Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Emor
To dedicate this lesson

Parashat Emor


Various Rabbis

An important section of Parashat Emor is devoted to the various sacrifices brought on each of the holidays. Parts of this week's parasha are, therefore, very familiar to us, as we hear them read on appropriate occasions throughout the year.

Each holiday has a specific date. The korban Pesach is sacrificed on the 14th of Nissan (the first month) and Pesach is celebrated with a day of Yom Tov on the 15th and another such day on the 21st of Nissan. Fifty days after the omer is brought we celebrate the holiday that we call Shavu'ot. Sukkot is celebrated with a day of Yom Tov on the 15th of Tishrei (the seventh month) and again on the 22nd day of the month.

One thing that sets the Jewsih community living in Israel apart from their brothers and sisters living in the Diaspora is the celebration of these very holidays. While the Torah specifically mentions the date of each celebration, Diaspora Jewish communities keep an extra day for each one. (I trust that many of those reading these lines grew up thinking that having a seder two nights running or following Shemini Atzeret with Simhat Torah is the "normal" practice.) The well known reason for this division is the statement that appears in the Gemara (Beitza 4b) that Diaspora communities still follow the traditions developed by their forefathers at a time when messages about the declaration of the new moon did not reach their communities in time to be certain about the correct date on which to celebrate the various festivals.

It is interesting to note that there is an entirely different approach to these different traditions. Rav Sa'adiah Ga'on is quoted as saying that there is a Torah obligation for Diaspora communities to keep two days of Yom Tov rather than the single day mentioned in the Torah. This idea is further developed by the Shulhan Arukh Ha-Rav which teaches that keeping two days of Yom Tov in the Diaspora stems from the need to work twice as hard in the Diaspora to reach the level of Yom Tov sanctity that is reached in one day in Israel.

Thus, the Torah requires Jews living in exile to celebrate an extra day in an attempt to reach the state of holiness that comes naturally to a Jew who is living in his homeland.

Shalom Berger is on faculty at the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education at Bar-Ilan University. He lives in Alon Shvut with his wife and seven children. Prior to his Aliya in 1991, Shalom lived in New York and taught in Frisch and in HAFTR.
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