• Dvar for Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23)

    Among many things, Parshat Emor lays down instructions for the Kohanim (Priests) to remain holy. Instructions include not coming in contact with dead bodies, and growing their beards and hair (21:1-5). Recanati (13th Century) points out an interesting difference between the instructions for the Kohamin to remain “holy”, and those of the Levites to be “pure”. What is the difference, and why?

    Recanati goes on to explain that being pure is simply a result of avoiding anything unclean, while being holy is an active quality of setting yourself apart. The Levites had to shave their hair, while the Kohanim grew it because ridding yourself of impurity requires shedding the past, while being holy requires working on yourself for the future. As a people, we need to be both pure AND holy, and learn to merge the past with our future.

  • Dvar for Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23)

    Parshat Emor contains the commandment to count 49 days from the bringing of the omer barley offering on the day after Passover to the holiday of Shavuot. Although the Torah does not spell out the rationale for this mitzvah, the later Rabbinic literature identifies this 49 day period as a time for personal development; just as the Jews needed 49 days to rise from the level of impurity they reached in Egypt to the level of holiness required to receive the Torah on the first Shavuot, so too every individual should utilize the 49 days to ready themselves to commemorate the giving of the Torah on each Shavuot.

    There is a famous legal dispute as to whether counting the omer is one mitzvah (commandment) with 49 parts or 49 separate mitzvot. Practically, both opinions are respected: If one forgot to count on a given day, they continue to count on the next day, in accord with the second view, but they no longer recite a blessing because according to the first view they have spoiled their fulfillment of the commandment.

    Perhaps each of these positions is relevant not just to the counting itself, but to the spiritual development for which we strive during this period of time.  On the one hand, spiritual accomplishments must be approached one step at a time. Each of the 49 days stands on its own and each step we take has great value.  On the other hand, individual steps that are intermittent are not enough to reach the goal.  For true success, continuity is needed as well, maintaining the effort for 49 days without fail.  May we merit to use the remaining days of this year’s counting of the omer (and beyond) to reach new heights.

  • Dvar for Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23)

    Among many things, Parshat Emor lays down instructions for the Kohanim (Priests) to remain holy. Instructions include not coming in contact with dead bodies, and growing their beards and hair (21:1-5). Recanati (13th Century) points out an interesting difference between the instructions for the Kohamin to remain “holy”, and those of the Levites to be “pure”. What is the difference, and why?

    Recanati goes on to explain that being pure is simply a result of avoiding anything unclean, while being holy is an active quality of setting yourself apart. The Levites had to shave their hair, while the Kohanim grew it because ridding yourself of impurity requires shedding the past, while being holy requires working on yourself for the future. As a people charged with the task of being holy, we need to be both pure AND holy, and learn to merge the past with our future.

  • Dvar for Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23)

    Parshat Emor contains the commandment to count 49 days from the bringing of the omer barley offering on the day after Passover to the holiday of Shavuot. Although the Torah does not spell out the rationale for this mitzvah, the later Rabbinic literature identifies this 49 day period as a time for personal development; just as the Jews needed 49 days to rise from the level of impurity they reached in Egypt to the level of holiness required to receive the Torah on the first Shavuot, so too every individual should utilize the 49 days to ready themselves to commemorate the giving of the  Torah on each Shavuot.

    There is a famous legal dispute as to whether counting the omer is one mitzvah (commandment) with 49 parts or 49 separate mitzvot. Practically, both opinions are respected: If one forgot to count on a given day, they continue to count on the next day, in accord with the second view, but they no longer recite a blessing because according to the first view they have spoiled their fulfillment of the commandment.

    Perhaps each of these positions is relevant not just to the counting itself, but to the spiritual development for which we strive during this period of time.  On the one hand, spiritual accomplishments must be approached one step at a time. Each of the 49 days stands on its own and each step we take has great value.  On the other hand, individual steps that are intermittent are not enough to reach the goal.  For true success, continuity is needed as well, maintaining the effort for 49 days without fail.  May we merit to use the remaining days of this year’s counting of the omer to reach new heights.

