FROM THE TORAH
In previous sedras of the Book of Leviticus, Israel has been instructed about the distinction between the permitted and forbidden, the pure and the impure, in divine worship, physical afflictions, and intimate and civil behavior. In this week’s Sedra Emor, these foci are narrowed to the Kohanim (Priests), except where the roster of Holy Convocations is considered, which contains primary categories of observance for Kohanim and the rest of the Children of Israel alike. It concludes with a stern illustration of open hostility to the authority and sanctity of God and Moses.
PERSONAL RESTRICTIONS OF THE KOHANIM
The Eternal charges Moses: Say (Emor) regarding the Kohanim (Priests), sons of Aaron, telling them the following:
He may not defile himself (cf. Leviticus 21:11) for any among his people except for close family members: his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother, and for his virgin sister in that she is not related to another man. He shall not defile himself as a husband among his kin to be thus profaned.
They may not create a baldness on their head or cut the corner of their beard or make an incision in their flesh. But they shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God, as they present the fire offerings of the Eternal, the food of their God.
They may not marry a harlot, who is thereby dishonored, and a woman divorced from her husband, as the Kohen is holy to his God. Treat him as holy, for he offers the food of your God. Holy shall he be to you, as holy am I, the Eternal, who sanctifies you.
If the daughter of a Kohen profanes herself through harlotry, she profanes thereby her father and shall be burned in fire.
PERSONAL RESTRICTIONS OF THE KOHEN GADOL
The Kohen Gadol (High Priest), set above his fellow Kohanim, upon whose head is poured the oil of anointing and who has been ordained to wear the vestments, shall not uncover his head or rend his garments.
He shall not enter where there is a human corpse: he may not defile himself even for his father or for his mother (Leviticus 21:11).
He shall not go out of the Sanctuary of his God, thereby profaning it, for the distinction of the anointing oil of his God is upon him; I am the Eternal.
Only a woman in her virginity may he marry, that he not profane his offspring among his descendants, for I, the Eternal, sanctify him.
PHYSICAL DISQUALIFICATIONS OF PRIESTLY SERVICE
The Eternal further charges Moses to impart to Aaron disqualifications of service:
Any descendant of yours throughout their generations with a physical defect shall be disqualified from offering food to his God, the fire offerings of the Eternal. These are:
The blind, the lame, the mutilated, the overgrown;
One with a fractured leg or fractured hand, with a curvature of the spine, or whose growth is limited; and
One who has a cataract of the eye or a scab, scurf, or defect of the testicle.
He may partake of the food of his God, both the most holy and the holy, but he may not enter the Dividing Curtain or draw near to the Altar. Owing to his defect, he may not profane My sacred places, for I, the Eternal, sanctify them.
COMMUNICATION BY MOSES
Thus speaks Moses to Aaron and to his sons and to all the Children of Israel.
MAINTENANCE OF PRIESTLY PURITY
The Eternal bids Moses to charge Aaron and his sons to be careful regarding the sanctities of the Children of Israel and not profane His holy name. If anyone of your offspring throughout your generations shall offer sacred donations to the Eternal when he is impure, that person shall be cut off from before Me, I the Eternal.
Any man of the offspring of Aaron who is stricken with tsara’at or has a discharge (cf. Leviticus 13:1ff.) may not eat of sacred things until he is pure.
One who has contact with a human corpse or has an emission of semen or touches any swarming thing by which he is made impure or touches another man by whom he is made impure, whatever his impurity—another person who touches him shall be impure until the evening and may not eat of the sacred donations until he bathes his body in water. Once the sun sets, he may eat them, for that is his food.
He may not eat a dead animal or a torn animal and become defiled by it, I the Eternal.
They shall keep my charge and not bear sin over it and die as a result of profaning it, I the Eternal, who sanctifies them.
Entitlement to Sacred Food
WHO MAY EAT OF SACRED GIFTS
One who is not a Kohen may not eat of the sacred donations, including the resident laborer or the hired laborer of a Kohen. But one whom the Kohen has purchased with money can eat of it, as well as one who is born into his household—they may eat of his food.
A Kohen’s daughter who marries one who is not a Kohen may not eat of the sacred gifts.
A Kohen’s daughter who becomes widowed or divorced and is childless and returns to her father’s house, as in her youth, may eat of her father’s food.
