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Parshat Emor

Emor has particular resonance for Shabbat mom since one of her daughters read beautifully from this parsha three years ago. Plus it serves as a spiritual guide book for her son, husband, and father-in-law since these guys are members of a super-exclusive boys' club: through no fault of their own, they were born Kohanim.

"None shall defile himself for any (dead) person among his kin, except for blood relatives that are closest to him..." including parents, children, his brother, and a "virgin sister".

This is why, even today, many Kohanim remain outside during a funeral so as not to be in the presence of a dead body. Further, the priests "shall not shave smooth any part of their heads, or cut the side-growth of their beards, or make gashes in their flesh..." Kohanim may not marry divorced women. A man may not serve as a priest if he "...has a defect..He may eat of the food of his G-d, of the most holy as well as of the holy; but he shall not enter behind the curtain or come near the altar..."

Emor also reiterates "the fixed times of the Lord, which you shall proclaim as sacred occasions", listing each of the holy days and festivals, beginning with Shabbat and going through the entire Jewish calendar. There is a lot of writing here about agricultural life and how even in that mundane context spiritual and moral holiness should lead the way.

"''And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I the Lord am your G-d'."

The law kitschily represented above cites a fight that breaks out in the camp between a "half-Israelite and a certain Israelite" that leads the latter to "(pronounce) the Name in blasphemy, and he was brought to Moses...and placed in custody until the decision of the Lord should be made clear to them."

G-d instructs Moses to "take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands upon his head and let the whole community stone him." Clearly the rule about not taking His name in vain bears repeating.

He who commits murder will also be put to death. Finally, "'If anyone maims his fellow, as he has done so shall it be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth."

Should these words be taken literally? As the daughter and sister of personal-injury lawyers I certainly take them very seriously!

Shabbat Shalom!