This parashat has some themes that are difficult to deal with. For example a Kohen with certain physical imperfections is not allowed to bring an offering. I’m not going to get into this, but feel free to look it up (Leviticus 21:16-24).
What I want to delve into is another verse, Leviticus 21:7. “They (the Kohanim) shall not marry a woman who is a harlot or has been desecrated, and they shall not marry a woman who has been divorced by her husband; for each one is holy to his God.”
According to Rashi (according to the Stone Edition Chumash):
A harlot is “a woman who has lived with any man who is not permitted to her because of a negative commandment. This includes not only relationships punishable by death or karet, but also living with a mamzer or a non-Jew.”
A little side note: It’s important to keep in mind that when we translate from Torah Hebrew to English something is always lost. The Hebrew word that is used here for harlot is zonah. I’m going to come back to this, so keep this in the back of your mind. Or just scroll back up later, whatever works for you.
What bothers me about Rashi’s definition is including a woman who has been with a non-Jew in the definition of a harlot. Having sex with a gentile does not make a woman a harlot. The definition that comes to my mind is a woman on a street corner selling her body for money often with a man providing the management services.
In fact if we go back to the previous Parashat Kedoshim, specifically Leviticus 19:29, the Torah states:
“Do not profane your daughter to make her a harlot, lest the Land become lewd, and the land become filled with depravity.”
The Hebrew word for harlot here uses the same root as the above passage from Emor. Furthermore, this verse talks about making your daughter a harlot, implying that a woman does not become a harlot on her own but is made into one by the actions of someone else. This brings to mind the modern definition of pimps, money, and street corners.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that in my humble opinion, Rashi got it wrong. A harlot is a woman who has sex for money, not a woman who has sex with a gentile.
To paraphrase that Queen of England from way back in the day:
Let them (Kohanim) have women who have been with gentiles.