Emor – Leviticus 21:1 – 24:23

Facebook_CoverDesign_EmorThis week’s reading builds upon last week’s distinction between the Priestly Torah, which focuses on the priestly views of ritual (as distinct from those of the masses), and the Holiness Code, which interweaves the priestly elements of ritual with popular customs.

What further distinguishes Chapters 21 and 22 of Leviticus from the rest of the Holiness Code (Chapters 17–26) is a primary concern for the priesthood rather than for the Israelite people as a whole. There is an internal symmetry wherein the code for ordinary priests (21:1-9) and the code for the High Priest (21:10-15) both begin with funerary regulations and conclude with marital restrictions.

Parashat Emor also addresses the annual callings to holiness: a weekly sabbatical retreat; an annual paschal offering on the 14th of Nisan as well as the seven day cycle of Pesach (Passover) beginning on the 15th of Nisan; the gathering and elevating of the Omer offering from the first barley harvest on the second day of Passover to its culmination in Shavuot; the primal cry of the shofar on the 1st of Tishrei for Rosh Hashanah; followed by a fast day on the 10th of Tishrei; culminating with a seven-day festival for dwelling in booths while dancing with the four species on the 15th of Tishrei and then the after-party of the Eighth day of Assembly marking the pilgrimage route home with Shemini Atzeret.

By contrast, the first section of Emor speaks to laws pertaining to Temple service of the High Priest.

All in all, there is something about sacred time that speaks to each of us differently, yet the sacred somehow finds a way to take place in our lives through the Jewish calendar and the synagogue.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's stark artwork is inspired by Emor's focus on separation, especially as it pertains to distinctions between pure/impure or sacred/profane. The Israelite approach to sacrifice, illness, hygiene, sexual biology, food, agriculture, and more is informed by a severe dualism that makes sense in context; nonetheless, it is impossible not to feel empathy for those members of the tribe who are cut off from their people because they are deemed taboo or impure.Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Rabbi Glazer On Rites of Passage

RabbiGlazer_VidStillGetting married, becoming parents, and (G-d willing, many, many, many years later!) dying -- after b'nai mitzvah, these are the major rites of passage that most of us will experience over the course of our lives. Because these life cycle events -- playfully referred to as "match, hatch, and dispatch" -- are so culturally ubiquitous, we often forget that they are opportunities for profound personal transformation.

Not long ago, Rabbi Glazer sat down with a videographer to discuss the spiritual importance of life cycle events in the context of our Jewish "communal family." He emphasized just how special these moments are, and why they should not be minimized or taken for granted.

"Something significant changes in the-- on a cellular level in terms of your spirit. You are not the same person when you began and when you cross through that threshold. And that's the reason why we see it as really being-- you're kind of going through a liminal moment, you're passing through a doorway. The threshold of that doorway is the community, once you come through the community, you come through that moment of ritual belonging and ritual performance, something changes and it's as if we're going into another room in the larger spiritual house of our lives."

We invite you to watch the 6-minute video CBS produced following the conversation.