If a man who is not a Kohen should eat of a Kohen’s sacred gifts unintentionally, he shall restore to the Kohen the value of what he took and an additional one-fifth of its value. But those who are not Kohanim should not profane the sacred donations of the Children of Israel which are set apart for the Eternal, thereby bearing guilt when they eat them, for I the Eternal sanctify them.
Acceptability of Offerings
PHYSICAL DISQUALIFICATIONS OF VOTIVE AND GIFT OFFERINGS
The Eternal instructs Moses to speak to Aaron, his sons, and all the Children of Israel, regarding disqualifying defects of votive and gift offerings:
Anyone of the House of Israel or the sojourner in Israel who presents a burnt offering for these purposes shall have his offering accepted if it is a male without blemish from cattle, sheep or goats.
A man who offers a sacrifice of peace offering for these purposes must also provide an animal of the herd or flock without blemish for acceptance. Disqualified is a blind, injured, mutilated, or ulcerated animal, or one with scab or scurf. These may not be offered to the Eternal; you may not put one of them upon the Altar as a fire offering to the Eternal.
However, an ox or a sheep that is overgrown or stunted may be used for a gift offering but would not be acceptable for a votive offering.
One that is squeezed, crushed, torn, or cut, you may not offer to the Eternal. You may not allow this practice in your Land, and you may not accept any of these from a foreigner to be offered as food for your God, since they are ruined as a result of their defect and are therefore not acceptable.
UNDERLYING RULES OF OFFERING
The Eternal instructs Moses:
When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall stay with its mother for seven days; then, from the eighth day onward, it is acceptable for a fire offering to the Eternal.
No ox or sheep and its young shall be slaughtered on the same day.
When you offer a thanksgiving sacrifice to the Eternal, in order for it to be acceptable for you it must be eaten on the same day and not left over until the morning.
Observe My commandments and do them, I the Eternal, and do not profane My holy Name, and I shall be sanctified in the midst of the Children of Israel, I the Eternal, who sanctify you, bringing you out from the land of Egypt to be your God, I the Eternal.
HOLY CONVOCATION: SHABBAT SHABBATON
The Eternal tells Moses to advise the Children of Israel regarding holy convocations, His appointed times:
For six days you shall do your work, but the seventh day is Shabbat Shabbaton (Sabbath of Complete Rest), a holy convocation. Do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Eternal in all of your settlements.
HOLY CONVOCATIONS: PESACH AND MATZOT
The following are appointed times of the Eternal, holy convocations which you shall declare at their appointed time:
On the fourteenth day of the first month, at twilight, there is Pesach for the Eternal (cf. Exodus 12:3-14, 21-26), and on the fifteenth day there is the Festival of Matzot (Unleavened Bread) for the Eternal (cf. Exodus 12:15-20): you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days. The first of the seven days shall be a holy convocation for you: you shall do no work of service. Throughout the seven days you shall bring fire offerings to the Eternal. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation: you shall do no work of service.
GRAIN HARVEST: OMER
The Eternal tells Moses to advise the Children of Israel regarding the grain harvest:
When you come to the Land which I am giving to you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring to the Kohen the first Omer (Sheaf) of your harvest. Eat no bread or parched ear or fresh grain until the very day that you bring this offering to your God. The Kohen shall wave the Omer before the Eternal for your acceptance on the morrow of the day of rest. On that day you shall provide a year-old lamb without blemish for a burnt offering to the Eternal. Its meal offering shall be two-tenths of a measure of fine flour mixed with oil, a fire offering to the Eternal of pleasant aroma, and its libation shall be a quarter of a hin of wine. This is an everlasting statute throughout your generations in all of your settlements.
HOLY CONVOCATION: BIKKURIM
You count from the morrow of the day of rest, from the day when you bring the Omer of waving, seven complete weeks. Then, on the morrow of the seventh week, count a fiftieth day and bring thereon a new meal offering to the Eternal. You shall declare on that very day a holy convocation for you. You shall do no work of service. It is an everlasting statute in all of your settlements throughout your generations.
On that day, from your settlements bring two loaves of bread as a wave offering: two-tenths of a measure of fine flour shall they be and baked leavened, Bikkurim (First Fruits) for the Eternal (cf. Numbers 28:26-31). Bring with the bread seven year-old lambs without blemish, one bull of the herd, and two rams, as burnt offerings to the Eternal, and their meal offering and their libations, a fire offering of pleasant aroma for the Eternal. You shall provide one male goat for a sin offering and two year-old lambs for a sacrifice of peace offerings. The Kohen shall wave them as a wave offering before the Eternal along with the bread of first fruits, which shall be holy to the Eternal for the Kohen along with the two lambs.
