This week’s parsha of Tzav describes the Jewish priestly class of kohanim. Being a kohanim was passed down by the father, not the mother, patrilineally not matrilineally. Other human cultures had royal families where power was passed down to successive generations simply by accident of birth. Even today, we have the leader of North Korea who took power from his father and claimed it based only on his lineage, not his competency. Are people really born to be better than other people? Does our lineage define us as Jews and human beings?
The fact is that all human beings deserve equality of respect for being human. No human is better than another, no human is worse – there are no super-humans and no sub-humans. Everyone falls on the same horizontal line of respect simply for being human.
The Mishna states that we were “created as individuals” so that one could not declare, “My father is better than yours.” In reality, our lineage does not make us a better or worse individual. Human history has clearly shown that some people born into royal families have been terrible leaders with severe problems. There is no ‘royal’ gene that makes every descendent of royalty an inspiring leader. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, we should be judged by the “content of our character” not by the traits of our birth. Character is created by our individual thoughts and actions, it is not genetic. Character is an individual trait, not a group trait.
Applying this standard of equality to the Jewish community there are not ‘better’ Jews or ‘worse’ Jews – there are Jews. It is good that there is no longer a need for a Jewish priestly class and animal sacrifices. Modern Jews are egalitarian and believe in the equality of all people including the members of our tribe. It doesn’t matter who your parents were, what your skin color is, your gender type, or any other feature or trait determined by your birth – you are an individual. We welcome all individual Jews to our tribe and will give them the same respect that all other members have.
We are all wonderful and unique individuals who deserve equal respect for being human.