• 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.

  • Daily Aliya for Emor, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: This Aliya begins a lengthy discussion about the Jewish holidays. After making brief mention of the Shabbat, the Torah talks about the holiday of Passover and the mitzvah of eating matzah. On the second day of this holiday, an “omer” barley offering is brought in the Temple. This is followed by a seven-week counting period that culminates with the holiday of Shavuot. After discussing the Shavuot Temple service, the Torah briefly interrupts the holiday discussion to mention the obligation, when harvesting fields, to leave certain gifts for the poor.

    The Rambam and the Chinuch consider the counting of the Omer to be an independent mitzva which applies today.

  • 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.

  • Daily Aliya for Emor, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: This Aliya begins a lengthy discussion about the Jewish holidays. After making brief mention of the Shabbat, the Torah talks about the holiday of Passover and the mitzvah of eating matzah. On the second day of this holiday, an “omer” barley offering is brought in the Temple. This is followed by a seven-week counting period that culminates with the holiday of Shavuot. After discussing the Shavuot Temple service, the Torah briefly interrupts the holiday discussion to mention the obligation, when harvesting fields, to leave certain gifts for the poor.

    The Rambam and the Chinuch consider the counting of the Omer to be an independent mitzva which applies today.

  • 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.

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