Aliya-by-Aliya Parshat Emor 5759

Numbers in [brackets] are the mitzva-count according to the Sefer HaChinuch. Other counts vary.

First Aliya -15 p’sukim (21:1-15)

This Aliya is particularly appropriate for a kohen; not all first Aliyot are.

Following Parshat K’doshim, which focuses on the challenge to the individual Jew and the whole Jewish community to rise to higher levels of sanctification, the sedra of Emor begins with the special sanctity of the kohen, and the even higher sanctity of the Kohen Gadol. These higher levels of k’dusha are concomitant withstricter rules of personal religious conduct.

A kohen is not to become ritually defiled due to contact with a dead body [263], except for his seven closest relatives: wife, mother, father, son, daughter, brother, (unmarried) sister. This is more than permission; a kohen is required to participate in the funeral and burial of his close relatives, becoming “Tamei” [264].

Kohanim (and all Jews) are forbidden to afflict the body in any way as a sign of grief. [This is an example among many of a mitzva that appears in a particular sedra, but is counted elsewhere. In other words, Emor has even more than the Chinuch's official count of 63 mitzvot.]


The Talmud teaches that from this same source, mitzva 264, comes the requirement for all Jews (not just kohanim), to mourn one’s seven relatives. Please note that this is not a case of rabbinic extension and legislation, sanctioned by their obligation to “protect” Torah and mitzvot. This is more. This is part of the definitionof the Torah’s mitzva #264, as transmitted to us by the Talmud, the Oral Law. The Sages of the Talmud present us with two categories of Law – Torah Law, which includes the Written Word AND the Oral Law, and Rabbinic law. They not only teach us both, but they (most often) clearly differentiate between the two categoriesfor us, so that we will neither add to nor detract from the Torah. Our commitment to G-d at Sinai includes careful adherence to Torah and Rabbinic Law (since the Torah requires us to listen to the teachings of Chaza”l). But it is important for us to know the difference between D’o’rayta and D’Rabbanan laws so that we willnot have a distorted view of the Torah. (There are also practical ramifications of the distinction between Biblical and Rabbinic law.) Specifically, in the case of mourning, the first day is considered Torah Mitzva, the balance of Shiva is Rabbinic. Rabbinic, but inspired by the Torah. But that’s not the same as Torahlaw itself.

Kohanim must be holy and avoid desecrating His Name, because they perform sacred service. This mitzva for the kohen is also taken to refer to the prohibition of doing Temple service after purification in a mikve, but before the day has completely passed [265].

A kohen may not marry a “zona” (a non-Jew and/or a Jewish women who has had relations with a man who is forbidden to her) [266], a “chalala” (the daughter of a kohen from a woman to whom he is forbidden because he is a kohen) [267], nor a divorcee [268].

Because of the sanctity invested in the kohen by HaShem, we are commanded to honor the kohen [269]. Calling him to the Torah first is one manifestation of this honor. So is having him lead Birkat HaZimun.

The daughter of a kohen who is married and commits adultery, is liable to a more severe punishment because of the additional disgrace to the kehuna.

The Kohen Gadol has even more restrictions because of his higher sanctification. He may not defile himself to any dead (even his parents – the only exception is a body that has no-one to tend to it. This is known as a MEIT MITZVA) [271] nor enter under a roof with a dead body [270]. The Kohen Gadol’s sanctity derives fromthe anointing oil and/or the special garments. He is to marry a previously unmarried woman [272]. He may not marry a widow [273] nor any of the types that the regular kohen is forbidden to marry. He is further forbidden to have relations with a widow [274], as this would contravene his sanctity.

[SDT] HaKohen HaGadol Mei’echav — not just the usual term Kohen Gadol, but “greater than his brothers”. From here, the Gemara teaches, that the K.G. should (preferably) be smarter (better educated, wiser) than his fellow kohanim, bigger (taller) in build, and wealthier.

Second Aliya – 24 p’sukim – 21:16-22:15)

A kohen with a disqualifying blemish may not serve in the Mikdash [275]. The Torah next identifies many of the blemishes. The rule applies not just to a permanent blemish or deformity, but even to temporary blemishes [276]. A disqualified kohen may eat of the sacred foods (some but not all categories), but may not evenenter the Mikdash [277].


A kohen “baal mum” (with disquali fying blemish) is barred from the area of the Mikdash from the Altar (the external one) and inward, but may enter the outer area of the courtyard of the Beit HaMikdash, and even may do certain peripheral tasks.

Furthermore, a kohen who becomes “tamei” is temporarily barred from entering the Mikdash [278], nor may he “approach” sacred foods. He may not eat T’ruma [279] or other “kodoshim” while “tamei” from any of various sources. On the day of impurity (for the 1-day type) or on the last day (for the 7-day type), the kohen immersesin a mikve and, “with stars-out”, he once again is allowed to eat T’ruma. Not only may one not eat non-kosher meat, it also renders a kohen “tamei”.

