Why did he need to be married?

Friday, 6 May, 2016 - 2:05 pm

You can get a pretty good sense of what Judaism is all about by analyzing some of the observances of the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur. (Why am I talking about Yom Kippur hardly a week after Passover? Study this week’s Torah portion and you’ll find out.)

Obviously, the most famous Yom Kippur lesson is the ability to obtain forgiveness from G-d. Here’s something that is less famous perhaps, but extremely relevant. It’s a seemingly small detail that sheds a lot of light. It’s related to the Yom Kippur ritual as it was observed in the Holy Temple many years ago.

The individual who was at the center of the Yom Kippur service in the Temple was the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. He would do all the service of the day. What were the criteria to being a High Priest? Obviously he had to be a Kohen, a descendant of Aharon the first High Priest. But not just any Kohen was eligible for the position, he also had to be a learned and saintly man.

So far, all understandable requirements.

But there is another - he had to be married. If he was single, he would not be eligible for the position of High Priest.

Think about it for a minute; it’s a little strange, isn’t it? I mean, it’s understandable that he needs to be righteous and scholarly, but married? What has that to do with serving in the Temple on Yom Kippur? In fact, not only did he have to be married, the very first place he was required to go after completing the Yom Kippur service was back home.

There must be something to it; marriage is somehow connected to his role as High Priest. Not only that, this requirement also clarifies our role as Jews in this world.

Unlike other belief systems, the Torah guides an individual how to live their life within this physical world. Not how to remove themselves from the world but how to integrate G-dliness and holiness in their everyday life.

The purpose of the High Priest was not to enable detachment from the mundane, rather his role was to model healthy engagement with the physical world. The atonement of Yom Kippur is necessary when one falls short of this goal. Whether in an egregious manner by directly rebelling against G-d’s will or by simply living an entirely self centered existence, ignoring one’s purpose of being, the effect is the same: a breach in the cohesiveness of the spiritual and the physical.

Our role is to engender elevation of the physical and mundane so that it be in cohesion with, and elevated by, the spiritual and holy. If one is disengaged from the physical world, one cannot affect it. The High Priest, working in the Temple on Yom Kippur to realign the physical and spiritual, must be married, highlighting his connection and engagement in the world that he is attempting to elevate.

Although all this talk of High Priests and Temples can easily make your eyes glaze over, take a minute to translate this message to yourself in your own life. We all have areas of our life that are more connected and areas of life that are less so. Take a moment to consider how to unite the fragments, how to elevate the mundane. In your own life.

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