Weekly Reading Insights:
the Weekly Reading
To be read on Shabbat Emor (Outside of Israel the Weekly Reading
is Kedoshim) - 6 Iyar
5779 /May 11
Torah: Lev. 21:1-24:23; Haftorah: Ezekiel 44:15-31(Kohanim
Pirkei Avot: Chapter Two
Emor is the 7th Reading out of 10 in Leviticus and it
contains 6106 letters, in 1614 words, in 124 verses
Parshat Emor opens with laws concerning priests and the high
priest: which blemishes or states of impurity disqualify them from serving,
with whom they may marry, for which deceased person may they become impure,
and more. The next topic discussed is which animals are eligible for sacrifices.
The following section speaks about Shabbos and lists some of the dates and
laws of the holidays. Then comes instructions about the menorah’s ‘eternal
lamp’ and the showbread in the Tabernacle. The concluding section relays
how a Jew blasphemed and what his punishment was.
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent
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These are the days of the counting of the Omer, the countdown
between Passover and Shavuos, when each of us again, each year on a higher level,
is able to leave our "slavery" situations and limiting characteristics
as we go forward to receive the Torah, freeing ourselves to become G-d's chosen
people. Part of the tradition of the counting of the Omer is to work on improving
our faulty personal character traits that slipped in over the year. It is actually
part of the liturgy of the counting that you meditate on one of the 49 different
emotional traits and think about how to fix it.
The question is always, how do we do it? What is the most effective way to work
on ourselves? Rabbi Aharon Yosef Luria shared a beautiful idea from the Bais
Avraham (chassidut Slonim).
The Bais Avraham writes: How do we purify our negative character traits? Instead
of allowing our desires to control us, we force ourselves to go against our
desires. This is what I heard from my Rebbe (on Vayikrah 1:1) "When a person
brings from themselves an offering." The word "themselves", (in
Hebrew) mechem seems to be superfluous. What does "from themselves"
add? The Slonimer Rebbe explained that "from themselves" can also
be read as an acronym, mida k'neged mida. One trait in relation to another
trait. Usually we understand this in human terms that we respond to people the
way they treat us. If a person is happy towards us, we are happy to them. If
a person is angry, we also respond in kind. The Torah teaches that G-d also
responds in kind to our positive and negative attributes. Here the Bais Avraham
is explaining this in a different way. Mechem can also be understood on a personal
level. When I am faced with a negative desire I can respond with a positive
desire - forcing myself to behave in a positive way. Now we can really understand
the verse. What is the greatest offering that we can make to G-d? Mechem, forcing
myself to behave in a positive way rather than being controlled by my habits
We can also see this same idea in this week's Torah portion, Emor. The verse
says (23:16), "And you made a new offering for G-d." The Talmud (Kiddushin
30b) teaches that our evil inclination is not lazy. Each day it completely renews
its efforts to control us, to bring us into its web with one thing or another.
When a person is able to go against his negative desires, replacing them with
something positive for G-d's sake, to honor the Holy One Blessed be He, this
is the "new offering" that we bring to G-d.
During this auspicious period may G-d give us the "siyata d'Shmaya (Divine
assistance) to transform our negative inclinations into desires for the positive
RABBI SHIMON WILL COME TO YOU
In the year 5773 (1973), a certain G-d fearing, honorable good Jew, who lived
in Jerusalem, was imprisoned for some reason. As Lag b'Omer approached, this
prisoner was very upset that he couldn't be in Meron for the festive occasion.
Each year he had made it a point not to miss going to Meron to celebrate the
yahrzeit of Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai. He asked his son to go to pray for him,
and he expressed his sorrow that he can't go there as well. "I go every
year, and now I am behind bars and unable to attend."
The son replied, "Since you go to Rabbi Shimon every year but this year
you can't for a reason beyond your control, I am certain that Rabbi Shimon will
this year come to you instead!" His father smiled. He appreciated his son's
effort to cheer him up, but of course it was just wishful thinking.
That year, on Lag b'Omer, a fire broke out in the jail. The Jewish inmates took
advantage of the fire to dance around it and sing joyously the three classic
Lag b'Omer songs over and over. Thus, they had a genuine Lag b'Omer bonfire
celebration right there in prison! Nor was that all. The fire caused so much
damage, the jail needed repairs. As a result, there wasn't room for all the
prisoners, so the next morning, on Lag b'Omer day, the ones with the lightest
sentences were freed.
So it seems that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai did go to the remorseful Jew, just
as his son had said. He, and many others of the prisoners, were able to celebrate
on Lag b'Omer, and then to be set free as well.
(Rabbi Elimelech Biderman, "Torah Wellsprings", Emor 5776. Adapted
by Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles from the translation of Rabbi Baruch Twersky.)
Shabbat shalom, Shaul.
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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading,
see the archive.
THE SAGES OF KABBALAH ON KabbalaOnline.org
Specifically, for an overview
of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists,
click to Emor
Unification of the Species
From the teachings of Rabbi
Shimon bar Yochai; translation and commentary by Shmuel-Simcha Treister, based
on Metok MiDevash
Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai
taught the secret of the mitzvah of the Four Species on Sukkot is thus: just
as the Holy One Blessed Be He takes Israel as his own on these days and rejoices
in them, so Israel also takes Him as their portion and rejoices in Him.
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