PARASHAH: Emor
(Speak)
Rabbi Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy
Shabbat, May 13, 2000

Vayikra (Leviticus) 21:1-24:23
(Note: all quotations are taken from the Complete Jewish Bible, translation by David H. Stern,
Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., unless otherwise noted)
 
Let’s begin with the opening blessing for the Torah: 

Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-‘Olam,

asher bachar banu m’kol ha-amim,

v’natan lanu eht Torah-to.

Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.

Ameyn."

(Blessed are you, O’ LORD, our God, King of the Universe,

you have selected us from among all the peoples,

and has given us your Torah.

Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Ameyn.)

    Welcome to Parashat Emor. Last week we focused on holiness. This week the first two chapters of Emor focus on the cohanim (priests) and their separation unto holiness. As priests, they needed to take extra special care to demonstrate the holiness of HaShem in the sight of the people. As we shall find out in a future parashah, Moshe’s failure to demonstrate this holiness–as a leader among them, warrants his inability to enter into the Land of Promise. From this example alone, we should be able to catch a glimpse of the seriousness of representing God on a priestly/leadership level.

    Chapters 21 and 22 contain various positive mitzvot as well as prohibition commands. These commandments would not be any different from some of the others that we have encountered in the book of Leviticus except that they are specifically addressed to the priestly line. Therefore, they become specific to them and should be understood in that sense. We do damage to the text when we remove the context of certain commands, which identify specific recipients. The Torah is indeed for all to act upon, but the delegation of authority helps us to ascertain which commands apply to whom. Consequently, when we arbitrarily apply a command to someone for whom it was not intended, we "destroy" the clear meaning of the text and we misunderstand its application. Our haftarah portion of Yechezk’el 44:15-31 also echoes this same sentiment. The student should refer specifically to 44:23, 28.

    The thrust of the priestly instructions of chapters 21 and 22 is summed up in the final verses of chapter 22:

"You are to keep my mitzvot and obey them; I am ADONAI. You are not to profane my holy name; on the contrary, I am to be regarded as holy among the people of Isra'el; I am ADONAI, who makes you holy, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am ADONAI."

    These words are extremely powerful! This is the calling of the priests of the LORD. This is the challenge of the leaders of the community. In one sweeping statement, HaShem defines their divine purpose and calling, while simultaneously giving us an unmistakable definition of his identity and authoritative election process: the Children of Isra'el can proudly proclaim "WE are HOLY because HE makes US HOLY!" This statement extends to us today because we have become righteous heirs through the adoption process of our Great High Priest, Yeshua HaMashiach!

    Moreover, since this statement of HaShem’s contains three references to his name (similar to the "Shema"), it has been recognized as one of those mysterious passages which gives us a glimpse of the concept of the Divine Unity of the Holy One. The Shema states that "Y-H-V-H, Eloheynu, Y-H-V-H is echad!" Here we see three instances where HaShem is revealed among his children, hinting at the Unified nature of his Three Persons; similarly, "I am Y-H-V-H… your Elohim… I am Y-H-V-H." is stated in our present verse. Although verses 31-33 summarizes the primary admonition of the priests themselves, the Talmud comments on these verses in this way (recognizing that indeed the whole Nation was chosen as a "Kingdom of Priests" it states): "A Jew’s primary privilege and responsibility is to sanctify God’s Name through his behavior, so that people say of him, "Fortunate are the parents and teachers who raised such a person." Conversely, there is no greater degradation for a Jew than to act in a way that will make people say the opposite (Yoma 86a).

    What an awesome responsibility the priests carried among the people; what an equally important responsibility that the Jewish Nation carries among the various peoples of the world.

    To be sure, we believers carry this responsibility as well.

May the Holy One grant us mercy as we daily sanctify the name of the Anointed One, Yeshua ben-Elohim, among the nations!

    The most easily recognized feature of our parashah this week is the listing of the Mikra’ey Kodesh, that is, the Holy Convocations. Since we carry studies on each individual Festival at MessianicArt.com, I will provide highlights from each one for us here in Parashat Emor.

