The Torah is Alive!
Iyar 15 5780
This portion, Emor (Speak) deals with the many rules and regulations for the Cohanim. How do we apply this to our lives today? I teach our community to live the Torah, the instructions given to us by the Bore Olam, our Creator. Most of us here have had an experience with the Creator and know that it is important to be faithful to Him, to ourselves and to our community. The Cohanim as leaders were at the highest level of holiness and needed to know how to behave since all eyes were upon them. We are in the same position today. To those who have been given more, more is required. Even when surrounded by those who think differently, we need to hold to our moral standard. We don’t need to impress people with our perfection rather we need to have only one face wherever we are, to be ourselves. When people close to us are doing something wrong, we are not called to condemn or judge them like moral police, but we need to be clear about where we stand on moral issues.
In Leviticus 23, our attention is turned to the Moedim מוֹעֲדִים. In Genesis 1:14, it is written:
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, יְהִי מְאֹרֹת בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם, לְהַבְדִּיל, בֵּין הַיּוֹם וּבֵין הַלָּיְלָה; וְהָיוּ לְאֹתֹת וּלְמוֹעֲדִים, וּלְיָמִים וְשָׁנִים. “And God said: ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons (Moedim), and for days and years;” Leviticus 23 speaks of the holy convocation that begins on Shabbat, (here the seventh day of the week), a solemn day of rest. Shabbat doesn’t mean seven; it means rest. The seventh day of the week is a Shabbat but not all the Shabbats fall on the seventh day of the week; all the Moedim are also a Shabbat but do not necessarily fall on the seventh day of the week. That is why we start counting the Omer – עומר the day after Pesach, which is not the seventh day of the week but a day of rest. The Shabbat; the seventh day of the week covers them all.
There are two words that we use for the holidays; one is Chag – חג Festival and the other is Moed – מועד, Appointed Season. Of the seven Moedim, there are only three that are “Chaggim – חגים”: Pesach – פסח, Shavuot – שבועות and Sukkoth – סוכות, the three Pilgrim Festivals; the rest are special times of “holy convocations or appointed times”. The LORD has given us “cycles” which have the connotation of being circular, all-inclusive, holistic, as opposed to Greek linear understanding. Our daily walk can be compared to a spiral, either upward or downward. Sometimes it seems that we find ourselves in the same situation as before, but if we have a close relationship with the Bore Olam, we are on an upward spiral. We may take two steps forward and one step backward but when we are forced to relive something, we can see that we handle it in a better, more mature way.
Each of the Moedim points to something special in our lives. The Shabbat lets us know that every other Moed is a Shabbat, a day of rest. We begin with Pesach, the first Chag, the beginning of the year representing the paradigm shift where we are free to think for ourselves, no longer a slave to the beliefs of others because the Creator is with us. The second is the First Fruits, Bikkurim Rishonim – ראשונים בכורים, the first steps we take in our walk with Him. Being imperfect, we make many mistakes, but we can always start again. We learn more from our mistakes than from doing everything right. The counting of the Omer takes us to the end of the 50 days to Shavuot where we found ourselves at Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. They are the only thing given to us physically by the Hand of God and are all we need to live in peace and harmony in this world. The rest is simply an application. No one was forced by the Creator to accept them; if we follow them, it has to come from our hearts. That is true engagement. Only religions impose their ways upon others. With Shavuot, it is as if we are now engaged and in a loving relationship with our Creator.
There is a break for the summer where we learn to walk with Him and then in the fall, we embark upon the next set of Moedim. The first two, Yom Teruah – יוֹם תְּרוּעָה, and Yom ha Kippurim יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים are for us to be alert and called to have a closer relationship with the Creator, ending with Chag Sukkoth. Yom Teruah, the Day of the Blowing of the Shofar has been renamed Rosh Hashanah, (Head of the Year) but that is simply tradition. The shofar is blasted to get us to stand to attention and be awake and ready for whatever is to come. Ten days later we arrive at Yom HaKippurim, a day of God’s protective covering for His people. We gather as a community to return as a people to our Creator. I understood this Moed better when I read Yeshua’s Sermon on the Mount where he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for they will inherit the kingdom of heaven.” It is not about fasting, which is never mentioned, nor about self-flagellation, rather for us to humble ourselves before God, to remove the hypocrisy and the masks that we wear. Five days later, we complete the cycle with Chag Sukkot, the only festival that lasts eight days; the first and eighth days are a Shabbat, a day of rest. The eighth day is a day of renewal and we are ready to begin again. Each year we celebrate these Moedim at a higher level in our spiritual growth.
I challenge people to have a paradigm shift and be ready to see the truth and not be afraid of change. Although others might reject us, we need to remember that the majority does not necessarily reflect the truth. I have a great love for Israel, but the problem today is that Israel is becoming a super-secular country. The people of Israel are divorcing the Creator because religious people, with all their rules and regulations, are driving them away from the Bore Olam. The closer we are to Him, the more we realize how far we are from Him, the God of compassion and mercy. When we are very religious, we think that we are closer to Him, even to the point of replacing Him with ourselves. My desire is to bring us back to Biblical Judaism מִקרָאִי יַהָדוּת . We do not need to return to the times of the Temple; all we need are the principles that the Creator gave us to apply to our lives so that we can be a light to all the nations.