A non-kohen may not eat T’ruma [280] (or other sacred foods). Jewish servants and laborers of a kohen may not partake of T’ruma (etc.) [281].

On the other hand, an “eved C’naani” who is considered part of the kohen’s possessions, may eat his master’s T’ruma. An uncircumcised male may not eat T’ruma (even if he has valid medical reasons for being so) [282]. This rule is not expressly stated in the text, but is learned by “parallel texts” from korban Pesach. Itis nonetheless one of the 613 mitzvot, noteworthy, in that a mitzva has no chapter & verse.

A kohen’s daughter (and any woman) who has relations with someone to whom she is forbidden, may no longer eat T’ruma [283]. This mitzva also includes the situation of a kohen’s daughter who marries a non-kohen. During her marriage, she may not eat T’ruma. If her husband died or divorces her, she may return to her father’shome and eat T’ruma – if she has not had children. With children the fear is she might feed them (her children are NOT kohanim) of the T’ruma. Hence, she too is barred.

A person who inadvertently eats T’ruma must compensate the kohen by paying the value plus an amount which equals 1/5 of the payment.

Eating of “tevel” (produce from which none of the required separations was taken) is forbidden for all to eat [284]. Violation constitutes a disgrace of the sacred.

Interesting point…

If a non-kohen eats T’ruma, inten tionally, he is liable to “death penalty from heaven”. The punishment for eating Tevel is the same. Perhaps we have here examples of the opposite types of sin (as discussed last week in relation to the two goats of Yom Kippur). The former sin involves eating something “too sacred” for theindividual. The latter is a sin that involves the opposite – the Tevel is so profane without any “mitzvot” separated, no sanctifying acts having been done with it. Going beyond halachic limits in either direction is equally sinful.

Third Aliya -17 p’sukim – 22:17-33

Animals offered as sacrifices must be blemish-free [285]. It is forbidden to consecrate a blemished animal as a korban [286]. It is also forbidden to make a blemish in a korban [287]. Blemishes referred to are specifically defined by the Torah & Talmud. If a blemished animal is offered, it is additionally forbidden to sprinkleits blood on the Mizbei’ach [288], or to slaughter (as a korban) a defective animal [289], nor to place any of the animal’s parts on the Mizbei’ach to burn [290].

Castration of animals is forbidden [291]. (This is a serious halachic issues related to house pets. Consult a Rav (who knows these things) for details.

A defective animal may not be offered as a korban, even if received from a non-Jew [292].

From this point through chapter 23, is the Torah reading for the first day of Sukkot (second day as well, outside of Israel) and the second day of Pesach (our first day of Chol HaMoed. Second day Yom Tov in Chutz LaAretz)

A new-born animal stays with its mother for 7 days and only thereafter may be used as a korban [293].

It is forbidden to slaughter (as korban or for private consumption) an animal and its offspring on the same day [294].


This prohibition applies even if the animals in question are owned by different people. Take a look at this situation: Reuven buys a cow for slaughter right before the holidays. Shimon, later in the day, buys the calf of Reuven’s cow. The seller must tell Shimon that the calf’s mother was bought and will probably be slaughteredtoday. This forbids Shimon from slaughtering the calf on that day, unless he checks with Reuven. If he went ahead and slaughtered the calf, Reuven is forbidden to slaughter the cow on that same day. The details are a bit more complicated, but the idea is that this is a serious prohibition. One of the messages of this prohibitionis that G-d wants us to be aware of the results of our actions when we use His permission to kill animals for our benefit. It is almost a token reminder, but it does make us think about what we are doing, and it hopefully prevents misuse.

The Mishna tells us that there are for days when it is very likely that one who buys an animal will be having it slaughtered on that same day – Erev Rosh HaShana, Erev Simchat Torah, Erev Pesach, Erev Shavuot. On these days, the seller has to say something. On other days, an assumption need not be made that slaughter willbe the same day, an disclosure is unnecessary.

The Torah, once again reminds us that korbanot to be eaten have time limits which must not be exceeded.

Until this point in the sedra, the Torah has dealt with the sacrificer and the sacrificee. It now changes gears and we find another meaning of the word sacrifice, as in being willing to die in sanctification of G-d’s Name.

We may not desecrate G-d’s Name [295]; we must sanctify His Name [296]. These mitzvot have many facets. A Jew is required to give up his life rather than violate one of the “cardinal” sins: murder, incest, adultery and idolatry. In times of “forced conversion”, martyrdom is required even to the “least” violation.

