Torah Weekly

For the week ending 14 May 2005 / 5 Iyyar 5765

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 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 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.



I shall be sanctified among the Bnei Yisrael; (22:32)

The following is a quote from a recent press release by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

A decade in the making, the new Holocaust History Museum combines the best of Yad Vashems expertise, resources and state-of-the-art exhibits to take Holocaust remembrance well into the 21st century .

Brilliant! The Holocaust as a theme park!

The press release continues, The new Holocaust History Museum occupies over 4,200 square meters, mainly underground. Both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, whatever that means, it presents the story of the Shoah from a unique Jewish perspective

Its 180 meters long linear structure in the form of a spike cuts through the mountain with its uppermost edge a skylight protruding through the mountain ridge.Galleries portraying the complexity of the Jewish situation during those terrible years branch off this spike-like shaft, and the exit emerges dramatically out of the mountainside, affording a view of the valley below. Unique settings, spaces with varying heights, and different degrees of light accentuate focal points of the unfolding narrative

visitors will continue on to the epilogue and from there to the balcony opening to a panoramic view of Jerusalem.

For many of our brothers and sisters, Holocaust remembrance is their last connection to Judaism. Its a sad fact that many Jews feel most connected to Judaism by the fact that they too see themselves as Holocaust survivors.

In a recent poll, opposition to intermarriage was deemed racist by a full half of American Jews. Not a surprising statistic considering that more Jews in America now marry non-Jewish spouses than Jewish ones.

I cant help feeling that if a mere fraction of the money that has been poured into Holocaust museums had been devoted to quality Jewish education, we would not now be looking at a generation so alienated from its roots.

Of course, the problem with education is that knowledge demands action. The Holocaust theme park creates a short-term and ultimately empty emotional experience that costs nothing in terms of commitment.

Natan Sharansky has called attention to the widespread apathy of Jewish students in American universities. Only 10% are involved in any type of Jewish activity he estimated. "The problem is not that Jewish students lack the facts," writes Shachar Yanai director of the student arm of WIZO, "its that they dont care about them in the first place."

The ancient Greeks, who knew a thing or two about drama, understood that one of the purposes of the genre of tragedy was catharsis. Catharsis means that by experiencing scenes of great sadness in the theater, the powerful emotions that surface are released in an environment that requires us to do nothing except watch and feel; thus, these emotions are rendered anodyne and harmless.

A Judaism that consists of experiencing Holocaust theme parks and a few homely platitudes that could have been culled from Readers Digest does not a committed Jew make.

Judaism is not a religion of the dead; it is a religion of the living.

I shall be sanctified among the Bnei Yisrael; the history of our people is full of seemingly ordinary people who were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice rather than deny G-d.

If you asked one of those holy martyrs which he would prefer as a memorial: Someone sacrificing his ego and his time and his money to live the life of a committed Jew, or a Holocaustland of the Dead, I have a feeling that he just might chose the former.

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