What day of the week is it? More on that later.
Among those who habitually attend synagogue services, especially those who read the weekly portion from the Torah scroll, parts of Emor bring about a sense of déjà vu. That’s because some of it is read 3 additional times a year, on holidays. My son’s Bar Mitzvah reading on the first day of Sukkot was from Emor, as was my first Torah reading on the second day of Pesach (at 17, not 13. Long story.). By the way, today is Pesach Sheni, a month after Pesach. It’s biblical in origin and was intended to accommodate those who were unable to participate in the regular Pesach offering because of ritual impurity.
Speaking of ritual impurity, Emor starts out with instructions for the priests, more stringent for the High Priest. The priests are expected to maintain a higher level of ritual purity because of their service in the Tabernacle. Contact with a corpse causes ritual impurity, so there are limits on whom a priest should “contaminate” himself for when someone dies: only his wife, parents, children, and siblings (sister only if still at home, unmarried). A High Priest, not even these. A priest can marry only a widow or virgin, a High Priest only a virgin. Both priests and sacrifices must be free of certain physical defects. And the priests get to eat terumah, 1/60 of a crop set aside for them.
The ensuing text on Sabbath and holiday observances includes activities specific to those “appointed times” in addition to sacrifices, like eating matzah, bringing an Omer (a volume of roughly 43 average eggs) of grain from the first harvest during Pesach and counting for 7 weeks after that to the next major holiday; blowing the shofar on the 1st day of the 7th month, atoning on Yom Kippur, and living in booths.
Almost every month in the Hebrew calendar has a holiday (feast or fast). In fact, Monday night begins the very post-biblical holiday of Lag B’Omer (Hebrew letters lamed+gimel=30+3=33rd day of counting the Omer). Its origins are fuzzy, based on stories of Rabbi Akiva and his plague-stricken students, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the Bar Kochba revolt, and the Zohar. It’s traditionally associated with students and is currently celebrated with bonfires, barbeques, and parades, and activities frowned upon other times during the Omer period, like weddings, shaving, and (especially first) haircuts.
The rest of Emor concerns lighting the menorah, a continual lamp; the showbread; and an incident of blasphemy, leading to a discussion of capital crimes, such as blasphemy, and restitution in cases of assault, formulaically described in 24:20 as “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.”
So, what day of the week is it?
That was not a trick question, but it’s one that is increasing difficult to answer correctly. As I write this, it’s Friday. After I retired 7 years ago (YES!), I started finding it difficult to differentiate one weekday from another. But in a short time, I had a schedule that allowed me to discern what day it was, at least after I’d been awake for a few minutes. For example, if the day before, I’d had a music lesson and a choral rehearsal, today was Tuesday. Before COVID-19, my schedule included those activities on Monday, often a movie on Tuesday with a different choral rehearsal at night, 3 OLLI classes (including Madrigal Singers) and Read Aloud Delaware on Wednesday, another OLLI class on Thursday. Friday and Sunday were open. Saturday I went to services, usually in Wilmington, occasionally in Wynnewood, PA, where I also went to Rabbi Cooper’s class on Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, chanted Torah or haftarah and then visited my sister.
All of that stopped in March.
I am usually content to be home. I have managed to add back some structure, like Rabbi Cooper’s class, now Zoomed on Thursdays. We also Zoomed a seder for 7 people in 4 states over 3 time zones. I attend a monthly Zoomed Hadassah board meeting. There are various scheduled webinars. I still have the occasional doctor’s appointment, now telemedicine. And my awareness of the Hebrew calendar, promoted both by our own observances and my writing these weeklies, has only been slightly damaged by not having physical services to go to. Though it does take more effort to realize what day it is. (Friday)
But I chanted Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) at home during Pesach, not at a synagogue, and I expect to do the same with the Book of Ruth on Shavuot. (I am not yet desperate enough to chant the weekly Torah and haftarah portions.) And choral singing has been shown to be alarmingly dangerous vis à vis COVID-19, so I despair of my rehearsals resuming at time soon. I just have to practice alone and sing along with youtube performances. It’s not at all the same.