HARVEST FOR THE POOR AND THE STRANGER
When you reap the harvest of your Land, do not wholly reap the corner of your field, and do not gather the leftovers of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the stranger. I, the Eternal, am your God.
HOLY CONVOCATIONS OF THE SEVENTH MONTH
The Eternal tells Moses to advise the Children of Israel regarding other holy convocations:
On the first day of the seventh month, you shall have a day of rest, Zichron Teruah (Remembrance by the Blast of a Horn), a holy convocation. You shall do no work of service. You shall bring a fire offering to the Eternal.
But, says the Eternal to Moses, the tenth day of this seventh month shall be Yom Hakippurim (The Day of Atonement), a holy convocation for you, on which “you shall afflict your souls” (Leviticus 23:27) and bring a fire offering to the Eternal. As it is a day of atonement before the Eternal your God, you shall not do any work on it, it is a Shabbat Shabbaton (Sabbath of Complete Rest) for you. Any soul that is not afflicted on this same day shall be cut off from its people; I shall cause anyone who does work on this day to be lost from among his people. You shall not do any work as an everlasting statute throughout your generations in all of your settlements, beginning on the ninth day of the month in the evening, from evening to evening shall you observe your day of rest.
The Eternal advises Moses to speak further to the Children of Israel:
Beginning on the fifteenth day of this seventh month, when you gather in the produce of the Land, you shall observe Chag Hasukkot (The Festival of Booths) to the Eternal for seven days. The first day is a holy convocation, a day of rest: you shall do no work of service. You shall take for yourselves the fruit of a splendid tree, branches of palm trees, the bough of a leafy tree, and willows of the brook, to rejoice before the Eternal your God for these seven days. It is an annual observance, an everlasting statute throughout your generations. In addition, you shall dwell in booths throughout the seven days, every native in Israel, so that future generations will know that I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt, I, the Eternal, your God. Throughout the seven days you shall present a fire offering to the Eternal.
Then, on the eighth day you shall have Atzeret (Conclusion), a holy convocation, a day of rest; on it you shall do no work of service, and you shall bring a fire offering to the Eternal.
SUMMARY OF APPOINTED TIMES
These, then, are the appointed times of the Eternal, which you shall declare, holy convocations, to bring a fire offering to the Eternal: burnt offering and meal offering, sacrifice and libations, each on its day, besides the Sabbath offerings to the Eternal and besides your gifts and vows and besides all of your voluntary offerings which you bring to the Eternal. Thus Moses explains the appointed times of the Eternal to the Children of Israel.
Presence for All Occasions
The Eternal bids Moses to charge the Children of Israel to bring him pure oil of beaten olives for the kindling of a Ner Tamid (Regular Lamp). Aaron shall arrange the lamps in the Tent of meeting outside of the Dividing Curtain of the Testimony, regularly from evening until morning before the Eternal, on the pure Menorah (Lampstand), as an everlasting statute throughout your generations.
TWELVE LOAVES OF BREAD
Bake twelve Challot (Loaves) from fine flour, two-tenths of a measure for each Challah (Loaf), and divide them into two rows, six to a row, on the pure Shulchan (Table) before the Eternal. Upon each row put pure frankincense, which shall serve as a remembrance for the bread as a fire offering to the Eternal. All of this shall be arranged regularly, every Sabbath day, before the Eternal, an everlasting covenant on the part of the Children of Israel. It shall belong to Aaron and his sons, who shall eat it in a sacred place. It is most holy for Him, from the fire offerings of the Eternal, an everlasting statute.
Capital Crimes Against God and Man
THE SON OF AN ISRAELITE WOMAN AND AN EGYPTIAN MAN
The son of an Israelite woman and an Egyptian man goes out among the Children of Israel. He and an Israelite man fight in the camp. He then utters a curse against the Eternal. He is brought to Moses. The name of his mother is Shelomit daughter of Divri of the tribe of Dan. He is placed under guard while his sentence is forthcoming from the Eternal.
The Eternal tells Moses to have the blasphemer brought out of the camp, where all who heard should place their hands upon his head. Then all of the congregation should stone him. Moses is to declare to the Children of Israel that any man who curses his God shall bear his sin. One who curses the name of the Eternal shall be put to death by stoning at the hands of all of the congregation, both the sojourner and the native alike.
