Torah Weekly

For the week ending 9 May 2015 / 20 Iyyar 5775

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 thekohanim. 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.


A Yiddishe Punim

“They will be holy…” (21:6)

The window of the soul is the human face.

The Hebrew word “panim” — “face” — has the same root as the “p’nim” — meaning “inside”.

The human soul is a G-dly fragment from Above.

When you look into someone’s face you are looking at an emanation of G-d. The light of the soul illuminates a person’s face. For some it’s true more than for others, but in every face there is a G-dly light.

It’s good to remember this the next time you get angry with your neighbor and he scowls at you. You may not see it, because the skin and sinews contort to mask the holiness within, but if you look carefully you will see there a G-dly semblance.

In the current Torah portion, the concept of holiness is repeated many times. The Jewish People are reminded that they are a holy people. The kohanim have an even higher level of sanctity to preserve.

But what is holiness?

The Ramban in last week’s Torah portion says that holiness is refraining from what is permitted.

The more we control our appetites and pass up even those things that are permitted, the less physical we become, which allows our spiritual side to dominate. And the more spiritual we are, the closer we are to G-d.

It’s an amazing thing, but refraining from having an unnecessary extravagance — even something small — allows the radiance of G-d to shine more brightly in us.

That’s a pretty good deal.

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