Hebraic Studies – Emor - 2021

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Please Note: On this page I may show the four letter blessed *“Memorial Name” of the Almighty in Ivrit -  - Y-H-V-H, which we usually pronounce as “Adonai” or “HaShem. At all times treat the most blessed Name with sanctity and when we even see the Name, we should say “blessed be His Sanctified Name.”

 

*This is My Name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.” Shemot - Exodus 3:15.

 

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Although some minor alterations have been made relating to names and attributes having been corrected.

Please Note: Verse numbers may at times vary in non Jewish Bibles.

 

Parashat Emor (2)

Vayikra – Leviticus chapters 22, 23 & 24

 

With Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

- And ye shall not profane My Holy Name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am who hallow youVayikra – Leviticus 22:32 (JPS version of the Torah).

Another Jewish version has the last part of the verse above is as follows;

“You shall be holy; for I your Elohim am holy”

The concepts of ‘Kiddush’ and – ‘Chillul HaShem’ (Y-H-V-H) have a history. Though they are timeless and eternal, their unfolding occurred through the course of time. In this Parsha the verse has a narrow and localised sense. The chapter in which it occurs has been speaking about the special duties of the priesthood and the extreme care they must take in serving Elohim within the Sanctuary. All of Israel is holy, but the Priests are a holy elite within the nation. It was their task to preserve the purity and glory of the Sanctuary as Elohim’s symbolic home in the midst of the nation. So the commands are a special charge to the Priests to take exemplary care as guardians of the holy.

Another dimension was disclosed by the Prophets, who used the phrase  to describe immoral conduct that brings dishonour to Elohim’s law as a code of justice and compassion. Amos speaks of people who “trample on the heads of the poor;

“That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the humble; and a man and his father go unto the same maid, to profane My Holy Name” Amnos - Amos 2:7 (JPS).

Jeremiah invokes  to describe those who circumvent the law by emancipating their slaves only to recapture and re-enslave them

“… ye brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids” Yirmyahu - Jeremiah 34:16 (JPS).

Malochi - Malachi said the following regarding the corrupt Priests of his day;

“For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same My Name is great among the nations; … But ye profane it” Malochi - Malachi 1:11-12 (JPS).

Elohim and the people of Elohim, must be associated with justice, for failure to do so constitutes a ‘.

A third dimension appears in the book of Yechezkel - Ezekiel. The Jewish people, or at least a significant part of it, had been forced into exile in Babylon. The nation had suffered defeat. The Temple lay in ruins. For the exiles this was a human tragedy. They had lost their home, freedom, and independence. It was also a spiritual tragedy:

How shall we sing ’s song in a foreign land?Tehillim - Psalm 137:4 (JPS).

But Yechezkel - Ezekiel saw it as a tragedy for Elohim as well:

“Moreover the word of came unto me, saying: ‘Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their way and by their doings … I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries; according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. And when they came unto the nations, whither they came, they profaned My holy name; in that men said of them’: These are the people of , and are gone forth out of His land” Yechezkel – Ezekiel 36:17 - 19-20 (JPS).

Exile was a desecration of Elohim’s Name because the fact that He had punished His people by letting them be conquered was interpreted by the other nations as showing that Elohim was unable to protect them. This recalls Moshe’s prayer after the Golden Calf:

“‘, why doth Thy wrath wax hot against Thy people, that Thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, saying: For evil did He bring them forth, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from Thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against Thy people’” Shemot - Exodus 32:11-12 (JPS).

This is part of what we may call the Divine pathos. Having chosen to identify His Name with the people of Israel, Elohim is as it were, caught between the demands of justice on the one hand and public perception on the other. What looks like retribution to the Israelites looks like weakness to the world. The exile of Israel could not but be interpreted as the powerlessness of Israel’s Elohim. That, said Yechezkel - Ezekiel, is a ‘, a desecration of Elohim’s Name.

A fourth sense became clear in the late Second Temple period. Israel had returned to its land and rebuilt the Temple, but they came under attack first from the Seleucid Greeks in the reign of ‘Antiochus IV’, then from the ‘Romans’, both of whom attempted to outlaw our Jewish practices. For the first time martyrdom became a significant feature in Jewish life. The question arose: under what circumstances were we Jews to sacrifice our lives, rather than to transgress the Torah?

