Emor (Leviticus 21:1 – 24:23)

Comments are from 2011, with changes in italics.

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 (see “The Perfect Rabbi,” male and female versions, at https://igplotzk.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/emor-leviticus-211-2423/),

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. [I first read (“leyned”) Torah from this portion on the 2nd day of Pesach when I was 17, and my son did for his Bar Mitzvah on the 1st day of Sukkot.] 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 about 5 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.”

Shabbat shalom,



tph scroll sources


Holiday Psychology (slightly edited)

Holidays are explained at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_holidays

Jewish holidays for people with (specific) illnesses:

Purim is for alcoholics. 
Pesach is for OCDs. 
Lag B’omer is for pyromaniacs who weren’t satisfied with Chanukah.
Shavuot is for insomniacs.
Tisha B’Av is for depressives.
Rosh Hashana is for people who obsess over dying. 
Yom Kippur is for anorexics.
Sukkot is for the homeless. 
Simchat Torah is for those in the manic stage of bipolar disorder.

And people still wonder why the Jews invented psychology!



8. My Father the Rabbi

Three young boys were walking on the sidewalk arguing over whose Daddy was the greatest.

David said, “My Dad is the greatest because he is rich stock broker on Wall Street.”

Michael said, “That’s nothing. My Daddy is a politician and he says he’s the most powerful man around.”

Moishie said, “That’s nothing, my Dad is a rabbi, and he owns hell.”

“How can you own hell?” asked the other boys.

“Well my Dad came home last night and told my mom that the Shul Board gave it to him!”



Quotes about Perfection

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses. Ann Landers

Perfection itself is imperfection. Vladimir Horowitz

Confusion of goals and perfection of means seems, in my opinion, to characterize our age. Albert Einstein

The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection. Michelangelo



Light Bulb Jokes: Musicians

Q: How many sopranos does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Three. One to climb the ladder while the second kicks the ladder out from under her. And the third to say, “I knew that was too high for you dear.”

Q: How many brass players does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One to hold it in place and two to drink until the room spins.

Q: How many jazz pianists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Screw the changes, we’ll fake it.

Q: How many pianists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Four: One to light a candle and the other three to say it’s better than electric light.



Death Penalty

Once upon a time there lived three men: a doctor, a chemist, and an engineer. For some reason all three offended the king and were sentenced to die on the same day.

The day of the execution arrived, and the doctor was led up to the guillotine. As he strapped the doctor to the guillotine, the executioner asked, ‘Head up or head down?’

‘Head up,’ said the doctor. ‘Blindfold or no blindfold?’ ‘No blindfold.’ So the executioner raised the axe, and z-z-z-z-ing! Down came the blade and stopped barely an inch above the doctor’s neck. Well, the law stated that if an execution didn’t succeed the first time the prisoner had to be released, so the doctor was set free.

Then the chemist was led up to the guillotine. ‘Head up or head down?’ said the executioner. ‘Head up.’ ‘Blindfold or no blindfold?’ ‘No blindfold.’ So the executioner raised his axe, and z-z-z-z-ing! Down came the blade and stopped an inch above the chemist’s neck. Well, the law stated that if the execution didn’t succeed the first time the prisoner had to be released, so the chemist was set free.

Finally the engineer was led up to the guillotine. ‘Head up or head down?’ ‘Head up.’ ‘Blindfold or no blindfold?’ ‘No blindfold.’ So the executioner raised his axe, but before he could cut the rope, the engineer yelled out: ‘WAIT! I see what the problem is!’


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