    As we shall see, the feasts were meant to serve as daily, monthly, and yearly reminders, of our identity and purpose, in the historical plans that HaShem has for all of mankind. The Torah teaches us that they are the "rehearsals of messianic redemption". Properly understood, they tell the story of the birth and life, atoning work, death, resurrection, promise of power, assurance of dedication, promise of return, and promise of eternal abiding, of the Messiah Yeshua, in relation to all genuine followers. Surely it is in the mind of the Holy One, for his children to have an intimate knowledge of these aspects of his Son’s ministry! Yet, for nearly two thousand years, our appreciation of these feasts has remained marginal at best and non-existent at worst.

    The reader needs to familiarize himself with our main body of text here in Leviticus chapter 23. Below is are brief themes and biblical and spiritual concepts of the seven mikra’ey kodesh (not counting the Sabbath) which the Torah has for us:

Pesach (Passover) — redemption, salvation, deliverance, freedom

    Shabbat notwithstanding, Pesach is the beginning of the biblical feasts of Leviticus chapter 23. The actual feast known as Pesach spans three separate, yet inextricably-linked feasts: Pesach, observed on the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nissan, HaMatzah (Unleavened Bread), observed on the fifteenth day of Nissan, and Bikkurim (Firstfruits), observed the day after the Sabbath of HaMatzah.

    However great and universally popular the Exodus may be, Jeremiah predicts that the re-gathering of Israel would transcend it. And 3000 years after, we in our generation have witnessed the profound results, which would define the course that Israel would tread in the aftermath of two devastating World Wars.

    The time has now come for "Israel" (the scattered Ten Tribes, who are starting to realize and discover their true Identity, as the "Lost Ten Tribes of Isra'el", in what is called the Hebraic Roots Restoration Movement across the earth) to testify to this modern-day miracle, so that many voices may be added to those who, in fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy, call out in wonder and admiration to "YAHVEH Who lives and led back and brought home the descendants of the House of Israel from all the countries to which He had dispersed them, to live on their own soil." As the realization spreads, worldwide exhilarating joy is expanding, as more and more voices join the extolling call.

Chag HaMatzah (Unleavened Bread) — sanctification

    The festival known as HaMatzah follows immediately after Pesach. The fourteenth of the Jewish month Nisan is Pesach; the fifteenth is HaMatzah. As the Torah so clearly instructed the offspring of Avraham, all bread eaten during this observance was to be matzah.

"Get rid of the old hametz [leaven], so that you can be a new batch of dough, because in reality you are unleavened bread. For our Pesach lamb, the Messiah, has been sacrificed. So let us celebrate the Seder not with leftover hametz, the hametz of wickedness and evil, but with the matzah of purity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)

    Here we learn that hametz (leaven) was interpreted by Rabbi Sha’ul as a type of sin. The leaven of sin, like its culinary counterpart, has the capacity to work its way into the complete dough of our lives, expanding and rising, until the whole "loaf" is permeated with sin. This is why, with the guidance of the Ruach within us, we need to remove all of the leaven from ourselves. Will this result in a sinless life? No. Yet, our efforts will surely be rewarded in the form of a renewed and strengthened walk with our LORD. In other words, as long as we have these earthen vessels, our desire should be to flee from sin, until we finally reach that blessed time when our LORD Yeshua will return in Power and Glory to cleanse us completely!

Bikkurim (Counting the Omer) — sanctification, deliverance

    The event know as "Bikkurim" (say "Bee-koo-reem"), stems from the Hebrew word "bakkar" which describes the action which first breaks the matrix of the female womb. In other words, this root word always refers to the "firstling". This event is also known by the title "Lag b’Omer", that is "Counting the Omer", based on its furthering instructions given in verse 15. The Hebrew word for "sheaf" is "omer". This counting leads to the well-known event called "Shavu’ot", or Pentecost, as it is more widely recognized. A biblical principal worth remembering, which carries significant truth down to this very day is that the "first" always belongs to HaShem.

