Nelly Shulman
Nelly Shulman

Exclusion and inclusion

One of the challenges of contemporary Torah learning lies in the necessity to reconcile the ancient text with the demands, believes, and morality of the new generation of students.

This challenge has already been met numerous times during our history. The issues might have changed but the approach remains the same. The rabbis of Talmudic times openly discussed the same issues we are arguing about today, although, admittedly, sometimes from a different standpoint.

In Leviticus 21: 17-18 Torah lists the categories of priests, who, based on their physical defects, are disqualified from serving in the Holy of Holies. Of course, for us, the idea of exclusion of somebody on the ground of their physical appearance is alien. Or ha Chaim in the XVIII century wrote:

“The Torah lists the reason that such priests may not perform service in the Temple as being that seeing that they represent the whole Jewish community, it would not seem appropriate that this community dispatches blemished people as their representatives at the Court of the King of Kings”.

Nowadays, we live in a world where physical appearance is slowly losing its importance. It does not speak about the inner qualities of the people or their work abilities and professional skills. Here we see a clear example of how our contemporary values might contradict the traditional interpretation of the Torah text.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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