Good old Emor. We run into parts of this portion 4 times a year: first and second days of Sukkot, second day of Pesach, and the regular weekly reading. This is not surprising, because Emor includes instructions for observing the Sabbath and holidays, or “fixed times”. Here, the sacrifices are mentioned but soft-pedaled. Instead we learn about the personal observances, like eating matzah on Pesach, living in huts and taking certain produce (today’s lulav and etrog), blowing the shofar on the first day of what was then the 7th month, practicing self-denial on the Day of Atonement. Shavuot is another harvest holiday (no connection to the giving of the Ten Commandments, which came much later), 7 weeks after – well, it’s not unequivocal here, but today it’s 7 weeks after the 2nd day of Pesach. And these are genuine holidays – no working.
Emor begins with more instructions for the priests. Restrictions are laid out for the priests to define when they are fit to serve and to eat from the sacrificial offerings. A priest is forbidden to contract ritual impurity by contact with a dead body except for his parent, child, brother, or virgin sister; the High Priest can’t even for those. A priest cannot marry a divorcee or a harlot, only a virgin or widow; the High Priest can only marry a virgin. To be fit to offer sacrifices, the priests are also supposed to have no physical defects (see the list at 21:18-23). Further, the sacrifices must be free of defects and the person bringing the sacrifice must not be ritually impure. All this is in accord with what we read last week in terms of wholeness and holiness. There is also a requirement that a sacrificial animal be at least 7 days old before being taken from its mother.
After the section on holidays are instructions for kindling the lamps with pure olive oil and then an incident of blasphemy. Since the blasphemer is stoned to death, this leads into laws concerning capital punishment and another recitation of the formula for restitution in cases of assault, (24:20), “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.”
How can the different parts of Emor be linked together? The overall theme of holiness is highlighted by the number 7. We are to eat matzah for 7 days and the 7th day of Pesach is designated a special day. We live in huts during Sukkot for 7 days. Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, occurs 7 weeks, each of which is 7 days, after a designated day of Pesach. The day for blowing the shofar is the first day of the 7th month. Shabbat is the 7th day of each week. And the animal must be with its mother for 7 days, just as a boy must have lived at week before circumcision on the 8th day. Maimonides explains 7 days as the time before viability is established, in other words, completion. And (Lev. 8:33-35) the priests recently had a seven-day ordination. Even the oil is linked to a 7 since there are 7 lamps to be lit. Then the blasphemer is presented as the antithesis of being holy. So, all of Emor, through sevens, is part of a plan for wholeness and completion, in short, for holiness, something both priests and all the people are to strive for.
This Sunday is a double holiday, Lag B’Omer and Mother’s Day. Starting with the second day of Pesach, we count 49 days until Shavuot. Traditionally, this is a semi-mourning period, broken just on the 33rd day, called Lag B’Omer (the Hebrew letters lamed + gimel equal 30 + 3, whence the abbreviation “lag”), traditionally observed with picnics, archery, weddings, and haircuts and shaves (not done during the semi-mourning period).
As for Mother’s Day: I miss my mother. There’s nothing else to say, but I’ve included below a little anecdote I wrote in 2013.
Shabbat shalom, Happy Lag B’Omer, and Happy Mother’s Day,
My mother, Lillian Abrams, around 1940
Lev.23:33-44 is the first aliyah I ever chanted (“leyned”). I was 17, and it was thanks to my mother.
A gentleman at another shul had recently suggested I learn how to leyn Torah. A class was soon announced at my newly-merged, non-egalitarian shul. My mother went to the rabbi and told him I was interested, to which the rabbi responded uncomfortably (this rabbi was generally uncomfortable with my mother), something like, “Lillian, we don’t allow women to read Torah here.” My mother looked at him and said, oh so innocently, “Rabbi, she wants to learn.” How could he say no to that? So, I joined a class of about four 12-year-old boys and we debuted that spring. I read that aliyah again many years later, at my son’s Bar Mitzvah, on the first day of Sukkot; he read the rest of the portion.
Japanese quality standards
This speaks a lot about the quality of Japanese products and their quality standards.
They’re still laughing about this at IBM. Apparently, the computer giant decided to have some parts manufactured in Japan as a trial project. In the specifications, they set out that they will accept three defective parts per 10,000.
When the delivery came in there was an accompanying letter. “We, Japanese people, had a hard time understanding North American business practices. But the three defective parts per 10,000 have been separately manufactured and have been included in the consignment. Hope this pleases you.”
The Purity Issue
A fellow in a bar notices a woman, always alone, come in on a fairly regular basis. After the second week, he made his move.
“No thank you,” she said politely. “This may sound rather odd in this day and age, but I’m keeping myself pure until I meet the man I love.”
“That must be rather difficult,” the man replied.
“Oh, I don’t mind too much.” she said. “But, it has my husband really upset.”
Google Logos for the Jewish Holidays
North Korea Accuses John McCain of ‘Blasphemy’ for Calling Kim Jong-un ‘Crazy Fat Kid’ (excerpts)
by John Hayward 30 Mar 2017
Pyongyang has responded with both insults and threats to Senator John McCain (R-AZ) referring to dictator Kim Jong-un as “the crazy fat kid that’s running North Korea.”
“He’s not rational,” McCain told MSNBC host Greta van Susteren on March 22nd. “We’re not dealing even with someone like Joseph Stalin, who had a certain rationality to his barbarity.”
McCain called on China to control Kim, saying Beijing could “stop North Korea’s economy in a week” if it wanted to.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry responded that McCain (and his colleague Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who wants North Korea designated a state sponsor of terrorism) had insulted the “dignity” of the supreme leader.
McCain did not seem much intimidated by the threat. “What, did they want me to call him a crazy skinny kid?” he asked on Twitter.