Menorah from BL Eg 872, f. 101v

Emor | פרשת אמור

Sefer Vayikra | ספר ויקרא

Vayikra 21:1-24:23 [Hebcal] [על-התורה] ויקרא כא א-כד כג

Haftarah: Yechezkel 44:15-31 (all)

[על-התורה] הפטרה: יחזקאל מד טו-לא (ע”פ כל המנהגים)

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The last parsha, Kedoshim, sets down rules for Bnei Yisrael to be a holy (kadosh) people through the observance of behavioral mandates and restrictions, including those pertaining to the public good, to forbidden mixtures and forbidden sexual relationships, respect for Shabbat and elders, and avoiding the practices of foreign nations. Emor picks up with laws specifically pertaining to kohanim (priests), who are consecrated. It continues with regulations about consecrated food items. After that, more information on Shabbat and holidays is given, as well as the Menorah and the showbread in the Mishkan, and consequences for blasphemers, murderers, and others who cause harm.

Relations for which a Kohen may Incur Tumat Met (corpse impurity)

[Vayikra 21:1-15]

A high degree of tuma (טומאה – ritual impurity) is imparted by a dead body, and a kohen must be especially careful not to come into contact with a corpse. Exceptions for which he may incur corpse impurity (tumat met, Chazal’s terminology; in the Mikra, לְנֶפֶשׁ לֹא יִטַּמָּא) are close relations (שְׁאֵרוֹ הַקָּרֹב אֵלָיו): mother, father, son, daughter, brother, and unmarried sister. Relatives by marriage do not fall under this exception.

Additional special regulations for kohanim are given. Kohanim are not to shave their heads, trim their beards, or make gashes in their skin. A kohen must marry a virgin and may not marry a zonah (זונה – a woman who is sexually promiscuous), a widow, or a divorced woman. The daughter of a kohen who commits act of zonah must be burned to death.

People Disqualified from Kehuna (priesthood)

[Vayikra 21:16-24]

Certain physical defects can disqualify a person from serving as kohen, both congenital and acquired physical deformities or ailments, though such a person retains the right to eat of kodesh, consecrated foods, including those of greatest sanctity (kodshei ha-kodashim). He cannot enter behind the parochet (curtain) or approach the Mizbeach (altar).

Regulations about Eating Consecrated Items

[Vayikra 22:1-16]

Aharon and his sons (i.e., kohanim) must be careful to be in a tahor (ritually pure) state in order to partake of consecrated offerings, to avoid the penality of karet, excision. A kohen who is a zav (זב – experiences a discharge) or afflicted with tzaraat may not eat of consecrated items until he is again in a tahor state. A kohen who touches something that has had contact with a corpse, or has a seminal emission, or touches a swarming thing (sheretz – שרץ), or touches a person who confers upon him tuma, he is tamei until evening (until the sun sets) and cannot eat of consecrated items until he washes his body in water.

The family of a kohen may eat of consecrated items. Those a kohen hires as laborers may not, although his slaves can. If a daughter of a kohen (bat kohen) married an Yisrael, she can no longer eat of the consecrated items; but if she is widowed or divorced without children and returns to her father’s house, she may again eat of them. Regular Yisrael may not eat of consecrated items.

Sacrificial Animals must be Unblemished

[Vayikra 22:17-33]

Animals brought at korbanot must be free of blemish, either congenital or acquired. An exception is a minor flaw in a nedavah (freewill offering). Also, an animal must stay with its mother for the first 7 days of its life, and may only be offered on the 8th day. No animal of the herd or flock may be slaughtered on the same day as its young.

Zevach todah (thanksgiving offering) must be eaten on the same day that it’s slaughtered.

Shabbat and Holidays

[Vayikra 23:1-44]

The accounting of the holidays begins with Shabbat, the 7th day, a mikra kodesh (sacred occasion – מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ). Discussed earlier in Vayikra and before that in Shemot, here it is said no work (melachah – מְלָאכָה) shall be done (כָּל מְלָאכָה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ). The text continues, “These are the sacred occasions of Hashem that you shall observe at their appointed times (be-mo’adam)” (אֵלֶּה מוֹעֲדֵי יְהוָה מִקְרָאֵי קֹדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר תִּקְרְאוּ אֹתָם בְּמוֹעֲדָם).

The first is Pesach, discussed earlier in Shemot. In the first month, on the 14th day at twilight (bein ha-arbaim – בֵּין הָעַרְבָּיִם), the korban Pesach is offered. On the 15th of the first month, Chag ha-Matzot (the Festival of Unleavened bread) begins and and unleavened bread is eaten for 7 days. The first day is a mikra kodesh and no melachah may be performed. Korbanot are offered all 7 days. The 7th day is also mikre kodesh.

