the priest, who has a blemish shall come close to offer the offerings of the Eternal made by fire; he has a blemish; he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. (21:21)

Nothing is said in the text about the mental condition of the priest, only the externals. Yet it would seem that a priest caught in the throes of anger and hate would be far more dangerous in a position of priestly power than one who limps.

To profane holiness is to bring pretense rather than truth. Perhaps we can understand that such a priest, bearing anger and resentment, would be contaminating the holiness in an even more profound way. Such energies may well be pointed to in the injunction to refrain from profaning the holiness of the Sanctuary.

Neither shall you profane my holy name; but I will be hallowed among the people of Israel; I AM the Eternal who hallows you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God; I am the Eternal. (22:32, 33)

One might wonder whether anybody is without blemish, and whether anyone is without angry energies that can profane the holiness of a moment. All of us are human, each with a personal ego.

The expectations we place on others and ourselves can be incredibly unrealistic. The consequence of such expectations is the disillusionment we feel when we discover the flaws in others, and self-condemnation when we focus on those within ourselves. The challenge is not to be perfect in body and flawless in our ego-self, but, rather, to grow in awareness of the fuller nature of our being.

The doorway to holiness

The wholeness that is required for entry into the holiness of the Sanctuary is an inner function. On a surface level, the instructions of Torah speak to the specifics of a particular time and a particular place. But the ancient spiritual text, like the spiritual beings through whom its words flowed, speaks on more profound levels of meaning.

The priest that dwells within each of us cannot approach the holy with blemish. A blemish is something that we know to be wrong with us, whether it is revealed or hidden. When we are engaged in finding fault with others or ourselves, focusing on outer and inner blemishes, we are not available for more inclusive dimensions of consciousness.

The archetype of priest is activated through unconditional acceptance — the key to the gates of Sanctuary. Those gates open within us, but they open us to a far greater vista of inclusivity. Priestly consciousness is a love consciousness, and in love consciousness, blemish is never hidden, never denied. It is accepted and embraced. That acceptance allows the transcendence of blemish, and the transcendence of blemish is the doorway to holiness.

It is true that a blemished priest cannot approach the holiness of the ancient tabernacle, because in that authentic approach, there is no longer blemish.

Our inner and our outer blemishes yearn to be met, acknowledged, and accepted. The less we pretend to be without blemish, the more available we are for engaging in loving relationships in our world.

Our responsibility is to bring light

Command the people of Israel to bring you pure beaten olive oil for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually. (24:2)

Consciousness is like the oil that supports the outer flame. The priestly function supports the inner Light. Even though this is called the Eternal Light, it is only kindled from evening to morning.

Inside the veil of the Testimony, in the Tent of Meeting, Aaron shall arrange it from the evening to the morning before the Eternal continually; it is an everlasting statute throughout your generations. (24:3)

The authentic priest brings Light to illuminate darkness. There is no need for sacrifice when there is no darkness. It's the fire of the offering that burns away outer shadows, and the Light within that illuminates shadows that live within.

Writing Prompts

My favorite flaws include. . . If I accepted myself as I am right now, I would. . .
When I seek the priest within, I find. . .

Focus Phrases

I am kind to myself and to others.
I am just as I am supposed to be right now.
I choose to bring Light now.

Photo: Mark Reden