Speak Low When You Speak Love
Posted on May 10, 2017
Emor, our Torah portion this week in Leviticus, begins as so many others do: God gives commands to the people of Israel. But the language this time is a little different. Usually, commandments begin with the Hebrew word “Dabeir, speak to the Children of Israel” or occasionally, “Tzav, command the Children of Israel.” This time the much softer word “Emor, say to the priests, the Children of Aaron” is used. Why?
There is a clue in the continuation of the first sentence of our portion, Our sedrah actually begins, “Say to the priests…” and then adds “and say to them…” As the commentators do not believe that the Torah is ever truly redundant, the Talmud (in Talmud Bavli, Yevamot 114a) teaches that there is a subtle message here: be cautious in how we adults speak to children. Emor means to speak softly and kindly. Good advice in instructing children at any time.
But why specifically is this word, emor used twice in regard to the priestly commands? The priests are not children.
Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Emor 5777
How To Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
Posted on May 4, 2017
This week we read the double Torah portion of Acharei Mot and Kedoshim, which includes the Holiness Code, a description of the ethical injunctions that lie at the heart of Jewish practice. The code itself includes mitzvot that require us to assist the poor, treat strangers, widows, and orphans with generosity and kindness, and insists on fair business practices. It obligates us to live moral lives.
It’s important that this remarkable section comes in the precise center of the middle book of the Torah, Vayikra, Leviticus. Kedoshim, the holiness code, is in the middle of the middle of the Torah—that is, it forms the heart of the heart of our most sacred text. And at that heart is the ethical injunction to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
This is an amazing, and perhaps utopian ideal—love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. If our society was actually rooted in such a conception how much better it would be for everyone!
In a world in which violent wars tear apart nations like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, in which desperate refugees from famine and evil are turned aside from many rich nations, when terrorist attacks can strike anywhere at any time, the idea of loving one’s neighbor as oneself may seem particularly visionary. How can we believe in such a concept in a world in which horrible human violence can destroy anything? Can this utopian ideal of true love for all possibly be made real?
Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Acharei Mot/Kedoshim 5777