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Emor 5778

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 2nd, begins the holiday of Lag B'Omer. You may have seen advertisements for picnics from synagogues and JCCs.

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 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.


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.



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.

* * *

Dvar Torah
from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

The Torah states:

"You shall not desecrate My holy Name, rather I should be sanctified among the Children of Israel" (Leviticus 22:32)..

This verse is the source of the mitzvah of kiddush HaShem (sanctification of the God's name), which is that a person should accept martyrdom rather than deny God. Unfortunately, this mitzvah has too often been fulfilled in Jewish history -- when Jews have given up their lives when put to the ultimate test of their faith -- whether to convert to another religion under threat of death or to die as a Jew.

Although kiddush HaShem is generally thought of as martyrdom, one does not have to give up one's life to fulfill this mitzvah. Anytime that a Jew behaves in a manner that brings honor to God, and that people can point to him saying, "That is the beauty of obeying the Torah," that is a kiddush HaShem.

We are required to think of kiddush HaShem every time we recite the Shema. This willingness to give up one's life rather than deny God, is required of every Jew. If you know what you are willing to die for, then you know what you should live for.

For any act to have meaning and value, it must have a purpose. For life to have meaning and value, it must be purposeful. Everything a person does consciously has a purpose. Rational people do not do things that have no purpose.

If an act is not part of an ultimate purpose, the act has little meaning. For the Jew, the ultimate purpose should be to do the will of God -- this gives great meaning and substance to our every action, our every mitzvah and ultimately our very lives!


Candle Lighting Times

May 4
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:46
Guatemala 6:02 - Hong Kong 6:33 - Honolulu 6:40
J'Burg 5:18 - London 8:10 - Los Angeles 7:22
Melbourne 5:12 - Mexico City 7:43 - Miami 7:36
New York 7:37 - Singapore 6:48 - Toronto 8:05

Quote of the Week

It is not the years in your life,
but the life in your years
that counts
--  Adalai Stevenson



In Loving Memory of

Stephan Igra
Chaim Leib ben Yitzchak

In Loving Memory of

Roslyn Kurlansky

her children



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