14 Iyar 5782
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Parashat Emor speaks of the importance of the role of the kehunat, the priesthood, of Israel. Moses was told to tell his older brother Aaron that he would be the Cohen HaGadol, the head of this priesthood. How could Aaron have been chosen for such a role after all his failures? He was timid; he failed dismally at the incident of the golden calf; his two older sons Nadav and Abihu were killed by the Creator for offering strange fire and later he gossiped with Miriam against Moses, God’s chosen envoy. This shows us something important – our Creator didn’t make us perfect, despite what most religions that are black and white teach, that we can attain perfection. In Judaism we live in the gray zone; we always question everything. In the Talmud, the rabbis can have varying opinions, all of which can be right. The Scriptures say that what the Creator revealed to us is for us to know and that which is hidden is not for us to know. Period! There is a discussion in the Talmud of the infallibility of the rabbis where they have the right to win their arguments with the Creator in which they are right, and He is wrong. Other religions copied this infallibility of their leaders. There is no human being who is infallible, only the Creator! The Scriptures, because they were given to us by the Eternal, are sometimes difficult to understand because our lives are temporary. Our Creator breathed His Divine spark into every human being making us all in His likeness and image. We don’t need to be part of Israel to have that spark of life. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the Creator of all things.
There is an interesting story at the end of this portion about an Israelite woman who had a son with an Egyptian husband. The question arises – who is a Jew, an Israelite? The Torah clearly shows us that if the mother is an Israelite and the father is not, then the son is not an Israelite. Understandably, at the times of Ezra, the rabbis decided the opposite. A good decision would have been that the son would be Israelite in either case. Sadly, they removed from Judaism any child from a non-Jewish mother which is in direct opposition to the Torah. Who is right, man or the Creator? That is why Jeremiah wrote in 17:5-11, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man…blessed is the man who trusts in the Creator… Who can know the heart of man; deceitful it is? The Creator knows and tests the heart of men and give them accordingly”. Even if the High Priest himself or our rabbis today were to say anything that goes against Torah, we are to always choose Torah.
One of the greatest misunderstandings today occurred when our rabbi Yeshua was crowned as the god of the Gentiles and place in equal position to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is normal that we Jews reject this pagan idea. It is idolatrous according to the second commandment. How can we accept what goes against the Torah? No human, no animal can be our God. We each have the responsibility to search the Scriptures for understanding which is why the priesthood was so important. It carried a tremendous responsibility in its role to lead the people in the right way, to teach them about the Torah, not about Halachah, human traditions; to understand the Creator’s principles so that they could be applied to their lives. When we say that we are Shomer Torah, it is not about imitating others in eating or dressing a special way, rather it means that Torah is within us and that we walk in His ways.
The principle that this parasha teaches us is that our Creator has placed us in a dual system whereby we are both temporal and eternal. The duality of time is important – eternal and temporary. Our Jewish calendar is dual and complicated; it is lunar but needs to be compared with the solar calendar. Our rabbis have gone to great lengths to have it coincide with the solar calendar by adding months so that His Moedim, His Appointed Times remain in the same seasons year after year. The Moedim were to demonstrate to us just how temporary we are on this earth while pointing to the eternal. Pesach is the beginning of the cycle and Sukkoth, the end, representing “The beginning of the end and a new beginning”. The Biblical festivals are all related to agriculture except for two –Yom Teruah – the Day of the Blowing of the Shofar (also known as Rosh Hashanah) and Yom Hakippurim (the Day of Atonement) both of which point to a different dimension – the eternal. The three pilgrim festivals, Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkoth are all agricultural during which we give thanks for His total provision. Yom Teruah, Yom Hakippurim have different dimensions pointing to the eternal. Yom Teruah and Sukkoth have 7 days, they are in the 7th month; number 7 in Gematria signifies that His work is accomplished. Sukkoth which contains 7 days plus one extra day, the 8thday, signifies a new beginning; here the Creator is giving us a taste of who He is in Eternity compared with our temporal nature. He breathed His spirit into us, placing within us His spark of divinity. It is not only the Israelites who have this spark but every human being on earth contains His divine spark. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not only the God of the Jews, but He is also the Bore Olam, the Creator of all. In Lev. 23, we will see the importance of the temporal, living within time, however, beyond time we also dwell in eternity.
