There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
It’s time to explore Torah Portion 31: Emor, aliyah by aliyah.
Emor Leviticus 21:1-24:23
Aliyah 1 – Leviticus 21:1-15
Leviticus 21:1 HaShem said to Moshe, “Speak to the cohanim, the sons of Aharon; tell them: ‘No cohen is to make himself unclean for any of his people who dies
While the Cohen is blessed and has advantages that no other Levite or Israelite has, there is a cost to being so close to HaShem.
Leviticus 21:2 except for his close relatives — his mother, father, son, daughter and brother;
It wouldn’t be Torah without exceptions! I love the nuance in Torah because it is fun and interesting on a legal or scholarly level, but more so because it shows that HaShem is a real person with nuance and gradations. He is not some stoic, far-off inhuman thing.
Leviticus 21:3 he may also make himself unclean for his virgin sister who has never married and is therefore dependent on him.
This is a glimpse into how the family structure would provide for and protect women within Israel. The cohen is supposed to care for the sister who is with him or attached to his household. I would imagine he takes care of her after the death of their father, but it is unclear here when she passes from the care of one to the other.
Leviticus 21:4 He may not make himself unclean, because he is a leader among his people; doing so would profane him.
Why is it important that the Cohen not become profane? Is he made profane when he attends to the permissible dead relations? Is he made profane only when he is in contact with one of the dead who is not on the list of exceptions?
Leviticus 21:5 Cohenim are not to make bald spots on their heads, mar the edges of their beards or cut gashes in their flesh.
LEV 21:5 Did Priests of other faiths do thee things?
Leviticus 21:6 Rather, they are to be holy for their G-d and not profane the name of their G-d. For they are the ones who present HaShem with offerings made by fire, the bread of their G-d; therefore they must be holy.
Are these above mentioned practices mourning rituals from other peoples? If so, can the Priests do this things when they are not mourning? Does the context matter for this?
Leviticus 21:7 A cohen is not to marry a woman who is a prostitute, who has been profaned or who has been divorced; because he is holy for his G-d.
Again, there is a cost to being called out by HaShem to serve his purposes.
Leviticus 21:8 Rather, you are to set him apart as holy, because he offers the bread of your G-d; he is to be holy for you, because I, HaShem, who makes you holy, am holy.
This verse uses the term bread here regarding the offerings. Most of the offerings were made of meat. Is this evidence of the use of the term bread as a colloquialism for “food?” I say yes. Comparing translations, many of them say “bread”, while a few, such as the NASB “food” instead of “bread,” while the Hebrew words used is “lechem” Strong’s H3899
Leviticus 21:9 The daughter of a cohen who profanes herself by prostitution profanes her father; she is to be put to death by fire.
That is a severe punishment. The father is likely extremely motivated to raise his daughter so she does not become imperiled. As such, the father is likely reminded that his conduct needs to remain pure so that he does not profane HaShem.
Leviticus 21:10 The cohen who is ranked highest among his brothers, the one on whose head the anointing oil is poured and who is consecrated to put on the garments, is not to stop grooming his hair, tear his clothes
The High Priest is held to the same standards as the rest of the Priests.
Leviticus 21:11 go in to where any dead body is or make himself unclean, even when his father or mother dies.
Actually, he is held to an even higher standard. He may not even attend to his dead parents, while the other cohenim may.
Leviticus 21:12 He may not leave the sanctuary then or profane the sanctuary of his G-d, because the consecration of the anointing oil of his G-d is on him; I am HaShem.
Much like Aharon, the subsequent High Priests had to remain in the Tabernacle or Temple to continue their service to HaShem even while they would ordinarily be in a state of mourning.
Leviticus 21:13 He is to marry a virgin
Another high standard
Leviticus 21:14 he may not marry a widow, divorcee, profaned woman or prostitute; but he must marry a virgin from among his own people
Does “his own people” mean Cohenim, Levites or Israelites?
Leviticus 21:15 and not disqualify his descendants among his people; because I am HaShem, who makes him holy.
Depending on how he lives and chooses to marry, a cohen can make his children disqualified from serving HaShem in this most special way. Why would anyone risk cutting off their children from such blessing and honor?
Aliyah 2 – Leviticus 21:16-22:16
Leviticus 21:22 He may eat the bread of his G-d, both the especially holy and the holy
It seems only fair, that if HaShem decreed a cohen be born or made unable to serve in his office as cohen, that HaShem would decree that he be taken care of by the rest of the Cohanim who will share with him from what they receive for their service.
Aliyah 3 – Leviticus 22:17-33
Leviticus 22:29 When you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to HaShem, you must do it in a way such that you will be accepted.
I have heard of apologizing the right way, but I have never heard of thanking the right way. HaShem really is beyond us and we must be careful to pay attention to what He says.
Aliyah 4 – Leviticus 23:1-22
Leviticus 23:2 Tell the people of Isra’el: ‘The designated times of HaShem which you are to proclaim as holy convocations are my designated times.
The Jewish holidays and feasts, at least the one’s found in the Bible, are HaShem’s. He made them. He likes them. He asked to be served in a special way on them.
Aliyah 5 – Leviticus 23:23-32
Leviticus 23:32 It will be for you a Shabbat of complete rest, and you are to deny yourselves; you are to rest on your Shabbat from evening the ninth day of the month until the following evening.
This is another proof that from HaShem’s point of view, the day starts at night. Yom Kippur is specifically defined as lasting from the evening of the ninth and lasting until the next evening.
Aliyah 6 – Leviticus 23:33-44
Leviticus 23:41 You are to observe it as a feast to HaShem seven days in the year; it is a permanent regulation, generation after generation; keep it in the seventh month.
How permanent is permanent? How long does generation after generation last? If HaShem never changes and doesn’t lie, should you be keeping Sukkot?
Aliyah 7 – Leviticus 24:1-23
Leviticus 24:22 You are to apply the same standard of judgment to the foreigner as to the citizen, because I am HaShem your G-d.
This cuts both ways. If a stranger harms an Israelite in one of these ways, he will have to answer for it like an Israelite. At the same time, if he is harmed by an Israelite, he will receive the same protection and restitution as the Israelite. That’s justice.
Before I go, I want to answer questions raised at the beginning of this session. These are my opinions, based on my time studying under various teachers and while I try to set aside any commentaries while examining each aliyah, I will allow myself to bring some back in for this section. I will disclose where I am getting these ideas where relevant.
- Why must there be a cost to Holiness?
- Does nuance Humanize the LORD?
- When is bread no longer bread?
That concludes my journey through Emor for the year 5782.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.
This is Matthew and I am Walking In Liberty.