Blog Emor Iyar 13 5779 בלוג אֱמֹר, י”ג אייר תשע”ט

In Parashat Emor, the Creator is telling Moshe Rabeinu to instruct the Cohanim, the Priests, about everything they would need to do – areas of dress, who they could marry, limitations about who could and could not be a Cohen, how to handle funerals, how to deal with death etc., etc. Interestingly we see that the position of Moshe was higher than the Priests who were called to serve the rest of the people, not to be overlords. The Torah seems to say that the Cohanim were not allowed to mourn. Could that be right? The Cohanim were not allowed to exaggerate expressing their grief at the death of loved ones, but they were to remember that the Creator is in charge; that death is not the end; rather it is a new beginning. We are here to live, and we are to do that until our last breath.

Biblical Judaism teaches us principles and one of these is that the Creator is showing us that life does not end with the death of the physical body. For those who have a relationship with the Creator, we know that death is only the next step to eternal life. There is a relationship between birth and death. We cannot remember the traumatic experience of our birth but after we have been cozy, swimming for nine months in the womb, we go through the birth canal and have to pass from breathing like a fish to the new environment of breathing through our lungs. This process forces us to die for a moment only to be born again. This portion is showing us that there is truly no need for an “overwhelming” display of grief and yes, of course, we can miss the person but the separation from us is only a matter of time. Although the Creator gives us the choice of life or death, He exhorts us to choose life because He is the God of the living!

The Priest needed to be the example for the rest of the nation, but the Bore Olam never wanted them to be hypocrites. The greatest thing that He did for us was to make us exactly as we are, yet how many of us complain that we are not like someone else. When we compare ourselves with others, we are the losers. It causes bitterness and depression. We need to say YES to life. There is always a reason that He made us exactly as we are. The Priesthood was to bring Glory to His Name and so are we.

In Leviticus 23, the Creator presents us with His calendars of Festivals. These are cycles. In the northern hemisphere, we are in spring and going through the process of change. I hope that we are changing for the best as we go through our own cycles of life. When we make mistakes, hopefully, we learn from them and will not repeat them. Even a donkey won’t step into a hole twice. We don’t always appreciate our own qualities and can be so self-destructive which is why Moshe had to instruct the Cohanim on how to do things properly. We too need to be willing to speak to others in order to help them in areas they need to grow and to be willing to have them speak to us.

The Biblical calendar is meant to make us aware of the various aspects of our lives. We begin in the spring with Pesach, which is not only about freedom, it is also about responsibility. The Hebrew word for freedom has a double meaning; it also means responsibility. God removed us from our past in order to be free to start another life, one that is responsible. The idea here is for us to keep growing and not to keep living in the past.

Pesach is followed by Rishonim Bikkurim, First Fruits which represents our being on the right track and now we need to start producing something good and to bring special thanksgiving offerings to the Creator at this time.

The last spring festival, Shavuot, falls forty-nine days after Pesach and is the harvest where we are living in plenty. The idea of the receiving of the Torah at this time points to us fulfilling our lives through obeying His basic Ten Commandments. Everything else in the Torah is an application of these Ten. These are what bring wisdom into our lives.

In autumn, there are also three Biblical Festivals. Including the Shabbat, there are seven in total which in Gematria signifies completion or fulfillment. We begin with Yom Teruah where the shofar is sounded announcing something great is about to happen. Yom Kippur follows ten days later. It has been poorly translated as the Day of Atonement or Expiation rather it means that He will always cover (kaper) כַפֵּר and protect His people. Sukkoth is a festival of seven days plus one (Shemini Atzeret) demonstrating to us how temporary our lives are but that we will have a permanent dwelling one day in the future.

We need to look ahead and understand that we are not alone but that we have a wonderful God who does not leave us on our own. Whenever we think we have been abandoned, it is because we are focusing too much on ourselves instead of looking at what He is doing in our lives and how He will use us to help others. Be ready to serve your neighbor as you are serving the Creator!