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Emor 5776

Emor (Leviticus 21-24 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  According to Jewish cosmology, the day begins with nightfall. That is why all holidays start at night after the stars can be seen. Wednesday night, May 25th, begins the holiday of Lag B'Omer. You may have seen advertisements for picnics from synagogues and JCC's.

Lag B'Omer is the 33rd day of the Omer, the period between Pesach and Shavuot. On this day the plague which was killing Rabbi Akiva's disciples stopped. It is also the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar, the Kabbalah, the book of Jewish Mysticism. Tradition has it that the day of his demise was filled with a great light of endless joy through the secret wisdom which he revealed to his students in the Zohar.

In Israel there are huge bonfires across the country. From Pesach onwards the children gather fallen branches and old tires and build pyres often 20 and 30 feet high. Then as the sky grows dark, they are lit and the sky is filled with flames -- and smoke. (I have often wondered what the reaction is to the pictures from the US and Russian Spy satellites.)

The fires are symbolic both of the light of wisdom Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai brought into the world and as a "yahrzeit candle" to the memory of his passing. Haircuts and weddings take place on this date and there is much festivity including dancing, singing and music.

Why the name Lag B'Omer? Every Hebrew letter has a numerical value. An aleph = 1, a bet = 2 and so forth. The two Hebrew letters lamed (30) and gimmel (3) = 33. So Lag (spelled lamed gimmel in Hebrew) B'Omer means the 33rd day of the Omer. [The word "Omer" literally means "sheaf" and refers to the offering of the barley sheaf in the Temple on the second day of Pesach marking the harvesting of the barley crop. From that day until Shavuot (the anniversary of the giving of the Torah and the Festival of the Harvest) is called the period of the Counting of the Omer. It is a time for reflection upon how we view and treat our fellow Jews and what we can learn from the tragedies that have befallen us because of unfounded hatred for our fellow Jews.

For more on Lag B'Omer, I direct you to as well as for articles including -- Kabbalah and Lag B'Omer, The Mystery of Lag B'Omer, Whispering Flames: The Fire of Lag B'Omer, Lag B'Omer: Remembering Rabbi Shimon.

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Three Rules For Success

  1. Initiative -- You have to try
  2. Perseverance -- You have to keep trying
  3. The Almighty smiles upon your efforts.


My father likes to quip that "The harder you work, the luckier you get." Luck is where preparation meets opportunity. Our Torah teaches that telling yourself "I can't" is a big mistake. If the Almighty would help you, would you be able to do it? He is there and will help. Remember: One person and the Almighty make a majority.

Telling yourself "I don't feel like doing it" is another big mistake. One should do what his soul wants (accomplishment, meaning) and not what his body desires (comfort). Don't confuse body messages for messages of the soul! And if the decision and the effort needed for success are too painful, here are:


Seven Excuses for Giving Up
  1. We've never done it that way.
  2. We're not ready for that, yet.
  3. We're doing all right without it.
  4. We tried it once and it didn't work out.
  1. It costs too much.
  2. That's not our responsibility.
  3. It won't work.


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Torah Portion of the week

Emor, Leviticus 21:1 - 24:24

This week's portion sets forth the standards of purity and perfection for a Cohen; specifies the physical requirements of sacrifices and what is to be done with blemished offerings; proclaims as holidays the Shabbat, Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

It reminds the Jewish people to provide pure olive oil for the Menorah and designates the details of the Showbread (two stacks of 6 loaves each which were placed on the table in the portable sanctuary and later in the Temple once a week upon Shabbat).

The portion ends with the interesting story of a man who blasphemed God's name with a curse. What should be the penalty for this transgression? Curious? Leviticus. 24:14.

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Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And they (the Cohanim) shall observe my charge, and they shall not bear sin for it" (Leviticus 22:9).

Rashi, the commentator, explains that this verse is a warning to the priests (Cohanim) not to eat trumah (tithes from crops given to the Cohanim) while they are in a state of tumah (spiritual impurity). Why the special warning and what can we learn from it?

Even though eating trumah is the fulfillment of a mitzvah for the priests, they must be very careful not to do so in a manner that will transform the potential good into a transgression. Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz commented that we learn from here an important principle: even when a person is involved in doing the Almighty's service, he must be very careful that no transgressions should come from it.

To reiterate, our lesson: whenever you are engaged in doing a good deed or involved in a worthwhile project, be on guard that the good you do is complete and does not include any transgressions. (And remember to say 'thank you' when appropriate!).

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Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And the Almighty said to Moshe, 'Speak to the priests, the sons of Aharon, and say to them: Let no (priest) defile himself amongst his people " (Lev. 21:1).

The Chozeh of Lublin explained this verse to mean that Moshe was told that the priest should be worthy of being the descendants of Aharon (Aaron, the High Priest). Just as Aharon had the trait of loving and pursuing peace, so too, they should work on acquiring this trait. Therefore, the latter part of this verse warns them that even though they should try to make peace between people whenever they can, they must be careful not to defile themselves in the process. At times they might come into contact with very aggressive and violent people and they should not become too close to them lest they become negatively influenced by their faults.


Candle Lighting Times

May 20
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:57
Guatemala 6:06 - Hong Kong 6:41 - Honolulu 6:47
J'Burg 5:09 - London 8:36 - Los Angeles 7:34
Melbourne 4:57 - Mexico City 7:49 - Miami 7:44
New York 7:53 - Singapore 6:49 - Toronto 8:24

Quote of the Week

Every test is a gift and every gift is a test
--  Sherry Dimarsky



With Very Special Thanks to

Mr. & Mrs.
Leonard A. Wien

With Great Appreciation to

Susan Biederman

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