For the week of May 8, 2004 / 17 Iyar 5764
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23
Haftarah: Ezekiel 44:15-31
Originally published for the week of May 10, 2003 / 8 Iyar 5763
They must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God. Because they present the offerings made to the LORD by fire, the food of their God, they are to be holy (Vayikra / Leviticus 21:6).
In this week's parasha (Torah portion), we read of special regulations for the cohenim (English: priests) and for the cohen hagadol (English: chief priest). Because of their unique involvement with the holy things of God, they had to abide by stricter rules than what was required of the rest of the people. Even though the whole nation of Israel was called to be different from other nations, the priests were required to be more different, and the chief priest even more different.
I have met people who prefer to be different. Some do so because they don't want to give up their personal preferences. Others seek to be different as a reaction to whatever is popular. They don't want to go along with the crowd, just because it is a crowd who is going along with something. Then there are groups and individuals who, out of a desire to follow the biblical call to holiness, have adopted various customs in an attempt to set themselves apart.
But clearly most people prefer not to be different. Most of us go along with what is considered as normal or popular. Because most societies today are culturally diverse, we tend to find some group (official or otherwise) with which we feel most comfortable. We may or may not actually regularly interact with that group. Still we are looking to them, so that we would not be considered different.
Whatever our personal preferences might be, being different is not an option for those who wish to be in right relationship to God. The regulations given to the priests demonstrate that the closer we are to God, the more different we will become.
It is important to realize that being different is not the key to drawing close to God. Behaving different from those around us does not produce healthy spirituality. Healthy spirituality produces lives that are different. The priests did not become priests because they were different. They were different, because they were priests.
If you have come to know God, you may find that you are different. You try to be like other people, but you can't. It might be that you have a special call on your life. Like the priests of old, because of your close relationship to God, you find yourself having to live a life so very different from those around you. Whether or not you like being different has nothing to do with it; you just are.
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