For the week ending 7 May 2022 / 5 Iyar Bet 5782

Parashat 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 may not attend the funeral even of his closest relatives. Certain marital restrictions are placed on the kohanim.

The nation is required to honor the kohanim. Physical irregularities that invalidate a kohen from serving in the Temple are listed. Terumah, a portion of the crop that is 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 Hashem 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. This Torah portion explains the laws of preparing the oil for the Menorah and baking the lechem hapanim in the Temple. A man blasphemes Hashem, and is executed as prescribed in the Torah.


Beyond the Four-Minute Mile

“…for each one is holy to his G-d.” (21:7)

“When I was a youngster in Illinois in the 1950s, the world of sport was shocked by the feat of Roger Bannister…On May 6, 1954 he broke the four-minute barrier in the mile. While improving upon the world record by only a few seconds, he changed the complexion of distance running in a single afternoon… Track records fell like ripe apples in the late 50’s and 60’s. Will the same happen to the field of Cancer treatment?”

Dr Bruce Chabner wrote this in 2001 about the then revolutionary Cancer treatment Gleevec in “The Oncologic Four-Minute Mile.”

“Chabner’s analogy was carefully chosen. Bannister’s mile remains a touchstone in the history of athletics not because it was a record that could never be broken, as the current fastest mile is a good fifteen seconds under Bannister’s. For generations, four minutes was thought to represent an intrinsic physiological limit, as if muscles could not be made to move any faster or lungs breathe any deeper. What Bannister proved was that such notions about the intrinsic boundaries are mythical. What he broke permanently was not a limit, but the idea of limits.”

Rarely are we limited by our limitations. Usually, we are limited by the limitations we place on our limits. As much as this is true in athletics or the search for a Cancer cure, it is equally true in our spirituality. If we would but realize that each one of us is capable of reaching not only further than we think, but further than we could dream, we would run our own spiritual four-minute mile in record time.

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