BOOK OF LEVITICUS
VaYikra (Leviticus)The Book of Leviticus, or Levites, is concerned with the ritual laws and the sacrificial cult. It describes the details of offering sacrifices. The book's emphasis is on purity and holiness. Even though the sacrificial system was abandoned with the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 CE, Leviticus continued to be an important influence on Jewish life: nearly half of the 613 commandments are found in it and much of the Talmud is based on it. In Europe, it was traditional for children beginning their Jewish learning to start with the book of Va-Yikra. There are twenty-seven chapters, divided into ten parashiyot. The parashiyot of Va-Yikra are: VaYikra, Tzav, Shemini, Tazria, Metzora, Achare Mot, Kedoshim, Emor, Behar, and Bechukotai.
Emor: Judaism is an evolving, historical conversation between humanity and the Divine.
This week's parasha begins with specific restrictions directed at the Cohanim (priests). These restrictions pertain to marriages, sexuality and mourning. Cohanim must not come into contact with the dead, except for immediate blood relatives. They are only allowed to marry certain partners, and some kinds of physical abnormalities disqualify them from service. The food that the Cohanim eat may not be shared with 'regular' Israelites. And, just as the sacrificial offerings must be perfect, so too the priests themselves must be physically unblemished. In chapter 23, all of the 'set times' or holy days are listed and described, beginning with Shabbat and continuing with Pesach, the Omer period, Shavuot, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. The portion ends with a review of the laws pertaining to the menorah, the bread of the altar, and the punishment for murder, maiming and blasphemy.
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These summaries and introductions are used with permission of Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning in Toronto, Canada. Kolel is a dynamic, pluralistic, egalitarian institution where men and women engage in Jewish learning which values both traditional and liberal interpretations. Kolel is a gateway into a richer expression of Judaism for each individual, wherever their journey of Jewish discovery may take them.