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28.04.2013 13:24    Comments: 0    Categories: Weekly Parashah      Tags: torah  emor  lag baomer  shiur  

The priests/kohanim are commanded to avoid contact with corpses in order to maintain a high standard of ritual purity. They may attend the funeral of only their seven closest relatives: father, mother, wife, son, daughter, brother, and unmarried sister. The Kohen Gadol (High Priest) may not attend the funeral even of his closest relatives. Certain marital restrictions are placed on the kohanim. The nation is required to honor kohanim. The physical irregularities that invalidate a kohen from serving in the Temple are listed.

A produce tithe given to the kohanim known as terumah, may be eaten only by kohanim and their household. An animal may be offered in the Temple after it is eight days old and is free from any physical defects.

The nation is commanded to sanctify the Name of H’ by insuring that their behavior is always exemplary, and by being prepared to surrender their lives rather than be forced to engage in murder, engage in licentious relations or worship idols.

The special attributes of the holidays are described, and the nation is reminded not to do certain types of creative work during these holidays. New grain may not be eaten until the omer of barley is offered in the Temple. Parashat Emor explains the laws of preparing the oil for the menorah and baking the lechem hapanim in the Temple. A man curses G-d and is executed as prescribed in the Torah.

Points to Ponder on Lag B’Omer:

As we reach the Lag BaOmer milestone, we are faced with a perplexing question: What is really the sudden cause for celebration at this time? After all, from what we know of our past during the Omer period, 24,000 senior scholars--the students of Rebbe Akiva passed away for not properly respecting each other; even Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai, one of the surviving students, eventually passed away on this day; later, the Crusades took their great toll on Ashkenazic Jewry during the Omer period; then, the great Posek for Ashkenazim, Rabbi Moshe Isserles, known as the Rema, passed away on Lag BaOmer, like Rebbe Shimon; and, most recently, much of Hungarian Jewry was hurriedly annihilated during the period from Pesach to Shavuot in 1944--to such an extent that the survivors of Hungarian Jewry who do not know when their relatives or friends were murdered observe the Second Day of Shavuot as their Yahrzeit. So, what is the joy--the songs, the bonfires, the bows and arrows about? Why are weddings allowed, and Tachanun/Supplications not recited?

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, Shlit”a (following the lines of the Gaon of Vilna’s Commentary on Shulchan Aruch, the Jewish Code of Law, Orach Chayim, 493) teaches we celebrate that in all events, there were those who remained. Indeed, the resemblance in all of the aforementioned tragedies is striking: Rebbe Shimon passed his legacy to his students (it is no coincidence that so many other future generations of Tannaim are buried right around Rebbe Shimon in Meron).

Similarly, even after the Crusader massacres killing Rabbeinu Tam and many others in many communities, the schools of Talmudic scholarship flourished for many generations, culminating in the Rabbeinu Asher, and his son, Rabbi Yaakov, known as the Tur, as the basis for our Shulchan Aruch; the Rem’a, rather than being the final word in Halacha for Ashkenazim, became the basis and guide for the scores of future halachic authorities; the remnants of Hungarian Jewry fill the Yeshivas from Bnei Brak to Borough Park.

But it is more than that we are just survivors. It is the fulfillment of the verse (Devarim 32:23): “Chitzai Achaleh Bam”--I will finish my arrows in them--which our Sages (Sotah 9A) explain to mean--my arrows will be finished in them, but they will not be finished. HaShem has guided us through events, times, places and tragedies of immense proportions, while the other 70 nations of the world disappeared from far less calamitous events. Perhaps this is the symbol of the bow and arrow on Lag BaOmer--the arrows are done, but we are not. Why is this so--why has our history--our experience in this world been so different than all other nations?

We suggest that the answer to this, too, brings us to this time of year--it is, once again, not coincidental that all of this is happening as we prepare to receive the Torah--for it **IS THE TORAH** that has made our lives so different and so endurable. It is the Torah, created well before the world as we know it was created, that has given us the “supernatural” force for us to thrive and survive. At this special time of year, we should especially demonstrate our recognition of the importance of Torah in our lives and in the lives of our people.

Your Prayer. Your Heritage. Your People. Good Food.

With Blessings and Success,

Rabbi Dr. Eytan M. Cowen

and the Staff and Volunteers of

Etz Chaim Sephardic Congregation

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