17 May 2024

Week of 12-18 May 2024

Torah portion: Leviticus 21:1-24:23   Haftarah: Ezek. 44 :15-31

Theme:  The Holiest Feast

Parashat Emor (“say”) is a continuation of the text of Kedoshim begun last week. It is part of the Holiness Code because of the frequent use of the tern kadosh meaning ‘holy.’ The precepts and laws dealt with are part of the general commandment “you shall be holy” (Lev.19: 1). The idea of holiness as outlined in these chapters implies that what we do and what we make of our lives matters not only to us as individuals, not only to society, but to the entire cosmos as well (Plaut). A divine purpose runs through all existence. The text also considers holiness in time: the sacred calendar.
“Adonai spoke to Moshe saying, ‘Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: The appointed times of the LORD, which you are to proclaim to them [as] proclamations of holiness – these are they, my appointed times’” (Lev.23: 1-2). The festivals are special times of appointment with God. The world – each one of us – is spiritually nourished through the Divine flow of these sacred days. The inner life force of God is revealed, that is why they are called mikra’ey kodesh – holy gathering, literally ‘callings of the holy’ (Fox. 618). The Sefat Emet recalls his grandfather telling him that you can call forth holiness on these days and the holiness itself calls forth to us, another example of how our relationship with God is not one way.
Leviticus 23 is a description of the major religious festivals that continue to be observed by the Jewish community today. Jesus as a Jew would have known them and observed them. The festivals revolve around events and commemorations. Every person lives the events in his or her own psychological being (Silverstein), so for example, Pesach/ Passover is not something from long ago, it is something I live today. Similarly, for the Christian, Eucharist is not from long ago, not only a daily experience of faith, but is Christ himself, our Passover and living bread (John Paul II).
Shabbat is the festival of festivals. Shabbat reignites the spark to the week ahead, so no moment is empty of God’s presence. God saw the light in each of us, the spark, and it was good (Gen 1:4)). God’s self-limitation is evident on Shabbat also, so God must ‘move aside’ (Schindler) to share Shabbat with us. The sense of holiness in time is expressed in the way Shabbat is celebrated; no ritual object is required for keeping the seventh day, unlike most festivals where objects are essential to their observance such as matzah- unleavened bread for Pesach. Symbols are superfluous: Shabbat is itself the symbol and is all holiness (Heschel). Rabbi Zinger (of blessed memory) reminds us that holiness does not preach compassion or joy, it acts it! The cycle of Shabbat meals is testimony to this. What a gift the weekly ‘rendezvous with God” is to us, a gift which Bat Kol continues to unwrap.

For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Are there similarities and differences in the Jewish and Christian approaches to holiness? 2. What suggestions have you as to how we might invigorate the festivals – both Jewish and Christian – into sacred time to-day

Bibliography: Fox, The Five Books of Moses (NY 1995); Goldstein, ed., The Women’s Torah Commentary (Vermont, 2000); Heschel, The Sabbath: its meaning for Modern Man (NY 1951), JP II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (2003); Plaut, The Torah: a Modern Commentary (New York, 1981); Silverstein, Zinger, Bat Kol Resource Book (Jerusalem 2003)

This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Dunhill Malunar Timkang, Israel-Jerusalem, Bat Kol Alumnus: 2023


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