Israel was chosen to be a holy priesthood. (Ex. 19:6) The word priest portrays the idea of being a “link”, bringing continuity. Israel was called as the priesthood for the nations, in other words to be the link between the nations and the Creator, to be or l’goyim (light to the nations). Our purpose was to set an example and to bring the wonderful message handed down to us at Har Sinai, that His basic Ten Commandments were for all the nations. In these, lay every principle for humanity to live a good life. We humans think we are smarter than the Creator; this is because we have free will, but problems arise when we decide to do things our own way.
What happens when the priesthood, our leaders become corrupt? The entire community is led toward destruction. That is what was happening at the time of our teacher and prophet Yeshua. The priesthood had been sold to the highest bidder instead of following the line of Aaron. They somehow believed that God had blessed them more than others because they were prosperous. It had nothing to do with the moral fiber of the person rather with how much money he had. The Creator said, “I am holy; therefore, I will make you holy” meaning He is separate from the rest, and we were not to be like the other nations. To be in relationship with the Creator, we are to follow His moral instructions, to have integrity, not to be immoral which leads to the amorality of the world. There are three states of being…. moral, immoral, and amoral. Today our society has become amoral. I wish they were only immoral because at least they would know what moral behavior is but when we are amoral, we have lost the capacity to know or even care what is right and good. We simply follow our instincts on the road to destruction.
History teaches us that the greatest empires fell for three reasons – a totally corrupt leadership which enslaved their people, total immorality, and the persecution of Israel. Israel comes under persecution when we are not fulfilling our role; we were called to be a nation of “priests”, to be “or l’goyim” and once again we as a moral nation are running away from that responsibility. We prefer to be like the other nations than to be accepted by our Creator. This, for the most part, is due to the example being set by a corrupt religious system which is exactly what was happening at the time of Yeshua. He was murdered because he was trying to get his people to return to the simplicity of the Torah, telling them that the religious faction had no right to replace God’s Words with their own, that they had no right to purchase the priesthood or annul the Word of God by their own traditions. The two greatest powers at that time, the Sadducees, and Pharisees, had divided their territories and didn’t like to be told by Yeshua that they were wrong. It was the “am ha’aretz”, the general population of Israel who loved and accepted Yeshua’s teachings as well as those Sadducees and Pharisees who had a heart for the Creator. Yeshua spoke to them in their own language, and they saw that he wanted the best for Israel.
Sadly, the Gentiles kidnapped Yeshua’s message and totally divorced it from the Torah. They made him into someone who he never said he was. They changed the message to one that most Israelis would have to reject considering the Ten Commandments, giving them a negative view of Rabbi Yeshua. The Israelites think that Jesus Christ is a god of the Gentiles, and we cannot have another god. It is our duty both here and abroad, to teach both the Jews and Gentiles the truth about our great teacher Yeshua, our messiah of his time. He brought the Torah back to our people. Yeshua told us; I have not come to abolish the Torah” and he was speaking to those who understood the Torah.
The Creator wants us to see that although we dwell in temporary bodies, our soul, our neshama is eternal. We are in constant communication with Him. He doesn’t cease to exist because people say that they don’t believe in Him. They are like the ostrich who can easily outrun a lion but instead hides his head in a hole when being chased. Are you an ostrich or do you carry the light of God which is not to be hidden but shown for all to see? Are you a moral being, an immoral being or are you totally amoral? God asks us to be moral, to have integrity, in this way, we will do what is right; in this way, we choose life. The immoral person does what is wrong, knowing that it is wrong, while the amoral person cannot discern; he doesn’t care about what is right or wrong; he cares only what is good for him. Today’s world is amoral. The Creator told us “V’ahavta re’acha kamocha” – to love our neighbor as ourselves. How can we do right for our neighbor, if we do not do what is right for ourselves? And how can we do right for ourselves if we are not right with the Creator?
Rabbi Netanel ben Yochanan (Percy Johnson)