Monday, May 16 through Thursday, May 19, 2016
Friday, May 20, 2016
SHABBAT, May 21, 2016, Parshat Emor, Leviticus 22:1 – 24:23
Saturday, May 21, 2016
Sunday, April 22, 2016
(Triennial Reading, Year III)
Shabbat, May 21, 2016, Parshat Tazria, Leviticus 23:23 – 24:23
|1||Kohen||Leviticus 23:23 – 23:25|
|2||Levi||Leviticus 23:26 – 23:32|
|3||Shlishi||Leviticus 23:33 – 23:44|
|4||Rivii||Leviticus 24:1 – 24:4|
|5||Chamishi||Leviticus 24:5 – 24:9|
|6||Shishi||Leviticus 24:10 – 24:12|
|7||Shivii||Leviticus 24:13 – 24:23|
|Maftir||Exodus 24:21 – 24:23|
|Haftarah||Ezekiel 44:15 – 44:31|
Parshat Emor enunciates the special laws pertaining to the Kohanim (priests), the Kohen Gadol (the high priest), and the Temple service that they are required to complete. Among these laws are: Kohen may not become ritually impure through contact with a dead body, nor may he marry a divorcee, or a woman with a promiscuous past. A Kohen with a physical deformity cannot serve in the Holy Temple, nor can a deformed animal be brought as an offering. The second segment of Parshat Emor lists the festivals of the Jewish calendar: the weekly Shabbat, Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret. Finally, Parshat Emor concludes with the incident of a man executed for blasphemy, and then describes the penalty of death for the crime of murder and the monetary penalties to be assessed for injuring one’s fellow or destroying his property. (AK)
The Haftarah of Ezekiel 44:15- discusses various laws that pertain to the Kohanim, and as such is linked directly with Parshat Emor. Ezekiel prophesies about the service of the Kohanim in the third Holy Temple which he foresees being rebuilt after the Final Redemption. Ezekiel describes the priestly vestments, their personal care, whom they may and may not marry, and their special purity requirements which preclude them from coming in contact with a corpse. He also discusses their calling as teachers and spiritual leaders.(AK)
Parshat Emor states that in order to perform at the altar in the Tabernacle, the priest must be free of any physical defect. G-d orders Aaron, “No man of your offspring, throughout the ages, who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the food of his G-d…no man blind…lame…limb too short or too long… hunchback…dwarf…or who has a growth in his eye…” (Leviticus 21:16-21). Our sages sought to clarify the defects specified: Rashi wrote much concerning the priest who had unusually long eyebrows or a “commingling” [of colour] in his eyes, dry lesions, or weeping sores [boils]. Nachmanides spent time discussing the nature of growths in the eye. Gersonides (Levi ben Gershon 1288–1344), a great French Torah scholar, insisted that any deviation from the norm should be considered a defect even if it did not impair the individual’s ability to perform priestly functions. Strangely, none thought to ask the question obvious to modern sensibilities: Why does a priest need to be a perfect physical specimen of a human being? Some see the Torah as placing an “outmoded” emphasis on human bodily perfection and yet, the ideal of physical perfection is as alive today as it was in biblical times, or perhaps even more so. We are bombarded with images of physical perfection on TV, in movies, in magazines, on billboards, and almost everywhere on the internet, despite the fact that most of these are “PhotoShopped” and but a simulation of virtual perfection. Every single day throughout North America (and likely in most westernized civilization) people spend countless millions of dollars on products and surgical procedures to improve their looks and hide their blemishes; all the while against a background of the increased acknowledgement that characterizing physical difference as a defect is offensive, and wrong.
Human physical perfection was never a Jewish ideal. Learning, wisdom, compassion, and a yearning for justice are,in fact, our Jewish ideals. The biblical Rabbis celebrated individuality and differences. A most appropriate statement supporting this idea is found in the Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5, “one human being was created at first, to proclaim the greatness of G-d: [and while] a human stamps many coins with one mould and they are all identical, G-d stamps us all from the same mould of the first man, yet each of us is unique. Maimonides wrote, “One who sees people with disfigured faces or limbs recites the blessing, “Blessed are You… G-d, who makes people different. One who sees a person who is blind or lame, or who is covered with sores recites the blessing, “Blessed are You, G-d, who is a righteous judge.” But if they were born that way [with the disability], one says, “…who makes people different.”
The Pirke Avot offers sage advice. “We ought not look at the container, but rather what is in it”. As it states, “You can find a new flask with old wine and an old flask that does not hold even new wine“. (Pirke Avot 4:27). I know no lessons to draw from this other than to know that regardless of the form of the human vessel, we need to look deep inside, where hopefully we can find the divine spark of the neshuma, the soul living therein. Maybe then, we will feel reinforced knowing that we are truly made in the image of G-d, with or without our blemishes.
Shabbat Shalom, Avram Kay
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of its author and are not necessarily those of Congregation Beth-El
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“Grace is deceptive; beauty is illusory”
“We don’t see things the way they are. We see them the way we are“.