But I’m in a really good situation, as an introverted retiree with a pension, without kids needing homeschooling, and with good health insurance. My husband is the only one I can hug at the moment, but he’ll do.
Quotes About Being Structured
Just as the constant increase of entropy is the basic law of the universe, so it is the basic law of life to be ever more highly structured and to struggle against entropy. Vaclav Havel
Ballet was so structured. I’d been craving something that could guide me. Misty Copeland
Our lives are structured by our memories of events. Event X happened just before the big Paris vacation. I was doing Y in the first summer after I learned to drive. Z happened the weekend after I landed my first job. We remember events by positioning them in time relative to other events. Joshua Foer
I love the simplicity of the Cube because it’s a very clear geometrical shape, and I love geometry because it’s the study of how the whole universe is structured. Erno Rubik
Eye Exam Joke
I was performing a complete physical, including the visual acuity test. I placed the patient twenty feet from the chart and began, “Cover your right eye with your hand.” He read the 20/20 line perfectly. “Now your left.” Again, a flawless read. “Now both,” I requested. There was silence. He couldn’t even read the large E on the top line. I turned and discovered that he had done exactly what I had asked; he was standing there with both his were eyes covered. I was laughing too hard to finish the exam. (Dr. Matt Jenkins, Boston, MA)
TOP FIFTY SIGNS YOU MAY BE TOO OBSERVANT FOR LAW SCHOOL (selected)
46.You swear that the professor who called on you twice in a row is anti-Semitic, even though he is likely Jewish.
45.You are startled to discover that Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists all have as hard a time keeping the Sabbath as you do.
43.You long for the days when all legal disputes were settled by a chest plate with glowing jewels.
30.You subconsciously find yourself parsing any discussion of international law for an anti-Israel bias.
29.You’re shocked to discover, albeit too late, your encyclopedic knowledge of Talmud has nothing to do with law school.
20.You consistently refer to a split among circuits as a makhlokes. (Hebrew for “dispute”)
19.You figure that your knowledge of two dead languages, ancient Hebrew and Aramaic, will help you pick up Latin.
15.You feel triumphant when you pass off a halakhic concept as a Latin term and no one challenges you.
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.
8.You have the need to analogize every legal concept you learn to something in halakha (Jewish law).
Did you hear the one about Vladimir Putin? Why a Russian comedian has fled the country
By Andrey Poznyakov & Alice Tidey • last updated: 23/01/2020
A comedian says he was forced to leave Russia over jokes he made about Vladimir Putin and Christianity during a stand-up routine.
Aleksandr Dolgopolov, 25, will now monitor developments from abroad, his lawyer Leonid Solovyov has said.
… Dolgopolov had been forced to cancel one of his performances in Moscow’s “Big City” bar because an unknown man in civilian clothing appeared to be “persistently interested” about when the artist would arrive, his manager has said. Dolgopolov has since released … an official request sent to the venue from Moscow’s Ministry of Internal Affairs demanding to know more about a 2019 performance in which he joked that if Putin were to ask citizens to jump into lava, they would reply: “‘Oh my god, where do we find lava? There is no lava in our garden, what should we do, wise leader?”
Another of his political jokes went: “Our population has split into two camps. On the one hand, there are those who support Putin; on the other, there are those who can read, write, and reach logical conclusions.”
A local news website, Baza, also reported that complaints had been made regarding religious jokes Dolgopolov had made and that the comedian is now “suspected of insulting the feelings of believers”. The law criminalising blasphemy came into force in 2013…following a protest by the feminist punk band Pussy Riot in Moscow’s main Orthodox Cathedral …If found guilty of such an offence, Dolgopolov could be fined up to 300,000 roubles (€4,000), sentenced to forced labour or to up to one year in prison.
Dolgopolov has defended his set on social media and decried the Russian judicial system…He also wrote on Twitter: “My wife was beaten by my father: the police are inactive. They threaten me: the police are inactive. My girlfriend is harassed by a maniac: the police are inactive. I tell jokes: FIND OUT ALL ABOUT THIS TERRORIST!”
Some prominent Russian comedians have rallied around him including Yuri Khovansky who argues that “… we must agree on one thing unanimously: you cannot pursue a comedian because of his jokes.”