Our Sages have broadened the scope of this very significant mitzva-pair: Kiddush/Chilul HaShem. In addition to the issues of Martyrdom, one who violates any prohibition in a particularly spiteful manner, especially in public, is considered also to be disgracing G-d’s Name.

Conversely, the special way in which a person can perform a mitzva, when the esteem for mitzvot in the eyes of other people is enhanced, when respect for Torah and Torah-Jews is increased, then that person has not only performed a mitzva, he has sanctified G-d’s Name among the People.

This same idea is extended to any facet of human behavior. The religious Jew (or the Jew who at least outwardly appears to be religious) has the constant potential of Kiddush or Chilul HaShem. Simple acts of common courtesy or discourtesy can have far-reaching ramifications, depending upon who is involved, who is watching,how things are perceived, etc.

Fourth Aliya – 22 p’sukim – (23:1-22)

Chapter 23 in Vayikra is the “Portion of the Holidays”. It begins with the statement: “These are the Festivals…” Shabbat is presented as the first of the Holidays (we designate it so in kiddush on Friday night when we say that Shabbat is in commemoration of the Exodus and is the first of the “days called Holy”).

[SDT] The Dubanov Maggid in the name of the Vilna Gaon (or vice versa) has an interesting twist on the opening verses of this portion. “Six days work may be done and on the Seventh Day…” refers not the Shabbat and the rest of the week, but rather to the seven holy days to be presented in the upcoming p’sukim. Six dayssome work may be done – Rosh HaShana, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret, Pesach 1 & 7, Shavuot, but on the seventh holy day, Yom Kippur, it is a Shabbat of Shabbatot and no work may be done. Thus, the opening 3 verses of chapter 23 serve as an introduction to the rest of the chapter, rather than referring to Shabbat, as the plainmeaning of the text would seem to indicate. Is Shabbat one of the Chagim or not? Maybe. We do call Shabbat “the first of the holy days”. Or maybe not.

On the 14th day of Nissan, the Korban Pesach is brought. On the 15th, begins the Matza Festival (which we call Pesach), “requiring” matza for 7 days. The first is a holy day with most forms of “melacha” forbidden [297, 298]. In each case of a Yom Tov, there is a positive command to abstain from “melacha”, and a prohibitionagainst doing the “melacha”. A Korban Musaf is to be brought on the 7 days of Pesach (that’s 1 mitzva, not 7) [299]. The seventh day is Yom Tov [300,301].

Following the 1st day of Pesach, the Omer (barley-offering) is to be brought [302]. Special korbanot are offered on the day of the Omer. One may not eat different forms of new grains until the bringing of the Omer [303,304,305].

We are to count from the day of the bringing of the Omer a period of 7 weeks – 49 days [306]. The Torah says 50 days, be we understand it to mean “up to but not including”.


Having recently passed the midpoint of the Omer counting, I would like to clarify (again) a couple of points about the mitzva.

To those of you who, for whatever reason, are not able to count the Omer with a bracha:

[1] It is still a mitzva for you to count. Remember that there is one major school of thought that considers each night its own mitzva. So tonight count the Omer. Tomorrow night too. Etc. Don’t use the excuse that you cannot say a bracha. The rules for the bracha and the rules for counting are not identical. There is apoint to count, even if you missed some or many nights.

[2] Ideally, try to hear someone’s bracha, answer AMEN, and count the Omer by yourself. When in shul, don’t just listen to the rabbi’s bracha and his count. Listen to his bracha but you count.

Following the 49th day, a special offering of 2 loaves from the new wheat is to be offered [307]. This is on the holiday of Shavuot which has “melacha” restrictions [308,309]. This portion ends with the reminder of the gifts of the field that must be left for poor people.

Fifth Aliya – 10 p’sukim – (23:23-32)

The 1st day of the 7th month (Tishrei) is holy (Rosh Hashana), “melacha” being forbidden [310,311]. Special Musaf sacrifices are brought [312], in addition to the Rosh Chodesh Musaf. Note that Shofar is not counted here, but in Parshat Pinchas. Here Rosh HaShana is referred to as ZICHRON T’RU’A, a remembrance of the T’ru’a.In Pinchas, the Torah tells us to have a “T’ru’a day” – this is the command to blow Shofar.

On the 10th of Tishrei is Yom Kippur. One must fast [313]. There is a Musaf in the Mikdash on Yom Kippur [314]. (In addition to the special Yom Kippur service described in “Achrei Mot”). Not fasting (without valid excuse) is punishable by excision (death and more from Heaven). Similarly, all “melacha” is forbidden [315]or to eat and drink on Yom Kippur [316]. We must abstain from (Shabbat-like “melacha on Yom Kippur [317].

