Parashat Emor - Leviticus 21:1-24:23

Distinct & Set Apart

Parashat Emor begins where last week's parasha (Kedoshim) left off in its description of holiness and how Israel is to be a set-apart and distinct people. Emor continues this theme of distinction by describing how the kohanim (priests) had various restrictions and parameters that were even greater than the Children of Israel in general. For instance, while it was common for an Israelite to become unclean-keep in mind that being unclean in most cases had nothing to do with sin-a kohen was not permitted to become unclean through a corpse in most instances. The kohen gadol (the high priest) was  restricted even further than his priestly brethren to show his distinct position of service among them. Whereas the Children of Israel were to be distinct among the peoples of the earth, the kohanim were to be distinct among the Children of Israel, and the kohen gadol was to be distinct among the kohanim.

Another way this parashah enjoins Israel to be distinct is in their demarkation of time. Chapter 23 spells out the calendar that the people of God are to live by. It begins with God's instruction to His people:

These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts. (Leviticus 23:2)

How does a calendar point to holiness? We have to remember that although our English translations designate these times as "appointed feasts," this is not how it reads in the original Hebrew. It says they are mo'adei Hashem, or the "appointed times of the LORD." What is an appointed time? It's a time that is set aside to meet with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It's a time He has chosen to meet with His people, and therefore we should make those times a priority. After all, He calls them "my appointed times." If they are important to Him, they should be equally important to His people.

The first holy day it sets apart is the weekly Sabbath:

Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places." (Leviticus 23:2)

From there it begins listing out the other festivals and the details of their observance: Pesach/Chag HaMatzot (Passover/Unleavened Bread), Shavuot (Pentecost), Rosh Hashanah (Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Sukkot (Tabernacles/Booths). Each of these times is described with details on how to make them distinct and set apart from the other days of the year. They are to be special times where we come into the presence of the King of the Universe to worship Him and receive revelation from Him. 

Like parashat Kedoshim, parashat Emor emphasizes the importance of distinction of the People of God from those of the nations. It is our job to be different from the world in what we do, what we wear, what we eat, how we speak, and even what we do on certain days to make them distinct from all others. We are to be a holy people through the keeping of His commandments, as He reminds us in this parashah:

So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the Lord. And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the Lord who sanctifies you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 22:31-33)

Don't be afraid to stand out and be different. Be distinct and set apart for the purposes of the Father in this world.