Obstinate Daughter: Emor 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have your actions ever embarrassed others more than they embarrassed you? How did you cope with that knowledge?

The status of the ancient Israelite priest is so important in the Torah that his daughters’ actions reflect directly on him:

The Pitch: “When the daughter of a priest defiles herself through harlotry, it is her father whom she defiles; she shall be put to the fire.” – Leviticus 21:9

Swing #1: “Here the concern was as much for Celtic purity as for sexual purity. Temple prostitution was idolatrous and therefore utterly opposed to the spiritual monotheism of Israel.” – William Graham Cole, Sex & Love in the Bible

Swing #2: “In most traditional cultures, a daughter is the most protected — and accordingly the most restricted — member of a family. Because she represents part of her father’s estate, he would rather forfeit his property than surrender it to another. And because she also represents her father’s honor, something especially precious to priests, he hopes to regain that honor by sacrificing her, thereby exorcising his own shame.” – Ellen Frankel, The Five Books of Miriam

Swing #3: “As the lines for sexual intercourse are sharply drawn, women’s role in the commonwealth is conservatively established, with dominant familial power in the hands of the male, tribally based priesthood. Indeed, daughters in priestly families fare better than others in the social structure.” – J. David Pleins, The Social Visions of the Hebrew Bible: A Theological Introduction

Late-Inning Questions: Do you find this law from the Torah to be predictable, given the patriarchal society it comes from? Or do you find it to be unusually cruel? What amount of rebellion should be considered “normal”? Is the rebellion of the priest’s daughter understandable or over the top?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: Congratulations to our USYers and Religious School students on another great year, especially given the unprecedented circumstances of the last two months. And Mazal Tov to those completing our Confirmation program. Our Synagogue youth continues to bring us much pride.

Shabbat Shalom!