Torah Weekly - Parshat Emor

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Parshat Emor

For the week ending 8 Iyar 5760 / 12 & 13 May 2000

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  • The Eternal Flame
  • Haftara
  • Blood and Fat
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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 even of 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 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. The Parsha 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.




    "Command the Children of Israel ... to kindle a continual lamp." (24:2)

    Go into any Synagogue when it's dark and you will see a small lamp shining above the Holy Ark. It's called the ner tamid -- the eternal flame.

    That lamp is a mEmorial of the ner ma'aravi (western lamp) of the menorah which the kohanim lit in the Beit Hamikdash. The ner ma'aravi burned miraculously. It never went out. Every evening, when the kohen came to kindle the flames he would find the ner ma'aravi still alight from the previous evening. He would remove the still-burning wick and oil, clean out its receptacle and then put back the burning wick and the oil. Then he would kindle all the other lamps with the western lamp.

    However, when the Romans destroyed the Beit Hamikdash it seemed that the little solitary flame had been put out forever.

    In Rome, there stands a triumphal arch built by the Emperor Titus. One of its bas-reliefs depicts the menorah being carried through the streets of Rome as part of the booty pillaged from the Beit Hamikdash. All its lamps are dark. It looks like some expensive antique, soon to languish under the dust of ages in some Vatican vault.

    But did Titus really extinguish that eternal flame?

    The Beit Hamikdash is a macrocosm of the human body. If you look at a plan of the sanctuary in the Beit Hamikdash, you will notice that the placement of the various vessels -- the altar, the table, the menorah -- corresponds to the location of the vital organs in the human body. Each of the Temple's vessels represents a human organ.

    The menorah corresponds to the heart.

    Why is it that so many young people today are choosing to return to the beliefs and practices that their parents had forgotten, and their grandparents despaired of seeing continued? It is as though some mystical force is transmitted in the spiritual genes of every Jew. A light burning on the menorah of the Jewish heart across the millennia. A light which can never be extinguished, which burns miraculously, even without replenishment of the oil or wicks of mitzvah observance.

    So, in a mystical sense, the light Titus tried to put out continues to burn in the menorah of the Jewish heart. But there's more.

    It would come as a great disappointment to Titus, but the menorah that is collecting dust in the Vatican is not the original menorah. It is a copy. The original menorah was hidden away (together with the other vessels) in the caves and tunnels under the Temple Mount.

    If while the Temple was standing the western lamp of the menorah burned miraculously without human assistance, so why shouldn't it go on burning even after it was buried?

    That western lamp continues to "burn" under the Temple Mount throughout the long dark night of exile. It continues to "burn" to this day. And it will continue to "burn" until Mashiach comes. Then, the light of the menorah of the Jewish heart will be revealed as identical to the light of the menorah in the Holy Beit Hamikdash.

    • Sfat Emet
    • Rabbi Akiva Tatz


    Yechezkel 44:15-31


    This prophecy relates to the future Sanctuary and narrates many of the special laws of the priests and the sanctuary worship. This corresponds to the numerous priestly laws in Parashat Emor.


    The parts of the sacrifices mentioned in the Haftara as including the whole concept of sacrifice are blood and fat (44:15). Sprinkling the blood on the corners of the altar and burning certain fats are the major obligation in all sacrifices.

    The evil inclination is a combination of two types of passion, that of physical enjoyment and that of nonphysical desires like honor and pride. Fat symbolizes the physical gain of gluttony and other materialistic pleasures, while blood represents the dynamic greed for glory and the endless pursuit of honor, which is often associated with bloodshed -- the destruction of a fellow human. The idea of sacrifices is for us to connect our cerebral, abstract repentance with a physical action; we therefore offer up to G-d tangible entities corresponding to the two parts of our evil inclination we wish to overcome in order to refine ourselves and come closer to G-d.

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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