Anyone who kills another person shall be put to death. One who kills an animal shall pay life’s value for life. One who injures his fellow human being shall have done to him as he did: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. A single standard of justice shall apply to sojourner and native alike, as I, the Eternal, am your God.
Moses speaks to the Children of Israel, and they remove the blasphemer from the camp and stone him. Thus the Children of Israel have done as the Eternal commanded Moses.
FROM THE PROPHETS
Haftarah for Shabbat Emor
Reactivation of the Kohanim
The Kohanim—Levites, sons of Tzadok—who kept charge of My Sanctuary when the Children of Israel went astray from Me—let them draw near to Me, to My Sanctuary, to My Table, to minister to Me and stand before Me to offer to Me fat and blood, declares the Lord God.
When they enter the gates of the Inner Court, they shall wear linen garments, no wool, to minister there and within: linen turbans on their head, linen breeches on their loins, nothing that produces sweat.
When they go out to the Outer Court, to the people, they should exchange their garments for others. They should leave them in the holy chambers so that they do not sanctify the people with their garments.
They should not shave their head or let their hair grow long, but they should trim the hair on their head.
No Kohen should drink wine when they enter the Inner Court.
They should not marry a widow or divorcee but only virgins from the offspring of the House of Israel or the widow of a Kohen.
They shall instruct My people on the difference between holy and common, between impure and pure.
They shall judge disputes in accordance with My ordinances.
They shall observe My teachings and My statutes in My Festivals and sanctify My Sabbaths.
He shall not come near a human corpse to be defiled, except for father, for mother, for son, for daughter, for brother, and for sister who does not have a husband. After his purification, he shall count seven days, and on the day that he enters the Sanctuary to minister in the Inner Court he offers his sin offering, says the Lord God.
This shall be their inheritance. I am their inheritance. The meal offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering are theirs to eat. All confiscated property in Israel shall be theirs. The first fruits of all, your sacred gifts, shall be for the Kohanim. The first of your dough you shall give to the Kohen to cause blessing to rest upon your house.
The Kohanim may not eat of a bird or a beast which has died or which has been torn.
FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH
Sifra Emor 8 Parshata 1:3
“None of the Kohanim may defile himself
for any among his people…”
“Among his people”: At the time when “his people” are there to bury the dead he may not defile himself, but he should defile himself for a met mitzvah (one who dies without relatives to bury him, for whom it is a mitzvah for others to involve themselves in his burial).
Rabbi Samson of Sens (12th cent. France): This is in accordance with what is taught in Evel Rabbati (Tractate Semachot), Chapter 4, “What is a met mitzvah? One whose cries are not heard by his fellows.” In Yerushalmi Nazir 7:1, “If his fellow citizens come to help in his burial, the Kohen must still extend his hand until there are sufficient numbers to carry the bier, including alternates and alternates of alternates, and until he is no longer needed!”
Leviticus Rabbah 27:10
“When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born,
it shall stay with its mother for seven days;
then, from the eighth day onward,
it is acceptable for a fire offering to the Eternal.”
Rabbi Joshua of Sichnin in the name of Rabbi Levi taught: This may be compared to the conquering king who decrees that none of the population shall see him before they have seen his queen. Thus said the Holy One, blessed be He: You shall not bring Me an offering before the Sabbath has passed over it, as there are no seven days without a Sabbath!
Similarly there is no circumcision without a Sabbath. That is what is meant by: “From the eighth day onward it is acceptable!”
Leviticus Rabbah 27:8
“When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born…”
What did He see
to mention the ox
before all of the other
Said Rabbi Levi: It may be compared to the case of a lady whose reputation was besmirched by one of the nobles in the kingdom. The king looked into the facts and found no basis for the rumor. So he put on a banquet and placed the noble who had started the rumor at the head of the table. What did all of the king’s efforts accomplish? They let it be known that he had looked into the facts and found no basis for the rumor! So the nations of the world harass Israel: You made the golden calf! But the Holy One, blessed be He, looked into the facts and found no basis for the accusation. For that reason, the ox was made chief of all the offerings, as is written: “An ox [shor: any bovine mammal] a sheep or a goat…!”