  • Daily Aliya for Emor, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Blemished animals are disqualified for sacrificial use. This Aliya also forbids the castration of animals, sacrificing animals before they are eight days old, and slaughtering a mother animal and her child on the same day. The Aliya concludes with the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem, sanctifying G‑d’s Name by giving one’s life rather than transgressing certain cardinal sins.

    We may not desecrate G-d’s Name; we must sanctify His Name: These commandments have many facets. A Jew is required to give up their life rather than violate one of the “big three”: murder, incest/adultery and idolatry. In times of “forced conversion”, martyrdom is required even for the “smallest” violation.

  • Daily Aliya for Emor, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: This Aliya discusses bodily blemishes and ritual impurities which disqualify a Kohen from performing the Temple priestly duties. The Aliya then lays down the rules regarding who in the Kohen’s household may eat teruma, the tithe from produce given to the Kohanim.

    Interesting point from ou.org: If a non-kohen eats Teruma (food meant for the kohen) intentionally, he is liable to “death penalty from heaven”. The punishment for eating Tevel (food not yet processed/split up) is the same. Perhaps we have here examples of the opposite types of sin. The former sin involves eating something “too sacred” for the individual. The latter is a sin that involves the opposite – the Tevel is so profane without any “mitzvot” separated, no sanctifying acts having been done with it. Going beyond halachic limits in either direction is equally sinful.

  • Daily Aliya for Emor, Rishon (1st Aliya)

    General Overview: This week’s reading, Emor, discusses the laws which pertain to Kohanim (priests), and various laws which relate to sacrifices. These are followed by a lengthy discussion of the festivals. The Parsha concludes with the story of a blasphemer who was put to death.

    Aliya Summary: The Aliya discusses the Kohen’s obligation to maintain a high level of ritual purity, and the women he may marry. An ordinary Kohen is prohibited to come in contact with a human corpse — except to attend the funerals of his next of kin — and may not marry a divorcee as well as some other women. The High Priest is not permitted to attend even family funerals, and is required to marry a virgin.

  • Daily Aliya for Emor, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: We are instructed to use the purest of olive oils for the daily kindling of the Temple Menora, and to arrange twelve “showbreads” on the Temple Table every Shabbat. The Torah then tells the story of a Jewish man who was put to death for blaspheming G‑d. The portion concludes with the penalties for committing murder, property damages, and personal injury.

    The juxtaposition of the Festivals and the lighting of the Menora as a hint to Chanukah, a festival marked by kindling the lights of the Chanukiya in commemoration of the rededication of the Temple. What makes the point stronger is the Torah’s stress on the concept that the lights of the Menora are eternal through the generations. In fact, while the real Menorah of the Temple has not made it through the generations, the Chanuka lights have!

  • Daily Aliya for Emor, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The autumn holiday of Sukkot is now introduced. During this seven-day holiday we are commanded to sit in outdoor booths, take the Four Species (citron, palm branch, myrtles, and willows), and rejoice before G‑d. The final holiday is Shemini Atzeret, a one-day holiday which immediately follows Sukkot.

    As the first major holiday of the Jewish year, it’s important to establish the attitude that we appreciate the opportunities otherwise known as Mitzvot, and don’t see them as a burden. As such, Shmini Atzeret is meant to inspire the desire to hold on to any opportunities for one more day, or as long as we can. It’s not just a one-day holiday that ends Sukkot, it’s a way of life!


  • Daily Aliya for Emor, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The High Holidays are discussed. We are commanded to hear the shofar (ram’s horn) on Rosh Hashanah, and to “afflict” ourselves on Yom Kippur.

    The last Passuk (verse) in this Aliya says “… from evening to evening, you should observe your Shabbat.” From the unusual wording (evening to evening) the Gemara teaches us the concept of adding from one’s weekday to Shabbat and Chag, both at its beginning and at its end. Our practice of counting the time from sunset to stars-out is part of this commandment, as are the additional minutes on both ends of Shabbat and Yom Tov.

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