Weekly Reading Insights

Emor 576


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Emor
To be read on 8 Iyar 5763 (May 10)

Torah: Lev.21:1-24:23; Haftorah: Ezek. 44:15-31(Kohanim in Temple);

Pirkei Avot - Chapter Three

Stats: Emor, 8th Reading out of 10 in Leviticus and 31st overall, contains 24 positive mitzvot and 39 prohibitive mitzvot. It is written on 215 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 20th out of 54 in overall length.

Parshas Emor opens with laws concerning priests and the high priest: which blemishes or states of impurity disqualify them from serving, with whom they may marry, for which deceased person may they become impure, and more. The next topic discussed is which animals are eligible for sacrifices. The following section speaks about Shabbos and lists some of the dates and laws of the holidays. Then comes instructions about the menorah’s ‘eternal lamp’ and the showbread in the Tabernacle. The  concluding section relays how a Jew blasphemed and what his punishment was.


"Speak (Emor) unto the priests." (21:1)

The name, Emor, contains a lesson for every Jew: "Speak" -- A person must always go out of his way to speak well of and find merit in others. For, if criticizing one's fellow Jew only serves to arouse him to do more evil, how much more so does praise serve to reveal his inner goodness!

(Likutei Sichot)


"Out of the sanctuary he shall not go." (21:12)

A Jew's thoughts must always be of holy matters, connected to G-dliness and sanctity, even when engaged in seemingly mundane affairs. At such times (such as when conducting necessary business), the Jew should consider himself as having left his "home" temporarily, with the intention to later return. The warm influence of the home will carry over also when he is in the street.

(Baal Shem Tov)



Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.

Every person must make of himself a servant of G-d, must sanctify himself so as to come as close to the sanctity of the High Priest as is possible. He should practice some solitude and avoid emerging from this communion with G-d to the extent his circumstances allow. He must be concerned that no blemish, physical or spiritual, should attach to him. His striving must be that he himself should qualify as an offering to G-d. Once he endeavors to do all this is he considered 'Holy to G-d'.

The Zohar poses the question that if this legislation of not slaughtering the young animal on the same day as the mother animal (22,28) is to save the mother animal the pain of watching its young killed, this could be avoided simply by keeping them apart. The true reason, however, is connected to the Jewish people's sense of empathy. To the extent that a person displays consideration for the feeling of others he in turn may find that such considerations of his own feelings will be a factor when he will be judged. The reverse is also true.

The thrust of the legislation is that the Beit Din (House of Judgment) proclaims, the dates when the various festivals are to be observed (23,2). You determine when to rejoice, when to eat festive meals. These festive meals should serve a spiritual purpose, just as did the delicacies Isaac ordered before blessing his son. When one approaches the Holydays, in this spirit, the second half of the verse, "These are My festivals," will be true. If, however, these days are observed only as days when you fill your stomachs, indulge your body, then they are not "My festivals," but are vomit, excrement, concerning which the prophet has quoted G-d as saying: "My soul hates your festivals" (Isaiah 1, 14). On the festivals a person must not be so preoccupied with chores that he thereby should lose the awareness of his special closeness to G-d on such days.

(adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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(W:31-63 Emor)

The name of this week's parsha, Emor, means 'speak' but has a gentler connotation than the other common word for speaking, 'daber'. The commentaries say this word was chosen as a way of condolence to Aharon who lost two of his sons, and to whom the opening of the parsha is directed.

Every teacher spends much of his or her time speaking. One technique to make teachings more real for our students is to spice our teachings with personal experiences. Yet, for a religion that emphasizes connection with G-d through learning Torah and doing the commandments, there are very few incidents of people speaking about their divine experiences, telling us how to do it. The reason is not for lack of these divine experiences, but rather that Judaism tends toward the belief that if you talk about it too much, you may lose it. G-d created the world with His Divine speech. Man is in G-d's image. Speech therefore has a power of revelation, but a person can also speak away his inner strengths. Conversely, in the Chassidic movement in particular, there is a lot of emphasis put on the 'oral tradition'-sharing with the younger generation the lessons and concepts that the elders have accomplished and struggled to put into action. In a very old Chassidic text (Ramach Otiot), this seeming paradox is dealt with:

The Ragad said, that there are two types of people who serve G-d. The first keeps his experiences to himself, never revealing anything to anyone, not in speech or action or any behavior that might reveal who he is and his spiritual standing, even at a lively Chassidic gathering with plenty of "L'Chaim"s. This type of person follows the dictum that "by benefiting from Torah, his life will exit the world". He believes that by sharing his Torah accomplishments with others, he will forgo his own vitality and become indifferent to

Alternately, there is another type of person who unhesitatingly shares Torah revelations and personal Jewish experiences whenever with whomever appropriate, without any doubts about losing his own enthusiasm for spirituality. In the fact the opposite occurs. This person experiences an increased connection to Torah and Chassidut. How can an increased attachment to Torah coincide with the above dictum? The word in the phrase for 'world'-ha'olam-is rooted in the word, he'elem-'concealment'. So the dictum can receive a new meaning: "he takes his life out of concealment" and into revelation. He actually benefits spiritually through influencing others by sharing with them his own experiences, in a Torah way.

The way to change the world for the better is obviously the second way. The protection against any spiritual loss is by telling others about your Jewish experiences, and also by contemplating upon the concept that through this sharing, he brings his soul out of concealment. This way, those spiritual accomplishments become engraved in his soul forever.

This is an innovative Chassidic concept. Until the birth of Chassidut, the Jewish world kept spiritual accomplishments private; achievements were solely through one's own efforts. However, through the passing of time, the generations became more needy of spiritual inspiration. We are less capable of reaching the levels that previous generations could. While we must still strive to connect to G-d, we have the extra boost through sharing with each other.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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