When I read this week's portion, Emor, I was drawn to the passages prohibiting imperfection from coming before God. No animal could be offered to God if it were imperfect in any way -- and, similarly, no one could serve as a priest in the Temple, making those offerings manifest, if he harbored any physical imperfections at all. What a striking text.
We can read it allegorically, as a set of metaphors for the importance of wholeness. We can read into it instructions for how to make offerings on the altars of our hearts today. But even these readings don't remove what I find most challenging about the text, and those challenges were one focus of my d'var Torah at Radical Torah this week:
This text is problematic precisely because it privileges a kind of perfection in which ordinary people can't partake. A single burn scar, one leg barely longer than the other -- these are the kinds of imperfections to which we are all heir. Who among us has a body altogether free from blemish, symmetrical in every regard? And who among us has escaped all emotional or psychological damage on this front -- has reached adulthood without ever once disparaging her or his body for the ways in which it fails to live up to our age's supposed ideal?
Read the whole thing here: The bodies we are.