Torah Weekly

For the week ending 10 May 2008 / 5 Iyyar 5768

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.


Concrete Time

“And you shall count to yourselves from the day after the Shabbat (which means the day after Pesach begins) from the day of your bringing the Omer offering which is waved, seven Shabbatot — complete and perfect they must be". (23:15)

"When are they perfect? When they do the will of the Omnipresent."(Midrash)

Nothing in this world lasts forever. Everything has its time and then passes. Even the heavens and the earth will pass into nothingness. Nevertheless, everything that comes into the world has a certain period of existence however short or long. However, there is one thing in the world whose existence has no span whatsoever. It is no sooner present than it has already passed, and is no longer.

That thing is time itself.

Every second that emerges into Creation is gone in the blink of an eye. Time passed is no longer, and every second becomes immediately and at once, the past.

Time can be made substantive, however. Man’s actions in time, can give time itself an eternal existence.Every action gives the time in which that action is done the substance and the character of the action itself. Therefore, if we use our time to do a mitzvah, a kind act, or to learn Torah, then because mitzvot are eternal they in turn eternalize man's time.

This is what the Midrash means when it says “When are they (the weeks) perfect? When they do the will of the Omnipresent.” The Counting of The Omer is a paradigm for the years of the life of Man. The “Seven Shabbatot” allude to "The days of our years have in them seventy years." (Tehillim). The mitzvah of Counting The Omer demands that “complete and perfect they must be.

When those hours do the will of G-d, then Time itself stays eternally concrete and substantial.

  • Source for ‘Concrete Time’: Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin

Bored With Breathing

“And you will bring a new ‘mincha’ offering to G-d”

Are you "burned out"?

You seem to hear that phrase a lot these days. "I’m ‘burned out’ from this; I’m ’burned out’ from that." "I’m bored with this; It’s just lost its excitement for me."

Why do people burn out?

Take two people working hard, one self-employed, the other working for a salary.There’s a big difference between them. Usually, when we work for a salary, our interest in the company is because it provides us with a living. If the company doesn’t do well and there is no bonus to look forward to, our apathy, rather than our enthusiasm, tends to grow.

When we are self-employed, on the other hand, we put our very soul into our work. We are the company. We enjoy our moments of triumph and we grieve over our disasters, but bored and burned out? Never.

Unlike the salaried employee whose remuneration is fixed from the beginning with only limited scope for profit participation, a self-employed person knows that the sky’s the limit. The company’s success is our success.

When we learn Torah we should think of it like it was our own business. In your own business, if things aren’t going right, who is there to put them right? Only yourself. If it takes extra time at the office, we would certainly, and gladly, put in the extra hours.

When we sit down to learn Torah do we mentally "punch in"? Are we waiting for the next coffee break? Or do we feel the exuberance and challenge of our learning as though it was ‘our own business’?

How does the Torah refers to the monumental event of its giving at Sinai?

“And you will bring a new ‘mincha’ offering to G-d.”

Why is the reference so oblique? It’s true that at the Festival of Shavuot we do bring a "new mincha offering to G-d", but is that the most conspicuous aspect of Shavuot? How about the giving of the Torah itself? Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to spell out that on this day the Torah was given at Sinai? And yet it is with these few covert words that the Torah hints to the central event of Judaism.


The Torah doesn’t specify the date of its giving because it doesn’t want us to feel that it was given as a "one-off" event. Rather, it wants us to feel it’s being given to us every day. G-d wants us to receive the Torah every day as though we were hearing it for the first time on Sinai

The Torah is our life’s breath.

We breathe millions of times in our lifetime, but no one gets tired of breathing. Why not?Since we understand that our life depends on breathing it’s not a subject for boredom. Boredom can only set in when a person sees something as optional. Breathing isn’t optional; it’s obligatory.

We should feel the same way about the Torah, for it is our life’s breath.

  • Sources for ‘Bored With Breathing’:Kli Yakar, Moser Derech, Rabbi Simcha Wasserman, Rabbi Yaakov Niman, Rabbi Meir Chadash

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