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Summary of Parshat Emor

by the editors    
of Torah from Dixie    

Summary of this week's Torah portion: Following on the heels of the command given in last week's portion to the entire Jewish population to be sanctified and holy, Parshat Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23) begins by discussing various laws directed specifically to the Kohanim (priests) and the Kohen Gadol (high priest) whose Divine service requires them to maintain a higher standard of purity. Included is the command for the Kohen to refrain from becoming ritually impure through contact with a dead body (except for close relatives) and increased restrictions on whom they may marry. A Kohen with any one of a series of physical blemishes is forbidden to perform the service in the Temple until he is cured. The subject matter then returns to the entire nation: Anyone who is tamei (ritually impure) is told to stay away from places and things which are especially holy. After discussing the laws of terumah (the small percentage of food separated from the harvest in the land of Israel and given to a Kohen before the rest can be eaten) and the various blemishes which render a korban (offering) unfit, we are warned to always be mindful of not desecrating G-d's name and, on the contrary, to sanctify Him at all costs. The Torah then discusses the festivals of the year (Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Shemini Atzeret), followed by two constant mitzvot maintained in the Mishkan: the lighting of the menorah every day and the displaying of the lechem hapanim (show-bread) every week. The portion concludes with the horrible incident of a man who cursed G-d's name and was subsequently punished with the death penalty at Hashem's command.


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