By: Sara Brandes | May 12, 2019

By: Genevieve Greinetz, Rabbinic Intern


In scouring over Parshat Emor, I found myself skipping over the horrendous parts of it.  The parsha begins by relaying that all people who “have a defect” are not allowed to offer sacred food offerings to Gd. The text then offers a list of conditions that disable someone from offering food.  At first, I skipped over it; labeled it painful, inappropriate, shameful, not to be spoken of.

My instinctive reaction to the darkness in this parsha parallels my initial reaction to pain and difficulty within, to render it invisible.  But when our goal is self-love and acceptance, we must see the whole gamut of who we are.

As Art Green writes, “We are Jews and this is (our) Torah. The text will not simply go away.” (Radical Judaism, 115) Rabbi Green explains that each generation is tasked with reinterpreting the text.  Torah only becomes our Torah through reinterpretation. We are asked to courageously participate in the text’s “ever-evolving meaning” by engaging with all aspects of our text. So too, we are asked to contend with, engage in, and integrate all aspects of ourselves in our internal work.

As much as our contemporary context romanticizes mindfulness practice, we know that self-love is not always romance, in fact, it can be excruciating and confusing to reckon with the multifaceted aspects of who we are.  We cannot sit with ourselves and write a new story of our past to magically heal wounding, instead, we confront our shadows and pain and examine the ways we function in heart, mind, and relationship. As we practice self-acceptance, we work to reinterpret the story we live within.  This is the holy work of self-discovery, and, so too must be the holy work of engaging Torah — with all of her seventy-two faces.

In Parshat Emor, wisdom is juxtaposed and interwoven with some inexcusably offensive ideology.  Sitting with the painful difficulties in the text, I know I am not alone. These are the words that bind me to my ancestry, community, and Gd.  I know, too, that sitting with internal difficulties and working toward accepting my wholeness is what affords me close relationships, empathy, and increased capacity for love, ultimately bringing me closer to Gd.  The difficulties in Parshat Emor ask us to embrace with holistic vision and care, knowing that in any whole body there are breakages and ruptures beyond repair. Through radical acceptance, we free ourselves and can move in a different way in the world and in our tradition.

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