Rabbi Huna and Rabbi Ayvu in the name of Rabbi Samuel bar Nachman argued in support that if Israel had made the golden calf, then they would have produced the rallying cry, “This is our God, O Israel!” Instead, it must have been the non-Israelites who came up with them from Egypt who made the golden calf and then egged them on by saying, “This is your God, O Israel!” (Exodus 32:4)
Sifra Emor 8 Parshata 10 Perek 12:12
“When you reap the harvest of your Land,
do not wholly reap the corner of your field,
and do not gather the leftovers of your harvest.
Leave them for the poor and for the stranger.
I, the Eternal, am your God.”
Rabbi Avardimas son of Rabbi Yosi asks why this commandment of providing corners and leftovers of the harvest for the poor is placed in the Torah here amid instructions for festival offerings. (The commandment was first included in Leviticus 19:9 among general matters of holiness and rules of fair treatment.) The reason for its placement here, amid festival offerings, is to teach that one who provides corners and leftovers of the harvest for the poor is acting as if the Temple is standing and he is bringing his festival offerings to it. Obversely, one who fails to provide corners and leftovers of the harvest for the poor is acting as if the Temple is standing and he is not bringing his festival offerings to it.
Malbim (Rabbi Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel Wisser, 19th cent. Ukraine): One of the purposes and benefits of the festivals was to provide for the Kohanim and for the Poor, both of whom depended upon the sustenance of God’s table, as in Deuteronomy 26:12: “You shall provide for the Levite, for the Stranger, for the Orphan, and for the Widow…”, and elsewhere. The insertion of this mitzvah here indicates that these provisions must continue beyond the festivals themselves to gifts from the harvest and that these gifts to the Poor are on the same level as the festival offerings from which the Kohanim derive sustenance, coexisting with the spirit of Deuteronomy 18:1: “The Kohanim, the Levites, all of the tribe of Levi, shall not share any portion or inheritance with Israel; they shall consume the fire offerings of the Eternal and His inheritance.” Providing for the Poor is observed for the entire year, and also after the Temple has been destroyed. Obversely, one who does not provide a portion for the Poor resembles one who holds back from bringing his offerings to the Temple.
Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 23
MISHNAH MEGILLAH 3:5
On Rosh Hashanah
we read in the Torah:
“On the first day of the seventh month [Tishri],
you shall have a day of rest,
(Remembrance by the Blast of a Horn),
a holy convocation.
You shall do no work of service.
You shall bring a fire offering to the Eternal.”
But whence do we learn that Rosh Hashanah is a Day of Judgment?
MISHNAH ROSH HASHANAH 1:2
On Rosh Hashanah
all the inhabitants of the world
pass before Him as in a line,
as was said:
“The Creator is able to scan their hearts at once,
evaluating all of their deeds.”
Then whence do we learn that Rosh Hashanah is the same as the First Day of Tishri?
YERUSHALMI ROSH HASHANAH 1:3
Rabbi Eliezer teaches:
The world was created on the twenty-fifth day of Elul;
while Rav teaches in Zichronot for Rosh Hashanah:
This day is the beginning of Your works (of Creation),
a remembrance of the first day [of Tishri!],
“The New Moon Festival
when the Shofar is blown,
a law for Israel,
judgment by the God of Jacob”…
…over the nations
whether for war or for peace,
whether for famine or for plenty,
whether for death or for life,
wherein all creatures will be considered
whether for life or for death!
Now the two seemingly-different teachings can be combined to imply that while the world was created on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, the beginning of God’s works of creation, i.e., the First Man, was created on the first day of Tishri, viz., Rosh Hashanah!
Rabbenu Nissim (on Rif Rosh Hashanah 3a) explains: While it is taught in the Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 10b) that Rabbi Eliezer also says that the world was created in Tishri, he is relating to the completion of creation, which is defined by completion of the creation of the First Man, which was on the sixth day of creation (cf. Genesis 1:24-31). Counting from the first day of Creation (25 Elul) to the sixth day of Creation, then, the completion of creation is on the first day of Tishri!
But Rav in Zichronot calls Rosh Hashanah “the beginning of Your works (of Creation),” not the “completion of Creation” as Rabbenu Nissim explains Rabbi Eliezer. Perhaps what is meant is a completion of creation that allows its beginning, much as we call the completion of an academic degree a “commencement.”