Once the people are settled in Eretz Yisrael, they are to bring the kohen the first sheaf (omer – עֹמֶר) of the harvest (עֹמֶר רֵאשִׁית קְצִירְכֶם). On “the day after the Shabbat,”[efn_noteThis particular requirement was fraught with controversy beginning in the Second Temple period add into the Middle Ages; the rabbinic view is that it refers to the day after Pesach. See Rashi in Vayikra 23:11 and Ibn Ezra on Vayikra 23:11, where he explains at length, among many others.[/efn_note] the kohen is to elevate the omer. A lamb is then offered as Olah (burnt offering) along with a Minchah and libations.

Seven complete weeks are counted from the elevation of the omer, 50 days, after which a Mincha offering of new grain is brought. Specifically, two leavened loaves of bread (lechem – לֶחֶם תְּנוּפָה שְׁתַּיִם), made with a specific amount of fine flour (solet – סֹלֶת), are brought as bikkurim, first fruits. Seven lambs, one bull, and two rams, along with meal offerings and libations, are brought, plus a male goat as Chatat (sin offering) and two lambs as Zevach Shelamim (peace offering). It is a sacred occasion on which no work can be done. Again, there is a reminder to leave gleanings of the fields for those in need.

On the 1st day of the 7th month there is a day of complete rest (שַׁבָּתוֹן זִכְרוֹן תְּרוּעָה מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ) with no work. The 10th day of the 7th month is a Yom Kippurim. Anyone who does not afflict themselves on this day is subject to karet.

The 15th day of the 7th month is marked as Chag ha-Sukkot, the Festival of Booths. No work is to be done on the first day. Offerings are to be brought for 7 days, and the 8th day is a sacred occasion when work is not done. On the first day, we take (lakachtem – וּלְקַחְתֶּם) four species of plants: the fruit of hadar trees, palm tree branches, boughs of leafy trees, and willows (פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר כַּפֹּת תְּמָרִים וַעֲנַף עֵץ עָבֹת וְעַרְבֵי נָחַל). For 7 days one dwells (teshvu – תֵּשְׁבוּ) in sukkot (סֻּכֹּת – booths), “so that all generations will know that I caused Bnei Yisrael to dwell in booths when I brought them out of Egypt” (לְמַעַן יֵדְעוּ דֹרֹתֵיכֶם כִּי בַסֻּכּוֹת הוֹשַׁבְתִּי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּהוֹצִיאִי אוֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם).

The Menorah and the Showbread

[Vayikra 24:1-9]

The oil for the Menorah’s ner tamid (נֵר תָּמִיד – eternal flame) must be made with clear (zach – זָךְ) olive oil. The Menorah itself is to be set up outside Parochet ha-Edut (the Curtain of the Pact) in the Ohel ha-Moed (Tent of Meeting).

On the Mishkan’s table (Shulchan), there are to be set up 12 loaves (challot – חַלּוֹת), each baked from 2/10th a measure of fine flour, and arranged in 2 rows of 6 loaves each. Levona (frankincense) is added to each row. This is done every Shabbat. Aharon and his sons the kohanim may eat of them.

The Case of the Blasphemer

[Vayikra 24:10-16]

It happens that fight breaks out and a blasphemer publicly pronounced the Name of G-d. The blasphemer had an Egyptian father, and his mother was an Yisrael from the tribe of Dan—his mother’s name is given as Shelomit bat Divri. The blasphemer is held in custody until Moshe receives instruction: the blasphemer is to be taken outside of the camp and stoned to death. This is done.

Murder and Harm to Others

[Vayikra 24:17-23]

Murderers are to be put to death. Restitution is made for taking the life of an animal. The injury one inflicts is inflicted upon him (“eye for an eye,” or the lex talionis, again), which Chazal understood to mean monetary compensation. Both the foreigner (ger) and citizen (ezrach) are to have the same law (mishpat).

Haftarah Summary: והכהנים הלוים בני צדוק

[Yechezkel 44:15-31]

Although it is clearly contextualized in Yechezkel’s time, opening with “The Levitical kohanim, the descendants of Tzadok (וְהַכֹּהֲנִ֨ים הַלְוִיִּ֜ם בְּנֵ֣י צָד֗וֹק), the haftarah restates many of the specific laws mentioned in Parashat Emor, serving as a reminder of their importance. (It also includes various laws stated in previous parshiyyot.)

Image: British Library Ms. Egerton 872.

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