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Parashat Emor

May 17, 2024
9 Iyyar 5784
Leviticus 21:1-24:23
24th day of the Omer


Emor, this week’s Torah portion, Leviticus 21:1–24:23, means speak or say. It is an imperative to Moses from the Divine that he speak to the people. He speaks at great length about the restrictions related to priests’ sexuality and marriage with a description of holidays -- Passover, Shabbat, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. The omer period is described, asking the Israelites to bring food offerings to the priests for seven weeks, which is the time between Passover and the barley harvest. In the middle of all of this, we are once more reminded not to harvest the corners of our fields.




“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I, the Eternal One, am your God." (Leviticus 23:22) Wait a minute, didn’t we just read the same thing last week? Why do you have to read this again two weeks in a row? Why is the same thing repeated in such close proximity?



Rabbi Moshe Alshech, a 16th-century commentator from Safed (also known as Tsfat), offers a radical reading of the verse “and when you reap the harvest of your land” that dispels the myth of ownership that underlies this instinct to hoard. He points out that “your land” is plural, explaining that “the Torah uses the plural to designate the common ownership of the field by the owner, the poor, and the stranger, for in truth, they share in it.”




Simply put, we are all in this together. Our land is finite and so is our world. Human tendency is to hoard in both good times and bad. We are reminded of this teaching in the same portion where we are reminded to practice hospitality as we enjoy the festivals enumerated in the Torah portion. We are to act with generosity whether or not our crop yield has been good, as there are always those with less.



This teaching goes beyond taking care of one another in terms of food. There are no restrictions on who we should care for, be it our poor or the stranger in our midst. In our world so many have separated themselves from those around them. This teaching is a potent reminder of the holiness of caring for one another.



One final note: I want to express my gratitude to the community for the care you all have shown to the Fish Hirsch family. Prepared meals continue to be welcomed.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784