Much happened for the First Man on that Rosh Hashanah:
In the first hour, he came into God’s thought;
in the second hour God consulted with the ministering angels;
in the third hour He gathered his dust;
in the fourth hour He kneaded him;
in the fifth hour He gave him shape;
in the sixth hour He set the golem erect;
in the seventh hour He installed its soul;
in the eighth hour He admitted it into the Garden of Eden;
in the ninth hour He commanded it;
in the tenth hour it transgressed His command;
in the eleventh hour it was judged; and
in the twelfth hour it went out in a convocation of amnesty
from before the Holy One, blessed be He.
“Forever, O Eternal One,
Your word stands in the heavens,
Your steady judgment for every generation,
when You established the earth to stand.
On that very day they stand for Your judgments,
all of them as Your servants.”
The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Adam:
This shall be a sign for your descendants,
“a remembrance of the first day [of Tishri!], …
‘judgment by the God of Jacob’ (Psalms 81:5).” (Zichronot)
Just as you came before Me in judgment on this day
and you went out in a convocation of forgiveness for your offense,
thus shall your children in remembrance
enter into judgment before Me on this day
and go out in a convocation of forgiveness.
“On the first day of the seventh month…
a holy convocation!” (Leviticus 23:24)
*The ancient Torah reading for Rosh Hashanah, Leviticus 23:23-25, prescribed in Mishnah Megillah 3:5 as above, has been replaced by Genesis 21 for the First Day, cf. Tosefta Megillah 4:6, and Genesis 22 for the Second Day, cf. Talmud Megillah 31a.
Leviticus Rabbah 32:3-4
“The son of an Israelite woman
and an Egyptian man
goes out among the Children of Israel…
He fights with an Israelite man in the camp.
He then utters a curse against the Eternal.”
“Goes out” from where? Rabbi Chiya teaches: “He went out,” that is, took exception, from a ruling of parentage. For at first he pitched his tent in the camp of Dan (the camp of his mother). They said to him: What claim do you have to pitch your tent in the camp of Dan? He said to them: I am from the daughters of Dan. They said to him: It is written, “The children of Israel shall encamp, each man by his banner according to the insignias of their fathers’ household…” (Numbers 2:2), not of their mothers’ household! He brought his case to the Court of Moses, but the case was decided against him. He stood up and blasphemed!
There was no place for him in the camp of Dan
because “he is the son of an Egyptian man.”
How did he come to be
the son of an Egyptian man?
The Israelite woman is identified,
but who is the Egyptian man?
“It came to pass in those days
that Moses grew up and went out to his brothers
and beheld their burdens.
He saw an Egyptian man
beating a Hebrew man from among his brothers.
He turned this way and that way
and saw that there was no man,
so he killed the Egyptian
and buried him in the sand.”
Rabbi Levi explained the background of this story: Once an Egyptian overseer went to the home of a Hebrew taskmaster to command him, “Gather your detachment!” When the Egyptian overseer entered the taskmaster’s home, the taskmaster’s wife flirted with him. He thought, “That woman is mine!” He went out and hid himself behind the stairs. When her husband went out, the Egyptian overseer went in and committed adultery with her. When her husband turned around, he saw the Egyptian coming out of the house. The Egyptian knew that her husband saw him, so he went out to him and beat him all that day. He kept telling him to work harder, and when he was about to kill him, the Holy Spirit manifested itself in Moses, as is written, “He turned this way and that way” (Exodus 2:12): What is “this way and that way?” It means that Moses then saw what the Egyptian had done to the Hebrew in his house and outside of it. He exclaimed, “It was not enough for him to commit adultery with his wife, but he also tried to kill him!” whereupon “he killed the Egyptian…” (Ibid.).
“Moses saw that there was no man,
so he killed the Egyptian.”
Rabbi Judah, Rabbi Nechemiah, and the Rabbis,
consider how this verse provides justification for killing:
Rabbi Judah: “He saw that there was no (other) man” who would stand up passionately in defense of the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He, so he killed him!
Rabbi Nechemiah: “He saw that there was no (other) man” who would stand up and cast the lethal Divine Name upon the Egyptian, so he killed him (without human violence)!
Rabbis: “He saw (into the future) that there was no (hope of another) man,” that is, a righteous man, who would arise from the Egyptian, nor from his children nor from any of his descendants, so he killed him!
In light of the preceding, consider the following:
Mechilta Bachodesh Yitro 8
How were the Ten Commandments arranged?
Five on one tablet and five on the other tablet.
