Thoughts on Parashat Emor

This week’s Parasha, Emor, is found in Leviticus 21.1 through 24.23[i]. The most memorable section of this week’s Parasha, is chapter 23 which lists the moadim of the LORD that were and remain today Mikraei Kodesh or holy invitations for Bnei Yisrael to meet with HaShem (23.2). It is important to note that these festivals—Shabbat, Pesach, Unleavened Bread, the First Sheaf, Shavuot, Yom Teruah (the day of Blowing the Shofar – Rosh Hashanah), Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret (the eighth day of Sukkot), are in fact divine appointments given to Bnei Yisrael as a memorial throughout all their generations. Often in the believing world the emphasis is placed on the Feasts of the LORD and the fact that these Feasts are given to Bnei Israel is all but overlooked. These moadim, appointed times, have been determined by sections of the Christian world as being for them because they are designated as “Feasts of the LORD.”

While I will not attempt to deny the right of Christians to keep the appointments with the LORD, it must realized that the command that the LORD gave to Moshe was, “Speak to Bnei-Yisrael, and tell them: These are the appointed moadim of ADONAI, which you are to proclaim to be holy convocations—My moadim” (23.2). Hashem continues from that point to tell Bnei-Yisrael how they are supposed to keep His moadim. In other words while the “feasts,” the moadim, are in fact the LORD’s and there is a universal application to them, the way of observance of these moadim belongs to Bnei-Yisrael as a “statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings” (23.14, 21, 41). One of the complaints that some within the Jewish community have today with Christians, even those who profess to love and support Israel, is that they assume and assimilate the moadim as their own. I realize that this may raise a couple of hackles, but the reality needs to be acknowledged. Distinctions have been within all of creation including humankind from the very beginning, and as HaShem said, everything together with its distinctions “was very good” (Genesis 1.31). Hashem told Bnei Yisrael

“I am cutting a covenant. Before all your people I will do wonders, such as have not been done in all the earth, or in any nation. All the people you are among will see the work of Adonai—for what I am going to do with you will be awesome!” (Exodus 34.10)

Rashi comments on this verse, “in the presence of (before) all your people, I will make distinctions: Heb. נִפְלָאֹת אֶעֱשִֶׂה, an expression related to וְנִפְלִינוּ, “and [we] shall be distinguished” (Exod. 33:16), [meaning] that you shall be separated from all the pagan nations, that My Shechinah shall not rest upon them [these other nations].[ii]

I do not say this to indicate that non-Jews should not keep the moadim. What I would encourage, is that non-Jews find ways to make the moadim uniquely their own, incorporating their understanding and position in Messiah Yeshua. In the same vein, I would encourage our Jewish brethren to learn what it means to celebrate the moadim in a Judaic framework and then celebrate them as an act of active intercession with the rest of the Jewish community.

This week’s Haftarah is Ezekiel 44.15-31 which begins reiterating some of the holiness requirements that are to be observed by the kohanim similar to those mentioned in Leviticus 21 & 22. However, the prophet describes the work of the kohanim before the people,

“They will teach My people the difference between the holy and the common and explain to them the difference between the unclean and the clean. In a lawsuit, they will stand to judge, and judge in accordance with My ordinances. They will keep My laws and My statutes in all My moadim and keep My Shabbatot holy.” (Ezekiel 44.23-24)

The regulations and requirements are not just to set the kohanim apart, but to insure that all of Israel is holy and set apart to fulfill the LORD’s desire for Bnei Yisrael as stated at Mt. Saini, “…you will be to Me a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation” (Exodus 19.6) which in fact, remains His goal to this very day. Speaking to believing Jews and non-Jews, Simon proclaimed,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2.9)

Within our distinctions, “[t]here is one body and one Ruach, just as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one immersion; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4.4-6). But this oneness does not remove our natural distinctions. There are still men and women, employed and employers, as well as Jews and non-Jews – and all together working as one, “we are very good.”

Shabbat Shalom

[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

[ii] Last accessed 5.10.17.

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Michael Hillel with his wife Vered and their three children, made aliyah from the US in late 80s, and in biblical fashion has, for the last 27 years, done whatever his hands have found to do. In 2013 Michael began working on a MA degree in Messianic Jewish Theology. Using the tools learned from his studies, he has been writing teaching and devotional materials from both the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings. Since Messianic Judaism shares a communal context with both Judaism and Christianity, he incorporates material from both traditionally Jewish and Christian perspectives.