This week’s parsha, Emor, is named for the seventh Hebrew word in the opening sentence – emor means “say”. The sentence begins, “God said to Moses: Say to the Priests …”
The word “say” usually means “open your mouth and speak words”. But the real meaning of “say” in this portion is different.
Most of the portion deals with holy things:
- the Kohanim (Priests) and the rules of what women they are permitted to marry, what physical disabilities keep them from performing the holy services and what members of their households can eat the food that the Children of Israel set aside for the Kohanim;
- the blemishes on an animal that disqualify it from being offered in the Mishkan(Tabernacle);
- sanctifying God’s name;
- observing Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashonah, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and counting the Omer;
- the Menorah and the Showbread in the Mishkan; and
- disgracing God’s name.
The last point is found at Leviticus 22:32: “You shall not desecrate My holy Name, rather I should be sanctified among the Children of Israel.”
The rabbis explain that we desecrate or sanctify God’s Name by the way we treat other people. We assume that people know we are Jewish, and therefore we believe in God. If you walk by your neighbor Mrs. Jones and help her unload the groceries from her car, she’ll mention to your parents that you were Helpful, Courteous and Kind. Mom and Dad will be so proud. If you let your dog tear up Mrs. Jones’s flower bed, when your parents find out they will say “Mrs. Jones must think we are terrible parents who did not teach you right from wrong.”
In the same way, when Jews treat other people well, as we are taught in the Torah, we sanctify the Name of the Giver of the Torah. The way we act is what we “say” about what God has taught us. Actions speak louder than words.
Shabbat shalom and happy Lag B’Omer (next Wednesday night),