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But I am Handicapped – Parshat Emor

But I am Handicapped – Parshat Emor

The person who uses this line may believe that they are caring for themselves; that they are preventing further injury; that they are behaving prudently. And they will be right. And they may also be wrong. We would almost certainly not know which is correct for a specific handicapped person in a specific situation. At least I do know that the question is legitimate.

In this week’s parsha, Parshat Emor, the Torah discusses different handicaps which, if present in a priest, will disqualify him from performing some of the ritual services in the holy temple.1 Does this make him any less of a person? No. Is he a worse person because of the disqualification? No. Are there any areas of free choice left to this person? Many.

I, too, cannot perform at all in the temple because I am not a priest. I was born like that and cannot change it. It is a kind of handicap as well.i have other handicaps as well. Does that mean I cannot live a meaningful life? An emphatic no.

Being handicapped may limit your choices. It does not totally remove your ability to choose what to do with your life.

I am not only talking about physical handicaps. There are emotional, psychological and social handicaps as well.2 They too can limit your choices.

But there is still the ability to choose. There is still the human strength of rising up in the face of adversity. It is present in all of us – in the handicapped as well.

We look at pro athletes who overcame physical handicaps to become pro athletes. Or the story of Jerry Long who was a pro surfer. He broke his neck and was paralyzed from the neck down. He continued to live an active life saying, “I broke my neck, it didn’t break me.” 3

I have always been fascinated by a deaf person becoming one of the world’s greatest composers, creating maybe the most recognizable piece of music in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony while his hearing was already impaired. A deaf person writing music. Imagine. Yet Beethoven wrote to a friend, “Of course I am resolved to rise above every obstacle.” This strength within his handicap allows us to hear his Ninth Symphony written when his hearing had completely gone.

There are many more who overcame emotional and psychological handicaps to become successful at what they do. This includes pro-football player, Lionel Aldridge, US president John Adams, film writer and actor, Woody Allen, sci-fi author Isaac Asimov and Nobel laureate John Nash.4  They did not give up. They did not say, “But I am handicapped.” They may have said, as did Beethoven, I am handicapped and so have to try harder.

Being handicapped is no picnic you will say. And you will be right. It is also not an excuse not to try. We all own the ‘defiant power of the human spirit’.5

On some level we are all handicapped. Some of us have unwanted baggage. Some of us may not even be aware of the handicap.

But we can all say “yes” to life.

Click here to read another logoParsha post on Emor


  1. Vayikra 21:16-24
  2. Cognitive handicaps will not fall under the scope of this blog.
  3. His story is told by Dr. Viktor Frankl, founder of logotherapy.
  4. A Wikipedia list – click here  and also here for more comprehensive lists.
  5. A central theme in Frankl’s logotherapy