This week’s Torah portion, Emor, is in the middle of what is referred to as the Holiness Code (roughly Chapters 17-26 of Leviticus). It starts with laws concerning priestly restrictions. A priest cannot “defile” himself (i.e., contract ritual impurity by tending to a dead body) for anyone who has died except his parent, child, brother or virgin sister; the high priest cannot do so even for those. A priest cannot marry a harlot or divorcee; the high priest additionally cannot marry a widow but only a virgin. To be fit to offer the sacrifices, a priest also has to be physically perfect, i.e., undamaged (see 21:18-23 for unacceptable defects). Unlike expectations of today’s rabbis, this perfection is defined as an absence of physical defects (the list is at 21:18-23), not behavioral ones, and this limitation only concerns his ability to offer the sacrifices. And the priests are to be scrupulous in policing who is and is not allowed eat of the sacred offerings (mmm, meat…).
Emor is a portion every newbie Torah reader should learn, because part of it is read four times a year (unless your synagogue is on the triennial cycle of Torah reading, in which case it’s read 10 times in three years) : first and second days of Sukkot, second day Pesach, and the regular Sabbath reading. Chapter 23 includes laws concerning the observance of the “fixed times”: Sabbath, Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. So we read some of this portion a mere 2 1/2 weeks ago. But since most people on the second day of Passover are too groggy from two consecutive nights of 4 cups of wine and seemingly unending food at the seemingly unending sedarim, you probably weren’t at synagogue for that reading anyway.
The last chapter of the portion includes directions for kindling the lamps with pure olive oil and an incident of blasphemy. Since the blasphemer is stoned to death, this leads into laws concerning capital punishment (e.g., for blasphemy and for murder) and restitution in cases of assault, formulaically described in 24:20 as “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.”
A priest and a pastor from the local churches are standing by the road …,
pounding a sign into the ground, that reads:
The End is Near!
Turn Yourself Around Now
Before it’s Too Late!
As a car sped past them, the driver yelled, “Leave us alone, you Religious nuts!” From the curve they heard screeching tires and a big splash.
The priest turns to the pastor and asks, “Do you think the sign should just say ‘Bridge Out’?”
Submitted by Eleanor, San Francisco, Calif
A drunk man who smelled like beer sat down on a subway seat next to a priest.
The man’s tie was stained, his face was plastered with red lipstick, and a half empty bottle of gin was sticking out of his torn coat pocket. He opened his newspaper and began reading.
After a few minutes the man turned to the priest and asked,
“Say, Father, what causes arthritis?”
“My Son, it’s caused by loose living, being with cheap, wicked women, too much alcohol and a contempt for your fellow man.”
“Well, I’ll be damned,” the drunk muttered, returning to his paper.
The priest, thinking about what he had said, nudged the man and apologized.
“I’m very sorry. I didn’t mean to come on so strong. How long have you had arthritis?”
“I don’t have it, Father. I was just reading here that the Pope does.”
The next two items were sent out in 2003: http://www.bethrishon.org/Relligious/Rabbi/perfect.htm (and several other sites)
This is an oldie-but-goodie:
THE PERFECT RABBI
The results of a computerized survey indicate the perfect rabbi:
Preaches exactly fifteen minutes.
He* condemns sin, but never upsets anyone.
He works from 8:00 a.m. until midnight and is also a janitor.
He makes $50 a week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car, and gives about $50 weekly to the poor.
He is 28 years old and has preached 30 years.
He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all his time with senior citizens.
The perfect rabbi smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work.
He makes 15 calls daily on congregational families, shut-ins, and the hospitalized and is always in his office when needed.
If your rabbi does not measure up, simply send this letter to six other synagogues that are tired of their rabbi too. Then bundle up your rabbi and send him to the synagogue at the top of the list. In one week you will receive 1,543 rabbis, and one of them will be perfect. Have faith in this letter. One congregation broke the chain and got its own rabbi back in less than three months.
*From IGP: There are still those who think the perfect rabbi is “he,” unfortunately. I note below additional requirements for the perfect female rabbi:
She is 28 years old and has been married for 30 years.