At the top of the first tablet is written, “I, the Eternal, am your God…”, and opposite it, “You shall not murder.” Thus the verses teach that whoever spills blood diminishes, as it were, the image of the King.
On the fifth row is written, “Honor your father and your mother…”, and opposite it, “You shall not covet….” Thus the verses teach that one who covets will in the end sire a son who curses his father and his mother and who honors instead one who is not his father.
Rabbi teaches that the honor of father and mother is as beloved to God as His own honor, and the obverse is true, too: “One who curses his father or his mother must be put to death!” (Exodus 21:17) and “Anyone who blasphemes the Name of the Eternal must be put to death!” (Leviticus 24:16)—Cursing a parent is comparable to blaspheming!
Leviticus Rabbah 31:4
Bar Kappara cited:
“You light my lamp;
the Eternal, my God,
illuminates my darkness.”
“Charge the Children of Israel to bring…
pure oil of beaten olives
for the kindling of a Ner Tamid (Regular Lamp).”
The Holy One, blessed be He, is saying to Man: Your light is in My power, and My light is in your power.
Your light is in My power, as was said: “The soul of Man is the lamp of the Eternal.” (Proverbs 20:27)
My light is in your power, as we understand the verse: “Charge the Children of Israel for the kindling of a Ner Tamid.” If you light My lamp, then I will light your lamp!”
Talmud Zevachim 18b
The Supporting Words of Ezekiel
“When the Kohanim enter the gates of the Inner Court,
they shall wear linen garments, no wool,
to minister there and within:
linen turbans on their head,
linen breeches on their loins,
nothing that produces sweat.”
“Thus says the Lord God:
No estranged person,
uncircumcised of heart
or uncircumcised of flesh,
may enter My Sanctuary,
with respect to any such person
who is in the midst
of the Children of Israel.”
(Ezekiel 44:9; cf. ibid. 5-14)
Our Rabbis taught that from the Torah, “The garment of the Kohen shall be of vahd, as shall be the breeches next to his body…” (Leviticus 6:3), we learn that his garments should be of linen…. Said Abaye to Rav Joseph: We can infer that they should be of linen since the verse teaches linen only and nothing else. But then the two of them go on to identify other properties of linen that the word vahd implies.
So how do we know, asks the Gemara, that vahd (as we find it in the Torah verse) really means linen? Rabbi Joseph son of Rabbi Chanina offers a linguistic justification, that vahd denotes the flax fibers of which linen is made, so called because their stalks grow from the ground bahd b’vahd (separately). – But the same could be said of wool, whose threads grow separately on the sheep’s back! – Yes, but the wool threads split while they are still on the sheep’s back. – Flax stalks also split before they are woven into linen! – Yes, but only when they are beaten, not on their own.
Rabina cites the prophetic verse as establishing that the garments of the Kohanim are to be of linen: “Linen turbans on their head, linen breeches on their loins, nothing that produces sweat” (Ezekiel 44:17-18)! Rav Ashi questions Rabina: But you have not explained whence we derive linen garments for the Kohanim conclusively from the Torah! Rabina answers: It works the same way that Rav Chisda explained the prophet’s interdiction, “No estranged person, uncircumcised of heart or uncircumcised of flesh, may enter My Sanctuary…” (Ezekiel 44:9): We learn this not from the Torah of Moshe Rabbenu but from the words of Ezekiel ben Buzi. Before Ezekiel came, we had it as an oral tradition, then came Ezekiel and gave it the support of a Biblical verse. So the same may be said for how we know that the garments of the Kohanim were of linen: We learn this not from the Torah of Moshe Rabbenu but from the words of Ezekiel ben Buzi. Before Ezekiel came, we had it as an oral tradition, then came Ezekiel and gave it the support of a Biblical verse!
“They shall not gird themselves with anything that produces sweat.”
Abaye explained this as, “They should not gird themselves in a place that produces sweat,” as is taught in a baraitha: When they gird themselves, they should not gird themselves either below their loins or above their elbows but level with their elbows.
Rav Ashi related an account that Huna bar Natan shared with him: I once stood before (Persian) King Izgedar, and my belt was high on me, so he lowered it and said to me, “A kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6) is written in Scripture regarding you! When I related this to Amemar, he said to me: I would then apply to you the prophet’s promise, “Kings will be your foster fathers” (Isaiah 49:23)!
Copyright © 2021 Eric H. Hoffman