Emor has my linen breeches in a bunch. One of the most common tsores you hear in modern commentary on Emor is the idea that kohanim with physical defects are not kosher for presenting sacrifices to God. Those who affirm equal opportunity for people with disabilities decry the insensitivity of the text to the desires and rights of those with physical differences to serve God according to their own ability.
I don’t have an easy answer to this; I can’t imagine one exists. The parallel drawn in Emor between priests without blemish and animals without blemish does remind me of the numerous commandments throught the Torah to sacrifice only unblemished animals.
Whenever I read that, I think that God is reminding us (and reminding us, and reminding us…) not to cut corners in our service to him OR in the service of our fellow humans on His behalf. If God wasn’t repetitive and explicit with this instruction, you can bet that many people would probably sacrifice only animals they would cast aside anyway, keeping the best for themselves.
What does this say about the priests? Maybe God, playing on human vanity, wanted the service of the Lord to be a bit of a beauty contest. This sounds distasteful, but maybe it’s how he wanted us to see the role of the priests. Perfect and unblemished. Few and proud. The Marines of the Mishkan.
I like to think this was the intention of the Priestly Code — to make it a revered, respected institution. Not only that, but even those who inherited the office were not always guaranteed full status.
Also, if God wanted to exclude people on account of their disabilities, would he declare thay they may (or must?) partake of the sacrificial meals? All kohanim who are pure (in the temporary sense of cleanliness, an usually voluntary state) may reap the benefits of the office, regardless of their permanent (often involuntary) condition.
To me this is a clear example of God tempering all His actions — the full justice of which we may not readily grasp — with mercy, and perhaps a little justice we do understand.