Thursday, May 11, 2017

Parashat Emor ("Say!" אֱמֹר) Leviticus 21:1-24:23

Parashat Emor ("Say!" אֱמֹר)    Leviticus 21:1-24:23
Parashat Emor begins with the commandment to Moses to speak the commandments of holiness for the priests.

“And the LORD said to Moses, “Speak (Emor  אֱמֹר ) to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: ‘None shall defile himself for the dead among his people”.  Lev 21:1  “But he shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to defile himself.” Lev 21:4

Rashi noted that the verb emor (אֱמֹר) has a softer tone than the “dibber” (speak, as in a command), suggesting almost a pleading quality: "Speak softly again and again..."   We find the same instruction to defend the faith with meekness and gentleness in , 1 Pet. 3:15 and Col. 4:6 respectively:
1.      “and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear”.
2.      “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”

According to Samson Raphael Hirsch, the word kohen (כּהֵן) is related to the Hebrew word kivun (כִּוּוּן) meaning "direction."   And not “commanding” or “bosses” but rather God wanted the priests to function as role models for the rest of Israel.  The repetition of emor, then, suggests that the priests shouldn't simply tell people what to do or believe, but rather should both tell and demonstrate Torah.

Either way, this first aliyah shows that there are different responsibilities for different callings – in speaking and living.   The first aliyah includes specific restrictions for Kohanim and the Kohain Gadol concerning marriages, sexuality, and mourning

When Rav Shaul stated, “there is neither Jew or Greek” (Galatians 3:28) he never imagined how absolutely twisted that passage became when middle age/modern Christianity construed it to mean that there is no longer ANY distinctions between Jews and non-Jews.
A VERY simple study of the rest of the verse shows that he makes the same statement about boys and girls, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”   Do Christians really think there is no difference between boys and girls?  Of course there is (just look in mirror nakey), but we are all saved and one in Christ YET we have different roles and different responsibilities and even different commandments to follow.

So yes, there were additional restrictions for the Kohanim (priests).
There were additional restrictions that applied to them that did not apply to the rest of the Israelites in general.   They were not touch a dead body or they would be considered tamei (unclean) for service at the mishkan.    There were some exceptions which included burying close relatives such as his wife, mother or father, son or daughter, and brother or (unmarried) sister and also burying an abandoned Jewish body when there is no one else who can do so.

Even then, the priest was still considered “tamei” and unable to serve in the mishkan until he was ceremonially purified by water mixed with ashes from a parah adumah (red heifer).

There are other restrictions for the priests:  “They shall not make bald any part of their head, nor shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any gashes in their flesh.”

And some which included heavy consequences, “And the daughter of any priest, if she defiles herself by playing the harlot, she defiles her father; she shall be burned with fire.” V9

In addition, a priest may not marry a woman who has been divorced, “They shall not take a wife who is a harlot, or defiled; nor shall they take a woman put away from her husband; for he is holy to his God.” V7.

WHY is this important to note?   Well, if you cast your mind back to the context of the early church, where new converts and the new “sect” are trying to manifest the out-workings of salvation through belief in the Messiah rather than the toil of works and then the Apostle Peter drops a “bombshell” and states, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation” 1 Peter 2:9, quoting Exodus 19:6.

And whilst it is true that we are not high priests, it stands that the Goal of Torah is to determine the perfect will of HaShem.    And instead of moving the goalposts to make it easier to reach, (because we miss the goal), we trust in the saving Grace of Messiah that our shortfalls are forgiven – but we never change the goals.  

A few years ago, some unbelieving friends of mine were preparing to marry, and the soon to be bride asked if she could have the priest remove, “to love and obey” from the vows.  The target was too hard/confronting/illogical so they removed it. 

Let us continually seek to grow in obedience, trusting in Yeshua for salvation whilst striving to win the race.

A quick note that today is also Lag BaOmer (Hebrew: ל״ג בעומר), also known as Lag LaOmer amongst Sephardi Jews, is a Jewish holiday celebrated on the thirty-third day of the Counting of the Omer, which occurs on the 18th day of Iyar. One reason given for the holiday is as the day of passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Modern Jewish tradition links the holiday to the Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Roman Empire (132-135 CE). In Israel, it is celebrated as a symbol for the fighting Jewish spirit.  (hebcal).

Some modern commentators have suggested that Lag B’Omer is also the date that Yeshua rose into the air (the ascension) – but I personally have my thoughts on the 40th day of the Omer count.


Jon Eaton

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