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On Beauty

04/29/2010

This week’s Torah portion, Emor (Say!), really bugs me. Here are are 3 reasons:

1. A priest (male by definition) may not marry a divorcee, widow, or (former) harlot: i.e., only a virgin. I take this personally.

2. The daughter of a priest who engaged in harlotry is to be put to the fire. This is not a euphemism.

3. The priests must now allow Israelites to profane the sacred donations by eating them. As an Israelite, I also take this one personally, especially because someone who is the property of a priest can eat of the donations – but myself, a hired hand, or a daughter of a priest who married a commoner may not.

And here’s the topper:

No man of your offspring throughout the ages who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the food of his God. No one at all who has a defect shall be qualified: no man who is blind, or lame, or has a limb too short or too long; no man who has a broken leg or a broken arm; or who is a hunchback, or a dwarf, or who has a growth in his eye, or who has a boil-scar, or scurvy, or crushed testes…

Really? This is one of those times when telling myself “the Torah was written a very long time ago and one has to put it into historical context” just doesn’t work. If everyone is created by God, and if some of us are blind or hunchbacked, then whose fault is that? Why add insult to the mix? And if we’re perfectly formed but a creep, that’s okay? I can understand the sacrifice itself – the ram or dove, etc. – needing to be without blemish. But people? We’re all falling apart in one way or the other.

It was out of this place of being bugged that my poem Beauty comes. It’s got a common death trap (does this dress make me look fat?), circus performers, and lots of questions. Enjoy!

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