Parashat Emor:  Leviticus 21:1 to 24:23

“And the Lord said unto Moses: Speak, (“Emor”) unto the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say unto them…”  This verse opens a discussion of all kinds of regulations for the ‘Kohanim,’ the priests, and thus contains the essential verb and title of our Torah portion. In biblical times, the “Kohayn,” the priest who inherited his office of ministering to God, had to be ritually fit and pure at all times. Hence, these instructions speak of that which he must avoid: namely a dead person, and who a priest could marry, etc.

Traditional Judaism, which hopes for a messianic return to the sacrificial system of worship in one place in Jerusalem, has sought to retain the classification of the priests and Levites. Without a conscious retention of one’s family pedigree from father to son, the messianic return to the use of the Temple would be impossible. This explains that even today, a “Cohen” cannot enter a cemetery, or deal with a dead body in any manner. This comes from the injunction in the first verse: “there shall none defile himself for the dead among his people.” 

This Torah portion also contains a detailed list of the holy days in our Jewish calendar.

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