She has 3 children and has never having taken any maternity leave (giving birth on her day off, back at the synagogue the next day).
She is a properly subservient leader.
She is learned and never shows it.
She dresses in a style that is neither too feminine, too masculine, nor too neutral.
She has a soft voice that can be heard in the back of the auditorium.
She is an emotional, giving person who never cries or touches you.
She is always available to her children and husband at home and spends 7 am to 1 am at the synagogue.
Additions to this list, or the top one, would be appreciated!
The pursuit of perfection often impedes improvement.
George F. Will
http://www.zipple.com/jokes/jewishquotes.shtml [sent out in 2001]
I once wanted to become an atheist but I gave up . . .
they have no holidays.
The Top 15 Signs Your Co-Worker’s Jewish Holiday Wasn’t Strictly Observed
15 Telltale mouse ears on his new “yarmulke.”
14 Sun worshipping appears to be the only thing accomplished that was even remotely religious.
13 Thinks that the Torah is something you wear to a frat party.
12 Comes back wearing a “Club Med: The Sea may be Dead, but not the night-life!” T-shirt.
11 You happen to know there are no High Holy Day services at Santa Anita race track.
10 Kareem in Accounting keeps calling it “Yom Shakur.”
9 As far as you know, circumcisions don’t “grow back.”
8 Doesn’t know the difference between Hebrew and Home-brew.
7 She’s complaining that Kathie Lee isn’t really on all Carnival Cruises.
6 Claims he was observing “Chaka Khan.”
5 Menorah on his desk displays three sleeves worth of golf balls.
4 Thinks “Rosh Hashanah” is a song by The Knack.
3 His yarmulke has two cans of beer and a drinking straw. [actually not a bad idea IGP]
2 “And if the rabbi sees his shadow when he comes out of the temple, there’ll be four more months of summer.”
and the Number 1 Sign Your Co-Worker’s Jewish Holiday Wasn’t Strictly Observed…
1 Took off all of *last* month for Ramadan.
[This list copyright 1997 by Chris White and Ziff Davis, Inc.]
This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves”
Robert Green Ingersoll (American Statesman and Orator)
Blasphemy itself could not survive religion; if anyone doubts that, let him try to blaspheme Odin.”
G. K. Chesterton quotes (English born Gabonese Critic, Essayist, Novelist and Poet, 1874-1936)
Independence? That’s middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.”
George Bernard Shaw quotes (Irish literary Critic, Playwright and Essayist)
I hold it a blasphemy to say that a man ought not to fight against authority: there is no great religion and no great freedom that has not done it, in the beginning.”
George Eliot quotes (English Victorian Novelist. Pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880)
Top Fifty Signs you may be too Observant for Law School [selected] by Joe Shifer Posted: 08-28-2006
47. You spend your spare time devising a scheme to bill 115 hours a week and still keep Shabbos.
42. You find yourself attracted to firms whose named partners have surnames ending in “-witz,” “-berg,” or “-blum.”
38. You conclude that the common law is the bastard cousin of the Oral Law.
36. You don’t laugh as hard at Judge Fields’ beard as do your classmates, since he looks just like your fourth grade rabbi.
33. You find yourself defending your decision to attend a Catholic school to your Brooklyn relatives.
32. You sign up for the Jewish Law seminar for the same reason you minored in Jewish Studies.
26. You don’t care what they say, the First Amendment clearly does not apply to Wiccans.
25. Finding a Schottenstein edition Talmud and a Stone Chumash in the law library gives you great joy,
23. You dread being on call for any case involving a Jewish organization or a party with a Jewish name. See United States v. Katz; Congregation Kedimah Toras-Moshe v. DeLeo; and United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg v. Carey.
9. You run a Westlaw search to see how many times the courts used the words “chutzpa (276),” “schmuck (1,610- although there is a landmark case where “Schmuck” is a named party),” “mitzvah (269),” “halacha (17), “halakha (1),” and “yeshivish (0).” Take points off if you use Westlaw for naughty words.
6. You wonder if Miranda gives you the right to a Jewish attorney.