Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Emor 5769 – “You will proclaim”

In this weeks parsha all the festivals are given with their dates and a few details of some of the specific practices and sacrifices of the festivals.  What is interesting is the way that the chapter starts- not with Hashem saying- “These are my festivals- go and tell everyone about them” but with Hashem saying “These are my festivals which YOU will proclaim as holy occasions.”  Yes, they are the festivals of Hashem, but they are proclaimed by us.

What can we learn from this?  One of the things that Rashi brings is that from this we learn that the leap year is proclaimed by the Sanhedrin early in the year so that people in exile will learn of it.  It also shows the placement of the festivals accords to the sanhedrins proclaiming of Rosh Chodesh as well as the leap year; even with the leap year, the proclaiming of Rosh Chodesh each month affects the exact timing of the festivals.  Which brings in the involvement of ALL Beni Yisrael- for the leap year was proclaimed on the testimony of two witnesses from Bnei Yisrael- the Sanhedrin did not do it on their own initiative- but in the testimony of people within the community!  Thus the fact that the festivals are proclaimed by the Sanhedrin, and that the proclamations fo the Sanhedrin are based on the testimony of the nation of Israel- it brings out the fact that the festivals are not occassions merely for the Kohanim or a selct few.  Instead, it emphasises the fact that they are there for ALL of the children of Israel, that we are all equally involved in the festivals regardless of whether we are Kohanim, Levi’im, great Rabbonim are just ordinary people.

Perhaps this answers another question- in the middle of the list of festivals we see another two laws being given- pe’ah and leket (the corners of the field and the gleanings).  Both of these laws relate to charity- to leaving part of the field purely for the poor, and leaving all the gleanings for the poor to collect.  But why here?  why do we see this being given after the laws related to the omer sacrifice before which the new grain could not be eaten?  One can argue that it is the right place for them since chronologically it is now when the grain is harvested and thus when these laws would be applied- but there are plenty of other places that such laws could be given; when the general laws of charity are given, when we are told to look after the widow, orphan or stranger amongst us- these laws could be put there; after all it is obvious when they would need to be applied!

Perhaps here we see the linkage between serving Hashem and loving our neighbor.  The festivals being listed ar eholy days; they are about our relationship with Hashem; but even at such times we must not forget the dictum of “Love your neighbor”.  Here is where we see HIllel’s statement being cemented- without “Love your neighbor” the festivals are there but lose their meaning.  And when this love between people dissapears, Hashem dissapears from amongst us- the second Temple was destroyed because we failed in this obligation.  G-d doe snot want sacrifices, festivals and rituals aimed solely at the relationship between us and him- but in the midst of his giving us the holy festivals through which we connect to him- he gives us laws relating to loving our fellow man.  The two go hand-in-hand; the Torah is the blueprint for the world, the blueprint for our relationships in the world- both holy and mundane ones, both our relationship to G-d and our relationship to our fellow man.

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May 5, 2009 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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