Emor – Lev. 21:1-24:23

As the Torah Turns

Rabbi Lader’s Weekly D’var Torah

Emor – Lev. 21:1-24:23

Our Torah portion this week is ‘Emor – Lev. 21:1-24:23.  We read about specific rules for Aaron, his sons, and future generations of priests.  We also read about the cycle of the Jewish year with regards to Shabbat and the festivals.  In the midst of detailing the agricultural aspects Pesach and Shavuot and Succot, we read: “And when you reap the harvest of your land. you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest;  you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger.” (Lev. 23:22) This is the second time we are given these instructions.  The first time was in Lev. 19:10, and included not only the harvests of the field, but also the harvests of the vineyards.  The first mention is in the context of what it means to be holy – looking out for the poor and the stranger, and making sure they do not go hungry, but are treated in a kind and supportive way, as well as maintaining their dignity. This second iteration is in the midst of details for the harvest festivals; holiness is not only imbued in our behaviors, but also in Shabbat and our festivals.  With regards to Shabbat, in Genesis we read: “And so the Eternal blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy…” (Gen. 2:3) and this is reiterated in Lev. 23:3 – “On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a Shabbat Shabbaton – a Sabbath of complete rest, a sacred occasion.”  With regards to the festivals, each is described as a “mikrah kodesh – a sacred occasion.” Holiness is not relegated only to Aaron and his sons and the future generations of priests.  Our Torah underscores the value of holiness in our lives – through the times of our lives, and through our actions – with and for each other.

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