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

    From Chabad.org: 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.

    Shmini Atzeret is a very unique and romantic holiday. Rashi explains that G-d doesn’t want us to leave Him after Sukkot, and asks us to stay with Him just one more day. Why is this the only holiday where G-d gets so attached to us that He asks us to stay? Well, it could be that Sukkot is the most all-encompassing holiday we have. Between living and eating in the Sukkah, to shaking the Lulav and Etrog, we perform so many Mitzvot (much of it by design, since we just started a new slate on Yom Kippur 5 days earlier). All that time AND activity together tends to cause separation anxiety, but only if you’ve enjoyed your time together!

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

    From Chabad.org: 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.

    This Aliya isn’t very long, but it does include the instruction to hear the shofar because it’s a “zichron Truah”, or loosely translated as “sounds to remember”. What memories will these sounds conjure? Rashi explains that it’s the sacrifice Avraham was willing to make by offering his son Yitzchak. But the memory isn’t for the sacrifice itself, because it wasn’t us that made the sacrifice, it was Avraham. The shofar represents G-d releasing Avraham of the sacrifice he was willing to make. What was left, and what should be emulated,  was the willingness to sacrifice, and the knowledge that G-d has our backs.

  • Daily Aliya for Emor, Revi’i (4th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: This section 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.

    While it may not be the first time the Torah says this, I’ve always found it interesting that when calling a day holy, the Torah says “mikra Kodesh”, which literally means “it shall be called holy”. If a day is described by the torah to be holy, such as it does here for Pesach, wouldn’t it make more sense that the day actually BE holy, rather than just being CALLED holy? Or maybe it’s because we call it holy that it becomes so. Suddenly what seems like an imposition of rules turns into a list of empowerments.

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

    From Chabad.org: 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.

    Two probably connected items stand out in this Aliya. First, blemished animals should not be brought because “it will not be favorable for you” (I would think they should be avoided because they aren’t favorable to G-d). Second, the portions of the offering that aren’t burnt at the alter are to be eaten on that day, and not left over for the next day. I think this reinforces the concept that these offerings aren’t for G-d’s benefit, but for us to admit a wrong and move forward. These items take it a step further to insure that the leftovers are favorable to us, and that we enjoy them right away.

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

    From Chabad.org: This section discusses bodily blemishes and ritual impurities which disqualify a Kohen (priest) 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.

    There were impurities that required ritual purification (Mikva) to remove, but also required was nightfall (Passuk 6). Cleansing in clean water makes sense, but why does nightfall provide the final cleansing step? Since nightfall in Judaism marks the beginning of a new day, it provides the final step in returning to one’s purity. It’s comforting to know that every day is viewed as a sort of “reset” button.

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

    From Chabad.org: The first 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.

    Although less relevant to us because it discusses rules for Kohanim when they served in the Mishkan, there are some interesting tidbits hidden in this Aliya. For example, the Kohen Gadol (high priest) was forbidden from leaving his hair uncut for longer than 30 days (according to a Gemara in Sanhedrin) because it was a gesture of mourning. The rule is interesting, but it’s interesting that this rule is given only to the Kohel Gadol. A lot was conveyed by the priests through appearance through the special garments he wore, but this is the first time his physical appearance was deemed significant enough to monitor. Is it superficial to worry about looks, or can we really convey an attitude with the way we look, and thus have a responsibility to maintain appropriate appearance? Apparently the latter, which I wouldn’t have thought the Torah cared about until this Aliya.

  • Daily Aliya for Tzav, Revi’i (4th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: We now read about the induction of the priests and the inauguration of the Tabernacle. In the presence of all the Jews, Moshe dressed Aaron and his sons in the priestly vestments and anointed them, along with the Tabernacle and its vessels, with the holy anointing oil.

     I find it fascinating that the Jews were invited to see not only the inauguration of the Tabernacle, but how the priests got ready to serve. They bathed (modestly, no doubt), dressed with the proper garb, received the oils (on their heads). I think it continues the important theme that being ready and performing Mitzvot (good deeds) is so much more than just executing them. Preparing for them, and being in a position to perform them, is of equal importance. That’s the beauty of living in a Jewish community. It allows for more opportunities to help others, contribute to the community as a whole receive and host new members, and that’s besides the advantage of feeling like we belong. But it all start with preparing and putting ourselves in a position to succeed and perform, which is what the Cohanim were doing just prior to the inauguration.

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

    From Chabad.org: The Torah now discusses the Todah (Thanksgiving) Offering, brought by an individual who survived a perilous circumstance. We then learn about various grounds for the invalidation of a sacrifice, such as impurity or improper thoughts on the part of the priest performing the service. We are then commanded not to consume blood or any of the fats offered on the altar. The prohibition against eating these fats applies to all domesticated animals. The section wraps up with the portions of meat the priest is given from the Peace Offering. With this we conclude the laws of sacrifices.

    Two items stand out while reviewing this Aliya. First, the rule that any leftovers from an offering left for three days should be burnt, and if eaten it disqualifies the offering itself. This apparently indicates a certain lack of urgency by the Cohen, but I’m not sure why urgency is required of leftovers, and why it would disqualify actions done three days prior.

    The second most interesting item (to me) is the prohibition of eating blood or fats leftover from an offering. I understand blood more than fats, but both seem like they carry a deeper meaning. Maybe in next cylce’s blog we’ll be able to dive deeper.

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

    This section discusses the priestly meal offering, brought by the Cohen Gadol (high priest) twice daily, and by every priest on the day he is first inducted into Temple service. The laws of the Sin Offering and Guilt Offering, also discussed in last week’s reading, are also repeated with added details. An important principle discussed is a vessel’s absorption of sacrificial meats cooked therein, and the possibility of purging (certain types of) vessels of the vestiges it absorbed — a concept which is very germane in the laws of kosher. This section concludes with a discussion regarding various gratuities the priests were entitled to take from the different offerings and sacrifices.

    An interesting distiction should be noted between the offerings brought by every Cohen on their first day, and the sin offerings brough. While the Cohen’s offering is completely burnt on the alter (priests may not keep any section to eat), the sin offering does have certain parts that are edible by the Cohen. Initial intuition would dictate that sin offerings aren’t as “edible” as first-day-Cohen offerings because the former represents sin, while the latter represents a more positive event.But perhaps the rule helps us and the Cohanim embrace the power of the offering, and getting used to the fact that it purifies, both the person who brought it, and the offering itself.

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

    Shishi discusses the fourth and final type of sin offering, that of a person who is guilty of sinning unintentionally (it’s important to note that unintentional sinning is still wrong, and requires atonement, which is why the Rabbis place further restrictions, to keep us further away from sinning). Also discussed is the “vacillating” sin offering (Oleh Viyored), brought by an individual guilty of certain specific sins (making an oath, not testifying about something they saw, touching something spiritually unclean, swearing to do harm or good). The offering varies depending on what the person can afford.

    This vacillating offering is interesting. Imagine filling out a form where all the answers are true/false, and suddenly you see a multiple choice answer. It certainly draws your attention to it, as does this. Looking at the list of transgressions for this category, they all seem to be deliberate actions, as opposed to unintentional acts. So if someone decides to accept an oath, for example, they must keep their oath, but also bring an offering. So why would a person consciously decide to accept an oath, or touch a carcass? Once again, the answer could be the allowance of the human element. Maybe there was no one else to care for the dead, and maybe an oath was required to give someone hope or comfort. I’m not justifying sinning, just pointing out that just as the circumstances behind each scenario is different, the offering is also varied based on affordability. This was probably the most widely-brought offering, so it’s nice to know that it was adjustable.

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