We all knew well and understood the verse;

“Ye shall therefore keep My statutes, and Mine ordinances, which if a man do, he shall live by them: I am .” Vayikra - Leviticus 18:5 (JPS) … it implies - “and not die by them.”

Saving life takes precedence over most of the commands. It was at this time that the phrase “ was used to mean the willingness to die as a martyr.

People looked up to as role-models must act as role-models. Piety in relation to Elohim must be accompanied by exemplary behaviour in relation to one’s fellow humans. When people associate a life with a strong faith with integrity, decency, humility, and compassion, Elohim’s Name is Sanctified.

Of course Vayikra - Leviticus chapter 23 is very special for is contains the commandments of Elohim’s “appointed seasons” - the Yom Tovim!

“And spoke unto Moshe, saying: Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: The appointed seasons of , which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are My appointed seasons. Six days shall work be done; but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation; ye shall do no manner of work; it is a Sabbath unto in all your dwellings. These are the appointed seasons of , even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their appointed season”

Thus the Feasts are:

Pesach:

“In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at dusk, is ’s - Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of - unleavened bread unto ; seven days ye shall eat unleavened bread” Vayikra 23:5-6 (JPS).

Reshit – First Fruits:

“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When ye are come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring the sheaf of - the first-fruits of your harvest unto the priest”

Shavous:

The next feast “Shavousis a very special feast as it reminds us of the giving of the Torah, blessed be Elohim! However it is not specifically mentioned by its name in Vayikra - Leviticus chapter 23. Interestingly the Hebrew word for ‘seven’ is - ‘Sheva’ and the Hebrew word for ‘week’ is - ‘Shavua’ meaning seven days. And the Hebrew name of the holiday - “Shavous”, which means of course “Feast of Weeks”. Interestingly “Shavous” is clearly mentioned by name in the Torah at the following locations: Shemot – Exodus 32:22, Devarim - Deuteronomy 16 28:25, Devarim - Deuteronomy 16:10 and Be’midbar - Numbers 8:13.

Rosh Hashanah:

“And spoke unto Moshe, saying: Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall be a solemn rest unto you, - - a memorial proclaimed with the blast of horns, a holy convocation”. Vayikra 23:24 (JPS). Of course this is “Yom TeRuach” or “Rosh Hashanah”.

Yom Kippur:

“Howbeit on the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; there shall be a holy convocation unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls”. Vayikra 23:27 (JPS).

Sukkot:

“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is - the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto Vayikra 23:34 (JPS).

Amazingly, Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, somehow seems to have risked His reputation in the world, by choosing to associate it with a single and singular people. For Elohim is the Elohim of all humanity. However He has chosen Israel to be His “witnesses,” His ambassadors to the world. Thus if we fail in this role, it is as if Elohim’s standing in the eyes of the world has been damaged.

For two thousand years we, the Jewish people were without a home, a land, civil rights, security, and the ability to shape our destiny etc. There were those who even cast us as “a pariah people.” By definition a pariah cannot be a positive role model. That is when ‘ took on its tragic dimension as the willingness to die for one’s faith. Today, for the first time in history, we Jews have both sovereignty and independence in Eretz Yisrael, and freedom and equality elsewhere. Kiddush  must therefore be restored to its positive sense of exemplary decency in the moral life. And we could well ask at this point; is Eretz Yisrael doing a good job as our ambassador to the world? To be honest no they are not!

The conviction of repeatedly being a Jew involves the pursuit of justice and the practice of compassion and that is what led our ancestors to stay loyal to our faith despite all the pressures to abandon it. It would be the ultimate tragedy if we lost that connection now, at the very moment that we are able to face the world on equal terms. Long ago we were called on to show the world that faith and morality go hand in hand. Never was that more needed than in an age driven by religiously-motivated violence in certain countries, rampant secularity in others. To be a Jew is to be dedicated to the proposition that loving Elohim means loving Him for what He has done for us, what He has given us, and what is still to come for we all know there is still a major event ahead of us! There is no greater challenge for us at this time considering the circumstances and we better get closer to being a good and a faithful Jew and I do mean as from today!

Always remember our motto seen on the logo at the top of this page: “The More Torah, the More Life”, for Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, is the one who gave us our Life!”

Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

 

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