Nobody is immune from temptation, ever, and the only way to consistently live a moral, ethical life is to observe the commandments.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Emor” (Leviticus 21:1-24:23), which primarily concerns the laws relating to Kohanim, the priestly tribe of the Jewish people. This is one of the few tribal divisions that is still known to us today and carefully guarded and passed down.
Due to their role and elevated status above the rest of the nation (no, not all Jews were created equal), they have strict rules to ensure their purity.
One of those rules is that a Kohen may not marry a divorcee or a convert. A Kohen Gadol (High Priest) may not even marry a widow. The latter may only marry a woman who has never been married. The ban on Kohanim attending funerals or visiting a cemetery is also strictly observed today.
I want to take this opportunity to discuss the unique marriage restrictions of the High Priest. There is much discussion as to why the Torah was even stricter with the High Priest than other priests, prohibiting the former from marrying even a widow.
According to one mind-boggling interpretation, it is due to the concern that perhaps the High Priest may desire a married woman and thereby pray that her husband die so that he could marry her. Indeed, we are told that when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple on Yom Kippur to pray, anything he asked for would be granted.
Hence, in order to deter him from praying that a certain man should die so that he could marry his wife, the Torah forbade High Priests from marrying widows altogether.
The question is asked: Are we really worried that the holiest man in the world, when he enters the holiest place in the world, on the holiest day of the year, might be thinking of his desire for a woman and praying that her husband die?
The answer is simple: yes, we are worried about that. Nobody is immune from the “evil inclination.” No one. Ever.
We are all human. It doesn’t matter who we are, what position we hold at work, what type of clothes we wear, or what’s in our bank accounts.
The only thing that raises a person and makes him holy is the Torah and the mitzvot (commandments).
There is no such thing as morality, ethics, trust, or dignity outside of Torah. When we let our own sense of judgment dictate morality there is no telling how low we might sink. We have seen that when people use their own sense of judgement and morality, it often leads to evil, sometimes even genocide.
Whether it’s you, me or the High Priest, we have to remember that no one is immune. Only a life that is guided by Torah can bring a person to the proper level of dignity and holiness.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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