Would you want to be associated with a religion that would not accept people with deformities or disabilities as leaders? Like it or not (and we don’t), we find this teaching in this week’s parasha. We learn that the ancient priests could not have the following disabilities or disfigurements: “(N)o one shall be qualified: … no man who is blind or lame, or has a limb too short or too long; no man who has a broken leg or broken arm; or who is a hunchback, or a dwarf,…” and the list goes on. (Lev. 21:18-21) It is upsetting to read such a passage in our sacred text. And yet, even in our own time, we still find the world of leadership, and for that matter, even basic employment opportunities, closed to people with disabilities and other limitations. Even the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), which governs much of the accessibility and employment law in the United States today, was only passed in 1990. And almost 30 years later, we are still struggling to create a society in which disabilities don’t limit potential. Finding such a text in the Torah should spur us on to be advocates for people with disabilities in our religious institutions, workplaces, schools, playgrounds and all public places and gathering spaces.
Rabbi D. Feingold