Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Emor
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Amram son of Sultana

Parashat Emor

From Animal to Holy


Rabbi Yehoshua Friedman

Iyar, 5763
The description of the festivals in this week’s parashah is read not only on Shabbat Emor, but also on the first two days of Sukkot and the second day of Pesach. It contains a brief summary of the central themes of human history, Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael: Shabbat reminds us of the creation of the world; Pesach marks the birth of Am Yisrael; Sefirat HaOmer links the physical freedom from Egypt to the spiritual freedom acquired through Matan Torah on Shavuot; Sukkot connects the people of Israel to the land of Israel and points to final human redemption.
The festival chapter is immediately preceded by a section dealing with the slaughter of animals (Vayikra 22:25-33). On those days that the chapter is read on the festivals, the reading begins with these verses. According to the Netziv, that reading is based on a tradition going back to Mosheh at Sinai. Why are the two passages juxtaposed? And why are the two sections read together on the holidays?
A newborn animal must remain with its mother for at least seven days before it may be offered as a sacrifice. Slaughtering the mother animal and its offspring on the same day is forbidden. At first glance, these laws show mercy towards animals, but if the Torah is concerned about animal welfare, the slaughtering of animals should be entirely forbidden. As we find throughout the Torah, man was given the mitzvot in order to develop his character. The object of these laws is explicitly stated at the end of the section (verse 32): kedushah, holiness, the goal of perfection of humanity.
The omer offering consists of barley which is animal feed; bread is human food. Both are the produce of Eretz Yisrael. This pageant, played out in the Mikdash, the focus of Eretz Yisrael, symbolizes spiritual growth, fulfillment of ourselves, Am Yisrael and the world.

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