Gallery D

Deaf, Dumb & Blind Go Home

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Handicapped People Offend God

By James Donahue

Among the Old Testament laws delivered by Moses after the burning bush episode were some odd messages in which God appears to be offended by people with imperfect bodies. In fact Leviticus 21 describes in detail a code of appearance and behavior for priests before they can enter the sanctuary within the temple.

The fifth verse states that the priests “shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, not make any cuttings in their flesh.”  In other words, they must not groom their beards, shave their heads or mark their skin to make any kind of fashion statement. This may explain why some orthodox Jews still appear like this today, with long shaggy beards and their bodies almost completely covered.

The rules get more severe than this.

Verse 17 reads: “Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God.” Leviticus 21 then goes on to identify exactly what is meant by a “blemish.”
God apparently is offended by the blind, the lame, short people, people with odd shapes to their noses, damaged testicles, broken hands and feet, crooked backs, who have scurvy or scabs, or in case we missed anything, anyone who has “anything superfluous” on or in their body is forbidden to approach the altar of God. To do so would “profane” the sanctity of the holy altar.

We don’t know how it was among the Hebrew people in Moses time, but if life was as cruel then as it is today there were a lot of people with imperfect bodies stumbling around the tabernacle. It seems that most of them were excluded from ever coming near the so-called God of the people.

Not only did these men have to have perfect bodies, full heads of hair and untrimmed beards, but they also were ordered to marry only virgin women of their own tribes. And if a daughter of a priest had sex before she married, she was condemned to death.

Either the God of the “chosen people” was a cold-hearted bastard or perhaps Moses got in wrong when he tried to remember all the laws God carved out for him on those stone tablets. Remember that Moses broke the original tablets and spent weeks carving out new ones after he came down from the mountain. Or so we are told.

Or was the story of God’s personal encounter with Moses just that . . . a story. Did Moses make up such a story to define himself as a special messenger for God, and then take upon himself the task of drafting law for the people? After all, there were no witnesses.