Torah Weekly

For the week ending 5 May 2007 / 17 Iyyar 5767

Parshat Emor

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The kohanim are commanded to avoid contact with corpses in order to maintain a high standard of ritual purity. They may attend the funeral of only their seven closest relatives: father, mother, wife, son, daughter, brother, and unmarried sister. The kohen gadol (High Priest) may not attend the funeral of even his closest relatives. Certain marital restrictions are placed on the kohanim. The nation is required to honor the kohanim. The physical irregularities that invalidate a kohen from serving in the Temple are listed. Terumah, a produce tithe given to the kohanim, may be eaten only by kohanim and their household. An animal may be sacrificed in the Temple after it is eight days old and is free from any physical defects. The nation is commanded to sanctify the Name of G-d by insuring that their behavior is always exemplary, and by being prepared to surrender their lives rather than murder, engage in licentious relations or worship idols. The special characteristics of the holidays are described, and the nation is reminded not to do certain types of creative work during these holidays. New grain may not be eaten until the omer of barley is offered in the Temple. The Parsha explains the laws of preparing the oil for the menorah and baking the lechem hapanim in the Temple. A man blasphemes G-d and is executed as prescribed in the Torah.


The Thankers

“…you shall not gather the gleanings of your harvest; for the poor and the proselyte shall you leave them…” (23:22)

What a fascinating instrument is the telescope!

You can bring something far away and see it clearly, or by turning it round the wrong way, you can make what’s close at hand seem remote.

It all depends on which way round you hold the telescope.

Seeing G-d in this material world is not something that just happens. It takes work. However, G-d has given us a spiritual telescope that lets us bring Him much closer.

It’s easy to divide religion into two categories: our relationship with G-d and our relationship with one another. In fact, if you look at the Ten Commandments, you’ll notice that the first tablet deals with our relationship with G-d: I am the L-rd, your G-d; Don’t have any other gods before me; Don’t take G-d’s Name in vain, etc. while on the second tablet are mitzvot between us and our fellow: Don’t kill; don’t commit adultery; don’t steal; don’t give false testimony about others; don’t covet, etc.

However, on another level, the two tablets are one unified statement. Rashi explains the verse just before the giving of the Ten Commandments, “And G-d said all these words, saying”, to mean that G-d said all the Ten Commandments as one indivisible utterance before He enumerated each of them separately.

Our Sages teach that “someone who is ungrateful to his fellow will eventually be ungrateful to G-d.” Being ungrateful to G-d means that I don’t really believe that everything that I have is a gift from Him. If I don’t see my life as a gift, then why should I relate to the Giver?

That’s the beginning of atheism.

But what does our gratitude to our fellow have to do with belief in G-d?

Just as ingratitude to man leads to ingratitude to G-d, so too is the reverse. Being grateful to our fellow, recognizing the good that people do for us leads us to being grateful to G-d and therefore to recognizing Him in the world.

“…you shall not gather the gleanings of your harvest; for the poor and the proselyte shall you leave them…” (23:22)

In this week’s parsha, the Torah lists the various festivals. Inserted within this list, however, are laws of harvesting apportioning various parts of the harvest to the poor.

What is the connection between the festivals and the laws of charity?

To teach us that someone who gives charity properly is considered to have built the Holy Temple and brought offerings there.

Ostensibly there is no connection between giving charity and bringing offerings. Charity is a mitzvah between ourselves and our fellow; offerings are between us and G-d.

The answer is the two are inseparable; giving charity brings the same closeness to G-d as an offering.

Our ego is like a darkened room. When we open up the window of that room to see the person who is standing outside our door, we will also see beyond to the sky, we will connect to the Heavens.

It all depends on which way we look through the telescope.

  • Sources: Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe

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