Emor – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

After months of restrictions during the pandemic we are now, hopefully, counting down to more freedom in our lives. We have been counting the Omer, which is set out in the Sedra this week. Today is Lag B’Omer and as Rabbi Danny says: Our thoughts and our prayers are with those lost loved ones in the tragedy that unfolded yesterday in Israel – at Mount Meron on the festival of Lag Ba’omer.


This weeks’ Sedra, sets out the framework of the Jewish calendar. It sets out a weekly, monthly and yearly schedule of sacred times.

“Emor” translates as “speak” and we read

Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: These are My fixed times, the fixed times of the LORD, which you shall proclaim as sacred occasions”

They give us the framework for the way we can plan our lives but we also need more than this. We read

וְלֹ֤א תְחַלְּלוּ֙ אֶת־שֵׁ֣ם קָדְשִׁ֔י וְנִ֨קְדַּשְׁתִּ֔י בְּת֖וֹךְ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל
Do not desecrate My holy name. I must be sanctified among the Israelites

It is a fundamental part of our lives as Jews. How do we do this? Our tradition is that for some moments of sanctity we require a minyan, public worship. Within the minyan we recite the Kedushah, the Barechu, recite Kaddish and leyn from the Torah.

The Sedra describes Shabbat, Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot and it sets out the mitzvoth that are associated with each festival. (It is only this one time in the Torah that the four species we carry on Sukkot are mentioned.)

As for desecration, the laws for the Cohanim and Leviim are spelled out in detail. They cause controversy to this day. Blasphemy, taking the Lord’s name in vain, is punishable by death and applies to all.

One law shall be exacted for you, convert and resident alike, for I am the Lord, your God

This week’s Parashah ends with a sin, the story of the man who blasphemes. Moses pauses and checks with God before he is put to death. The Written Law has, over the centuries been balanced by a human element, Torah Shel-B’A Peh, or Oral Law. We no longer interpret an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth in a fundamentalist form.

Our customs and practices have developed in different ways at different times and in different places. The recognition of human dignity can also be seen as a way of sanctifying God’s name.

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