Questions and Concepts for Parsha Emor
(Leviticus 21:1-24:23)
  1. In this Parsha we find the command, "You should count for yourselves, beginning with the day after the day of rest when you bring the Omer waving offering. Seven weeks shall be (counted and) completed until the day after the seventh week - fifty days." (Leviticus 23:15-16) This period between Passover and Shavuot is called the "Counting of the Omer." This time is also associated with something called "The Fifty Gates of Understanding," which is tied to the concept of Teshuvah (repentance). Each day an "aspect" of God is studied. Just as the Israelites were heading toward Sinai/Torah/God during this time period, we can use this time to go toward Him through focused Torah study, Prayer and performing the commandments. The word for counting is "sefirah," and also means "luminance". On each of the days of the Counting of the Omer, we illuminate aspects of God, and therefore our own souls.
  2. Moses gave God’s message to Pharaoh on several occasions saying, "Let my people go so that they may serve Me." The Hebrew people indeed were allowed to "go" on Passover, but that was only half of what God said through Moses. The freedom they received lacked a clear purpose until they were given the Torah on Mount Sinai on Shavuot. How was their emancipation in itself only a means to an end? What role did the seven weeks from Passover to Shavuot play in preparing the people to receive the Torah?
  3. How are Passover and Shavuot different in terms of the former being "passive" on the part of the people (God miraculously did everything) and the latter being "active" in that the acceptance of the Torah established a covenant between two active participants?
  4. How does the transition from Passover to Shavuot reflect a path begun in emotional certainty, followed by intellectual doubt, and ending in intellectual clarity? How does this intellectual clarity (based in knowledge of Torah) enable a person to love God at a different level? How did this impact the Israelites as "one people," and how does this impact a group or community today?
  5. In Leviticus 23:22 we read, "And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corner of your field; and the gleanings of your harvest you shall not gather; for the poor and the stranger you shall leave them (the corners and the gleaning)." Why is the owner commanded to leave the corners and gleanings rather than being commanded to gather the produce and give it to the poor? How does this action help maintain the dignity of the recipient? What does it teach the giver?
  6. The priests were given a prominent role in the service to the Temple. With this role came many spiritual benefits that the common people did not receive. How were these privileges balanced by additional responsibility, accountability and a higher level of discipline? What does this teach us about working toward "spiritual greatness?"
  7. Consider this:
    The great command of Deuteronomy 6:5 tells us, "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your strength." We find that prayer corresponds with the heart, Torah Study with the soul/mind and performing the commandments (which includes doing good deeds), with our strength. These three ways of "loving God" are directly associated with the emotional, intellectual and physical aspects that make up every human being. As we are made "in the image of God," we can now understand why God prescribes these three things as the means to love Him (and thus "be conformed to His image"). Just as a three-legged stool is not stable when one or two legs are not in alignment, so too must we stay "in balance" by not ignoring any of these three areas.