Parashat Emor

0Take Time to Make Time

Leviticus 23:2-5
(2) Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: The appointed seasons of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are My appointed seasons. (3) Six days shall work be done; but on the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation; ye shall do no manner of work; it is a sabbath unto the LORD in all your dwellings. (4) These are the appointed seasons of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their appointed Passover.

Etz Hayim commentary:

Although the dates of the festivals and the regularity of Shabbat were set by God, the Israelites also must proclaim them as sacred.

Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 2:8-9
(8) Rabban Gamliel had, on a tablet, and on the walls of his loft, various drawings of the moon, which he showed to simple witnesses, and said, “Was it like this [drawing] that you saw, or like [the other one]?”

It happened once, that two witnesses came and said, “We saw [the moon] in the East in the morning, and in the evening in the West.” [In that case,] Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri said, “They are false witnesses.”

[But] when they came to Yavneh, Rabban Gamliel accepted [their testimony.

It] also [happened once that] two witnesses came and said, “We saw the moon at its time [meaning, on the first of the two possible days], but it was not [to be] seen [afterwards] on the evening of its intercalation,” and Rabban Gamliel accepted [their testimony].

Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinus said, “They are false witnesses; how can they testify that a [certain] woman gave birth [on a certain day], and, on the next day that her ‘womb was between her teeth’ [and the fetus still inside]?” [Then] Rabbi Yehoshua said to him, “I perceive [the truth of] your words.”

(9) [Upon hearing this,] Rabban Gamliel sent [Rabbi Yehoshua] word, saving, “I decree upon you to come to me with your staff and your money on the day that comes out to be Yom Kippur, according to your calculation.” Rabbi Akiva went to [Rabbi Yehoshua], and found him grieving; he said to him, “I have with what to teach, that all that Rabban Gamliel has done is [bindingly] done, as it is stated (Leveticus 23:4), ‘These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim;’ whether at their [proper] time, or whether not at their [proper] time, I have no holy convocations except [for the ones proclaimed by the court.”

When Rabbi Yehoshua] came to Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinus, [the latter] said to him, “If we are to of the court of Rabban Gamliel, we must [also question the decisions] of all the courts which have stood, from the days of Moshe until [today]; as it is stated, (Exodus 24:2), ‘Moshe, Aharon, Nadav, Avihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up.’ Why were the names of the elders not specified? Rather [it was] to teach, that every three men that form ‏a court [to be responsible] over Israel, behold [that court] is to be [considered] like the court of Moshe.”

[After this], Rabbi Yehoshua took his staff and his money in his hand, and went to Yavneh to Rabban Gamliel on the day that came out to be Yom Kippur, according to his calculation. [At that point], Rabban Gamliel stood up, and kissed him on his head, [and] he said to him, “Come in peace, my teacher and my disciple! My teacher — in wisdom; and my disciple — in that you accepted my words.”

Mishneh Torah, Sanctification of the New Month 2:10
(10) A court which sanctifies the month, whether by accident, whether they were mistaken, whether they were forced, it is sanctified and everyone is obligated to fix the festivals on the day they sanctified. Even though one knows that they made a mistake, he is obligated to rely on them for the matter is only given over to them and the one who commanded to keep the festivals is the one who commanded to rely on them as it is said (Leviticus 23:2) “that you call them…”.

Etz Hayim commentary:

The Israelites find the presence of God in the sanctuary, which represents the permanent holiness of sacred space, and on the festivals, which represent the recurring holiness of sacred time.

Menachem Leibtag

The Mishkan is called an Ohel Moed – a tent of meeting – for in that tent Bnei Yisrael [symbolically] ‘meet’ God. In a similar manner, the Jewish holidays are called Moadim, for their primary purpose is that we set aside special times during the year to meet God. Clearly, in Parshat Emor, the Torah emphasizes the “bein adam la’makom” [between God and man] aspect of the holidays. Not only do we perform the mitzva of aliya l’regel, we also perform a wide range of special mitzvot that occupy our entire day during those holidays.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Holy time itself comes in two forms, as Emor makes clear. There is Shabbat and there are the festivals, and the two are announced separately. Shabbat was sanctified by G-d at the beginning of time for all time. The festivals are sanctified by the Jewish people to whom was given the authority and responsibility for fixing the calendar.

Hence the difference in the blessings we say. On Shabbat we praise G-d who “sanctifies Shabbat”. On the festivals we praise G-d who sanctifies “Israel and the holy times” – meaning, it is G-d who sanctifies Israel but Israel who sanctify the holy times, determining on which days the festivals fall.

Even within the festivals there is a dual cycle. One is formed by the three pilgrimage festivals: Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. These are days that represent the key historic moments at the dawn of Jewish time – the Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the forty years of desert wandering. They are festivals of history.

The other is formed by the number seven and the concept of holiness: the seventh day, Shabbat; the seventh month, Tishri, with its three festivals of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot; the seventh year, Shemitah; and the Jubilee marking the completion of seven seven-year cycles.

These times (with the exception of Sukkot that belongs to both cycles) have less to do with history than with what, for want of a better word, we might call metaphysics and jurisprudence, ultimate truths about the universe, the human condition, and the laws, both natural and moral, under which we live.