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Parshah of the Week

This week’s Parashah is Emor – Shabbat 18 May 2019

This section discusses the Kohen’s obligation to maintain a high level of ritual purity, and the women he may marry. An ordinary Kohen is prohibited to come in contact with a human corpse — except to attend the funerals of his next of kin — and may not marry a divorcee as well as some other women. The High Priest is not permitted to attend even family funerals, and is required to marry a virgin.

This section discusses bodily blemishes and ritual impurities which disqualify a Kohen from performing the Temple priestly duties. The section then lays down the rules regarding who in the Kohen’s household may eat terumah, the tithe from produce given to the Kohanim.

Blemished animals are disqualified for sacrificial use. This part of the Parashah also forbids the castration of animals, sacrificing animals before they are eight days old, and slaughtering a mother animal and her child on the same day. The section concludes with the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem, sanctifying G‑d’s Name by giving one’s life rather than transgressing certain cardinal sins.

This section begins a lengthy discussion about the Jewish holidays. After making brief mention of the Shabbat, the Torah talks about the holiday of Passover and the mitzvah of eating matzah. On the second day of this holiday, an “omer” barley offering is brought in the Temple. This is followed by a seven-week counting period that culminates with the holiday of Shavuot. After discussing the Shavuot Temple service, the Torah briefly interrupts the holiday discussion to mention the obligation, when harvesting fields, to leave certain gifts for the poor.

The High Holidays are discussed. We are commanded to hear the shofar (ram’s horn) on Rosh Hashanah, and to “afflict” ourselves on Yom Kippur.

The autumn holiday of Sukkot is now introduced. During this seven-day holiday we are commanded to sit in outdoor booths, take the Four Species (citron, palm branch, myrtles, and willows), and rejoice before G‑d. The final holiday is Shemini Atzeret, a one-day holiday which immediately follows Sukkot.

We are instructed to use the purest of olive oils for the daily kindling of the Temple menorah, and to arrange twelve “showbreads” on the Temple Table every Shabbat. The Torah then tells the story of a Jewish man who was put to death for blaspheming G‑d. The portion concludes with the penalties for committing murder, property damages, and personal injury.