Emor: Biblical Purell

Bacteria nail artWorking in a school surrounded by Purell dispensers at every corner, it seems that the theme of purity and impurity highlighted in Parashat Emor continues to manifest in modern society. As the Kohanim are the ritual leaders of Bnai Yisrael, the Torah states how it is important for them to be distanced from ritual impurity. Parashat Emor teaches that the Kohanim are forbidden to be in contact with dead bodies except for those of close relatives. The Kohanim are also not permitted to enter a home or an enclosure that contains a dead body. Why were the Kohanim given so many rules about purity? The Midrash in Vayikrah Rabbah 26:6 teaches that Aharon, the Kohen Gadol, was initially afraid to approach the altar because he might have committed sins that would make him unfit to work in the sanctuary. The Midrash explains that the purity laws listed in this week’s Parasha were enacted as a safeguard to protect the Kohanim from any impurities that would render them unfit to do their work in the Mishkan.

  • What are the impurities that we encounter in modern society?
  • How can we work to distance ourselves from impurity in today’s world?
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