What's so special about אשי יהוה, and לחם אלהיו that the Kohanim are to be Holy because of it, and the ba'al mumim can't bring these?

  • 3
    Possible duplicate of Physical defect vs. defect in Holiness I think that my answer to that question goes into this topic. If the question is not a duplicate, I can put the answer (citing Rav Hirsch) here. Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 11:51
  • @sabbahillel A couple of verses earlier it is said that a Kohen is Holy because he brings the לחם-sacrifical food for HaShem, the point is a ba'al mum can't do this, so is he still considered holy (And how does a ba'al mum in his role as kohen takes part in kiddush HaShem; sanctification of His Name)?
    – Levi
    Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 17:47
  • As Rav Hirsch says, the kohanim as a group are holy because of the connection to Hashem and the general concept of bringing karbanos. however, even though a baal mum is not allowed to do the avodah, the holiness includes even the baalei mum in what they are allowed to do and the restrictions that still apply. The pesukim in Emor (and the Rashi) that say how a kohein baal mum is still allowed to eat from the korbanos (even though he may not bring them on the altar) shows that he is kadosh. Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 0:29

1 Answer 1


Rav Hirsch explains the concept of מום at length in Vayikra - Emor 21:17

The entire explanation is too long to put here, but I will try to give a brief summary. I have been asked to edit in the English for the Hebrew used by Rav Hirsch.

First, he points out that there are three different classes of מום which have different effects and reasons

  1. an actual מום which would prevent an animal from being brought on the מזבח. This would cause any קרבן (Korban - sacrifice) that such a kohen brings to be pasul. One concept is that the kohen represents the person who is bringing the קרבן and as such, he must be seen as

being of the same level of godliness as that to which he is to raise the human being who is represented in the offering ...

A person is to regard himself as being brought as a korbon and as such, the kohen must also regard himself as a korbon and subject to the same rules.

It is evident then that he appearance of the כהן המקריב (the kohen who brings the sacrifice) must not be in any way a contradiction of the character that makes the קרבבן (sacrifice) worthy of הקרבה (being brought on the altar).

  1. שאינו שוה בזרעו של אהרון (That he is not like the normal descendants of Aharon) He must be seen as a normal member of the family and not afflicted with deformities (that would still not make the קרבן considered פסול (unfit). Here he does not make the קרבן invalid, but he still is עובר (violates) a מצוה (commandment), whether a לאו (negative) or an עשה (positive) (it is a dispute which).

It is not the afflicted and the infirm, not the blind and the lame, the disfigured and crippled, the broken and the sick, for whom the Jewish Altar is erected, so that weary, burdened humanity can drag itself up to it to find compassionate consolation or even miraculous healing. It is life in its completeness, in its freshness and its strength, which there is to gain consecration to an active life of God-serving deeds, and therebye acquire the everlasting freshness of youth and unbroken forces of life.

THe kohen must be shown (at the time he approaches the mizbeach) as being a representative of the family after Hashem has poured His blessings upon the Bnai Yisrael and be seen as such a representative by those bring the animals.

  1. םשום מראית עין (because of mar'is ayin - appearance), these should not do any עבודה (service), but if they do so, it is כשרה (kosher) and they have not transgressed in any way (Bchoros 43a & b).

THe kohanim must be the representatives of and the exemplars of the promise of Hashem to brife life and health to those who serve Him.

כי אני השם רופאך (I am Hashem your Healer) And it is this promise and the conditions attendant to it which priests and offerings have continuously to illustrate and give a a clear idea of in the Sanctuary of this Torah.

That is why it must be perfect complete men - not בעלי מום (those who have a defect) - who have to perform the offerings.

The kohen is to represent that which everyone strives for and, since people form their ideas of the spiritual from what reaches their eyes, the kohanim must always strive to appear to be like the goal that is being approached.

Rav Hirsch summarizes this concept and finishes

It is in its harmonious, healthy and attractive aspect, not deformed or unpleasant, that Man is to picture life in the proximity of Hashem.

  • Would you say that because a kohen himself is brought as a koban is the reason of why he has to be seen as kadosh? And because of a blemish the korbab is invalid, this not considered kadosh? (Is every korban called lechem or a offering made by fire? These verses seems to use these words specifically, that made me wonder if there was more to them).
    – Levi
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 15:02
  • The question was (I) what's special about korbanos that a baal mum can't do them, not (II) what's special about a baal mum that he can't do korbanos. Your point 1 touches on I, so +1, but your points 2-3 really only deal with II afaict. You may wanna reconfigure the answer post. Also btw R' Hirsch wrote his commentary in German, not Hebrew.
    – msh210
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 4:52
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    @msh210 Rav hirsch wrote his commentary in German, and Rabbi Levi (his grandson) translated the German to English. However, the Hebrew in the commentary was because Rav Hirsch used the Hebrew at those points. Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 9:00

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