Sunday, February 7, 2016

About Blemishes

In regard to the prohibition of blemishes in the priest and in the offered animals, are the listed blemishes the entirety of what is prohibited? That is, the lists define what a prohibited "blemish" is. Or those are just examples and there are more blemishes which would be prohibited as well?

I have not studied this topic in details so I can only provide my current understanding of things. 

As far as I understand there is a difference between people blemishes and animal blemishes. I think people blemishes are those that are specifically mentioned in the Torah (i.e Lev 21:17-23). 
There are some tricky ones too. Is mental illness can be considered a blemish? 

As far as animals go, Torah says simply says blemish or anything bad so my assumption that it means ANY blemish and it can be interpreted as more things than what is considered a blemish for a human, a priest. "Glatt kosher" of the Rabbinic Judaism pay have a point in terms of slaughters and what Priest can eat. And since we have an x-ray (and other) technology perhaps the animal blemish can also be internal rather than only external as in cases of the priest. However, it is debatable.

It also raises an interesting issue of medicine. If a priest has a blemish but got, say, a leg transplant or got it cured somehow otherwise, can he approach the Tent and the Altar?

I think it is possible that only the blemishes listed are what count as a problem for priesthood, but I am unsure. Complicating things further is that some of the blemishes listed are not exactly certain in their translation (I have looked at the LXX as well and it only offered some potential insight).

I would think that blindness is one eye might qualify simply as blindness. Ulceration/mingling of the eye I think to refer to corneal ulcers, the LXX supports this as "white-speck" of the eye.  Previously I thought it might mean heterochromia but I think ulceration is likely correct now.

I don't think the Torah really speaks of mental illness in the sense of it as a blemish. Obviously it would be an issue if one could not distinguish between clean and unclean and holy and profane. I do not think priests are necessarily required to work every day, although obviously some priest(s) would need to be active at all times.

I don't really have any new thoughts regarding the internal blemish issue in animals.

Regarding having surgical repair/etc, I think it is possible that it could remove a blemish. For example, a break is no longer "in him" if the arm or leg is repaired or healed correctly, I'd think. However, I might question it some because a break will generally heal without intervention but whether it will heal to be as it was before and not crooked/etc is another issue. So I don't know. I wouldn't think it would be considered a break any more if it healed, but I wouldn't think someone who broke their arm then had the arm heal back crooked, for example, would be considered blemish free either.  Maybe that would qualify as a different blemish.

For example, some people do not have same cartilage structure in one ear as the other ear. Basically the top half of the ear (inside the curvature of the edge) is more or less flat rather than curved.  It can be fixed with plastic surgery, and that relates to what I mentioned as well. I don't think that this is one of the listed blemishes and maybe it's not an issue but I'm not sure. I guess it could still qualify as one of the unclear ones (sarua, charem). However I would think it also to be a non-issue visually when wearing a turban (the ear looks normal when pressed against the head).

Here is what I've noticed about the text... It uses the word "blemish" when giving the commandment for both humans and animals. However, in verses about animals it says "any blemish bad" or "any matter bad". So perhaps only "bad" blemishes are forbidden or perhaps it can also be read as "any blemish" so all blemishes are forbidden. Personally, I would err on the side of caution here because we are talking about priesthood and offering which are holy. In this ear case, perhaps if your hearing is not affected it would not be considered a blemish but I am not sure. 

It is not completely clear regarding whether the list includes all relevant blemishes or not. I would think that the list would contain the primary issues but then see Lev 21:21 (any man who in him blemish).

Interestingly, deafness is not actually listed and we do know the word for it (cheresh).

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