Aliya-by-Aliya Parashat Emor 5760

Numbers in [square brackets] are the mitzva-count of the Sefer HaChinuch.

Kohen - 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 parsha 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 with stricter 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, incumbent upon 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 definition of 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 categories for 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 rulings and teachings of the Sanhedrin). But it is important for us to know the difference between D'o'rayta and D'Rabbanan laws so that we will not 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 Torah law 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. We may not "use" a kohen to serve us.

The daughter of a kohen who is married (or betrothed) and commits adultery, is liable to a more severe punishment because of the additional disgrace to the kehuna. (Both are death penalties but S'REIFA is more severe than CHENEK.)

The Kohen Gadol has even more restrictions because of his higher sanctity. 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 from the 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.

Levi - 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 even enter the Mikdash [277].

Mitzva Watch

A kohen "baal mum" (with disqualifying blemish) is barred from the area of the Mikdash from the (external) Altar and inward, but may enter the outer area of the courtyard of the Beit HaMikdash, and even may do some 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 immerses in 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 [281]. OTOH, 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. It is 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's home 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, intentionally, 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 the individual. 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.

Sh'lishi - 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 sprinkle its 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 personal use) an animal and its offspring on the same day [294].

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 "big three": 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 to also 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.

R'vi'i - 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 Kidush on Friday night when we say that Shabbat is in commemoration of the Exodus and is the first of the "days called Holy").

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 prohibition against doing "melacha"). Korban Musaf is to be brought on the 7 days of Pesach [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, but we understand it to mean "up to but not including".

OMER reminders

If, for any reason, you are no longer counting the Omer with a bracha, please know that it is still a mitzva for you to count. This means that you should not give up counting for the next few weeks and use as an excuse, "well I missed the 13th day and I'm not saying a bracha anyway". Counting the Omer is a special and precious mitzva. Do it!

Another point. Even if you have missed a night and day and are no longer counting with a bracha - if you have counted on all Wednesdays nights, (or Thursday days), i.e. Day 7, 14, and 21 (so far) to the Omer, then you can count with a bracha on the upcoming Wednesday nights. This is so because there is also a mitzva to count the weeks of the Omer.

Include in your KAVANA, the eager anticipation of the journey (both the actual & the spiritual) from Egypt to Sinai.

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.


Because of the set of mitzvot above, there is a debate among authorities as to whether the counting of the Omer is required as a Biblical mitzva or not, in our time. One point of view (the majority) is that in the absence of the Omer Offering and the Two Loaves, i.e. without what to count from and what to count towards, there is also no mitzva to count. However, the Sages declared that we should count even without a Beit HaMikdash, as a commemoration of the Temple, and for other reasons. The Rambam and the Chinuch consider the counting of the Omer to be an independent mitzva which applies today - D'o'rayta (with Torah authority). Note that the introductory paragraph to counting - HINENI MUCHAN... seems to imply that the counting is Torah law, even today. On the other hand, the concluding mini-prayer - HARACHAMAN, implies that it is a rabbinically ordained commemoration of the Beit HaMikdash. One way or the other, we are commanded to count the days of the Omer. We should also use the Omer period for self- improvement of personal traits and religious behavior, just as our ancestors underwent a period of spiritual growth in preparation of standing at Sinai to receive the Torah.

Chamishi- 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"). Eating or drinking (without a valid excuse) is punishable by excision (death and more from Heaven). Similarly, ALL "melacha" is forbidden [315] and 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 practice of 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.

Shishi- 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 Yom Tov [321,323] with korban musaf of its own [322].

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.

Sh'vi'i - 7th 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.

[SDT] 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 of the 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!

We are also to take fine flour and bake 12 loaves (matza rules) which are placed on the Shulchan in the Mikdash. This too was a permanent fixture in the Temple. The loaves were exchanged weekly, on Shabbat (having been baked on Friday, unless it was a Yom Tov - then the baking was on Erev Yom Tov). The kohanim on duty would share the loaves.

The Torah next tells us of the son of a Jewess and an Egyptian who "blessed" 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 the owner. Causing injury to a person requires compensation based on 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 required by 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 widow of a kohen. Apparently, by not allowing a kohen of the time to marry a widow of a non-kohen, the community would take care of its widows (from kohanim) in a better way.