08 May 2015

Emor 5775: The Seasons of Our Lives

Emor 5775: The Seasons of Our Lives

“Time is on my side, yes it is.”

 — Mick Jagger

Among the many commandments relating to kohanim and offerings in this parasha, it concludes with a full treatment of the festivals that we are commanded to keep. While many of them can be correlated with specific memorable events in our history, there is something deeper about our festivals that defines their purpose. Torah calls these days mo’adim meaning times that are set aside for a special purpose. There is something that we are not only meant to celebrate and commemorate on a mo’ed, but also something that we are meant to accomplish for ourselves. Each mo’ed is an opportunity for achievement in a fundamental area of our humanity. They are times that are meant to be consecrated with conscious intent in order to connect with G-d and engage in personal growth.

Each mo’ed mentioned in our parasha touches on another essential element of the human condition that requires our attention and care in order to ensure our success in life. They demand that we awaken and examine our lives and choices on Rosh HaShana, seek atonement on Yom Kippur, find happiness on Succot, achieve freedom on Pesah, and invest in Creation and its meaning on Shavuot. The mo’adim are meant to provide us with a pause for thought in our progression through time in order to afford us the opportunity to address these issues and to consider the progress we’ve made in each. All of the Torah’s mo’adim include yamim tovim, days similar to Shabbat, in which we are commanded to refrain from creative work so that we might communicate with G-d and spend time acting upon these issues.

With each mo’ed there are exercises that help us to facilitate and enhance the purpose of the festival. On Rosh HaShana we blow the shofar in order to bring us to attention so that we might examine our choices and their consequences, on Yom Kippur we refrain from our daily human involvements so that we might focus on our souls and our perfection. Succot highlights the transience in life that creates the unique moments that allow our lives meaning and, therefore, bring us genuine happiness. Pesah brings our freedom to the forefront with a national narrative, while Shavuot focuses on our commitment to the Creation through agriculture and our commitment to discover its meaning through Torah.

The mo’adim of Israel are much more than holy days on which we are meant to pay tribute to G-d. They are more than the old joke suggests: “They tried to kill us, we were saved, let’s eat!” The beauty of our festivals is that they provide us with appointments in time to focus on our personal growth by concentrating on the core principles that matter most in our lives. They are mikra’ei kodesh — times that are to be declared sacred and held in reverence so that each member of the nation can engage in this national programme of self-fulfilment. Together with our Creator and our nation, we strive towards perfection.

Over the centuries, these sacred days have moulded us into a thinking, motivated, bold people who, despite the myriad setbacks and profound challenges, have emerged with remarkable fortitude and unmatched perseverance. For this reason, our mo’adim are joyous occasions in that they provide us access to life’s greatest blessings. They are days that highlight the beauty of humanity’s potential and encourage its glory. By celebrating them in this way, they become shining opportunities for us to live our lives to the fullest.

Law and Lore

Zemirot IV

Vaybarekh David

Rav Sa’adia Ga’on writes in his siddur that when the psalms are completed the verse ‘ve’ata elohenu modim anahnu lakh umhalelim leShem tif’artekha’ – ‘And now our Lord we thank you and praise Your splendid name’ is said.

This verse is from the Book of Chronicles (I, 29:13). Rabbi Yakob ben Asher (Ch. 51), the author of Arba’a Turim, writes that other Ge’onim included the three opening verses (ibid., 10-12) to the aforementioned verse which begin with the words Vaybarekh David, along with verses from the book of Nehemia (9:6-11). It is currently customary to read all of these verses after completing the psalms during zemirot.

It is customary to stand while reading the verses of Vaybarekh David until the verse ‘Atah Hu Adonai Elohim’. S&P custom is to stand until lekha mishtahavim which is just before Atah Hu. Standing is not, however, obligatory. Therefore, one who is elderly or unwell may sit when reciting it. (R. Ovadia Yosef, Halikhot Olam, I, pg. 74)

Rabbi Hayim Vital writes based on kabbalistic teaching, that it is appropriate to give tsedaka (charity) when saying the words ‘veAta moshel bakol’ (Sha’ar haKavanot, Derush 1, pg. 18). Although this was not customary in the S&P community (Keter Shem Tob, I, pg. 46:69).


Parasha Perspectives

VIII  Emor

 39a      The ordinary kohen  (21:1-9)

            Cannot be defiled with dead bodies. Limits on marriage

39b      Increased restrictions for Kohen Gadol  (21:10-15)

More restrictive: no defilement at all, must marry virgin

39c      Physical blemishes in a kohen  (21:16-24)

Kohanim with physical defects cannot officiate, can eat

40        Eating kodesh  (22:1-16)

Regulations for kohanim and their families for eating from the korbanot

41a      Quality and method of offerings  (22:17-25)

Unblemished animals can be offered, others can be used elsewhere.

41b      Restrictions on offerings  (22:26-33)

Chillul and Kiddush Hashem (22:32)

42        Intro. to holy occasions. 7th day is Shabbat (23:1-3)

43        Pesach*:  15/1 (15th day, 1st mth.). Chag HaMatzot.

Chnw (Called holy, no work). Eat Matza  (23:4-8)

44a      The Omer:  16/1  Bring first omer of harvest for an offering  (23:9-14)

44b      Shavuot*:  50 days later. Special offerings, Chnw, harvest law  (23:15-22)

45a      Rosh HaShana*:  1/7  Zichron Teruah. Chnw  (23:23-25)

[Note: *= not mentioned by that name]

45b      Yom Kippur:   10/7  Yom HaKippurim. Chnw.

Afflict you souls…  (23:26-32)

46        Sukkot:  15/7  Chag HaSukkot. Chnw. Four species, live in Sukkot  (23:33-44)

47        Menorah    Must be continual – tamid  (24:1-4)

48a      The Showbread  (24:5-9)

Twelve loaves in two rows on ‘pure’ table in Mishkan. Add levona (24:7) Renew every Shabbat.

Brit Olam (24:8). Eaten by kohanim in Mishkan.

48b      Son of an Egyptian man  (24:10-12)

The son of an Israelite woman and Egyptian man had a fight with an Israelite man.

The son of the Israelite woman (Shelomit Bat Divri – Dan tribe) blasphemed and cursed God

49        The punishment for blasphemy and other punishments  (24:13-23)

God commanded the punishment of stoning and taught the general rule (24:13-16)

Murder death. Damage or kill an animal or maim a person  pay (24:17-23)

Taken from, ‘Torah for Everyone’ by Rabbi Dr Raphael Zarum, Dean of LSJS