[SDT] “…On the ninth of the month in the evening, from evening to evening, observe your Shabbat.” From the unusual wording in this pasuk, the Gemara teaches up the concept of Tosefot Shabbat and Yom Tov, the adding from one’s weekday onto the sanctity of Shabbat and Chag, both at its beginning and at its end. Our practiceof counting the time from sunset to stars-out as Kodesh on both ends, is part of Tosefet Shabbat, as are the additional minutes on both ends of Shabbat and Yom Tov.

People who take early Shabbat during the summer are adding to Shabbat in a big way. This should be a major motivation for taking Shabbat early. There are some motives that are not as noble, but that just gives us room for improvement.

Sixth Aliya – 12 p’sukim – (23:33-44)

The 15th of Tishrei is Succot, a 7-day holiday. “Melacha”, (Yom Tov restrictions) is forbidden on its 1st day [318,319]. Musaf sacrifices are to be brought on each of the 7 days. The 8th day (sometimes Shmini Atzeret – a.k.a. Simchat Torah – is viewed as its own holiday; sometimes as the 8th day of Succot) is also a YomTov [321,323] with korban musaf of its own [322].

The Musafim of the seven days of Sukkot constitute one mitzvot, not seven, as did those of Pesach, mentioned earlier. One might have thought otherwise for Sukkot, since each day has a different Musaf (Pesach’s are all alike), and each day is mentioned separately. But it ain’t so. One mitzva for the seven Musafim. But aseparate mitzva for the Musaf of Shmini Atzeret, because it is its own Holiday.

Interesting, though, that the fourth day of Sukkot, for example, has its own identity. The fourth day of Pesach does not. Also interesting, is that Sukkot has a counting from day to day because of the number of bulls in the Musaf. Pesach has a different counting – S’firat HaOmer.

These are the Holidays, besides the Shabbatot of the year and other offerings to the Temple. It is at the harvest time in the fall that Succot is to be celebrated. On the 1st day we are required to take the 4 species (a lulav, etrog, hadassim, aravot) [324].

During the holiday of Succot, we are to dwell in succot [325]. This is in order to instruct all generations about the aftermath of the Exodus when we were privileged to Divine protection in the wilderness. Note how Sukkot is presented on its own, and then its mitzvot are introduced.

Seventh Aliya – 23 p’sukim – (24:1-23)

G-d tells Moshe to command the people to prepare pure virgin olive oil for lighting the Menora always. The lamps of the Menora burned through each and every night, right outside the dividing curtain between the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies.

It is unavoidable to see the juxtaposition of the Festivals and the lighting of the Menora as a hint to Chanuka, a festival marked by kindling the lights of the Chanukiya in commemoration of the rededication of the Beit HaMikdash. What even makes the point stronger is the Torah’s stress on the concept that the lights ofthe Menorah are constant, eternal, always, through the generations. In fact, the real Menorah of the Beit HaMikdash has not made it through the generations. The Chanuka lights have!

Another point. According to the Chinuch, the Menora and its light and the Shulchan and its bread are specifically things within our everyday experience, rather than esoteric rituals that we would have difficulty relating to and relating to our lives. The holiday of Chanuka went a long way in helping us bring the light ofthe Menora into our own homes and our own lives.

We are also to take fine flour and bake 12 loaves which are placed on the Shulchan in the Mikdash. This too was a permanent fixture in the Temple. The loaves baked on Friday and exchanged with the previous week’s on Shabbat. The kohanim on duty would share the loaves, which miraculously remained fresh.

The Torah next tells us of the son of a Jewess and an Egyptian who cursed G-d’s name. He was incarcerated pending word from G-d on how to punish him. The command was to stone him to death. This is to be the punishment for “blessing G-d”. So too, murder is a capital offense. Killing an animal requires compensation to theowner. Causing injury to a person requires compensation which includes several factors resulting from the injury. The execution of the “curser” was carried out. The last 3 p’sukim are reread for the Maftir.

Haftara – 17 p’sukim Yechezkeil 44:15-31

Yehezkel, himself a kohen whose early days were spent in the Beit HaMikdash, prophesies about the rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of the active kehuna. He reiterates many of the rules of the kohen, many of which are based in Parshat Emor. It is interesting to note that some of his rules are stricter than requiredby Torah law, but suited the conditions of his time. For example, Yechezkeil restates the marriages permitted and forbidden to a kohen. He says that a kohen cannot marry a divorcee (correct) nor a widow (this is not so according to the Torah; only the K.G. may not marry a widow). But he adds that a kohen may marry a widowof a kohen. Apparently, by not allowing a kohen of the time to take a non-kohen’s widow, the widows of the kohanim were better taken care of. In other words, the rules were not meant to replace the Torah’s laws (they cannot do that), there were promulgated to solve a social problem.