    In perfect fulfillment of biblical prophecy Yeshua was raised from death to life on that morning following the Sabbath! Surely he is the "firstfruits from the dead"! He is the first person to be raised unto a resurrection of incorruptible flesh! Although our flesh still houses sin, his flesh was sinless before his death on the execution stake; his resurrection demonstrates for us genuine believers what a resurrected body will be made like–raised to life everlasting! Why then do we continue to confuse this wonderful truth with our man-made traditions? Isn't it time we start demonstrating his holiness by the very days that we gather together on?

    The "first" always belongs to HaShem.

Shavu’ot (Pentecost) — the giving of the Torah, the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh, firstfruits, ecclesiology

    The Hebrew word for week is "shavuah", its plural is "shavu’ot". Both of these words come from the root word for "seven". This is where the festival gets its name. Shavu'ot is the annual counting of seven weeks of days, hence forty-nine days. This yearly count is listed in the Torah as a mitzvah, a command from HaShem himself. The name "Pentecost", from the Greek word "pentekoste", means "fifty days", as the Torah instructed Am Yisra’el (the people of Isra’el) to add the final day after the seventh week.

    Historically, the rabbis figure the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai to have occurred on this day, that is, in the third month after Am Yisra’el came out of Egypt. Actually, the exact date of this familiar encounter, recorded for us in the book of Exodus, is not explicitly stated; the chronological evidence is convincing, however.

    We know that it was the Torah, the very same teachings that we have today, that was inscribed upon the stone tablets that day. We also know that this same Torah is to be inscribed upon our hearts as we serve Yeshua, to the glory of HaShem the Father. How do we get the Torah into our hearts? The Spirit of the Holy One makes real the fact that Yeshua the Messiah, in obedience to the Father, emptied himself on our behalf, and became as sin, that we might, consequently, become the righteousness of the Father! In other words, because the Ruach HaKodesh makes the effectual, sacrificial death of Messiah, a living reality in our hearts, we are now free to walk in newness of life! This act of faith on our part brings about the inscription of the Torah upon our hearts! To be sure, the Torah says that HaShem himself does this (Ezekiel 36:26, 27; Jeremiah 31:33)! We are free to pursue the Torah of Truth without condemnation (Romans 8:1)! This new identity in Messiah is the righteous relationship that our Heavenly Abba intended for us all along. The details surrounding that eventful Shavu'ot in Yerushalayim now serve to remind us of this present reality.

Rosh HaShanah/Yom T’ruah (New Year/Feast of Trumpets) — eschatology

    With the coming of the fall part of the year, comes the final series of festivals, as detailed in our theme passage (verses1, 2) of Leviticus 23. In rabbinical thinking, these last festivals are known as the "season of t’shuvah", the season of our repentance. The biblical name for this festival is called Yom T’ruah, meaning "Day of the Awakening (trumpet) Blast". Your calendar probably calls this day "Rosh HaShanah". This name literally means "Head of the Year", from the Hebrew words "rosh", meaning "head" or "beginning", and "shanah" meaning "year". It gained this title when the rabbis created the civil calendar to be used by all Jews living in the Land of Isra’el. It eventually became the standard for all Jews everywhere. A religious calendar was already in effect when this change took place. Rather than replace the religious one, the rabbis simple adjusted it, making the beginning of the months Tishrei, instead of Nissan.

    Yom T’ruah is a call to return to holiness! Our God is in the business of calling men back to himself. In order to get man to realize his fallen spiritual state he sometimes needs reminders. The Torah says of itself, in Psalm 19:11, that by it’s words "your servant is warned". Warned of what? Of the impending doom that is to befall all of the evil of mankind and the deeds that he does. Within this warning is a message of mercy; the time to repent is now! Turn to HaShem with your whole heart, cry out for his mercy, beg for his forgiveness in pardoning your sin, and receive his atonement!

Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) — atonement, forgiveness, blood sacrifices

    With the arrival of Yom Kippur, comes another one of the central aspects of our relationship with our Holy God: atonement. Why is atonement so important to HaShem? Apparently, ever since the incident in the Garden of Eden, mankind has carried within himself the sinful propensity of that first act of disobedience, and consequently, the sinful results as well. Our sin nature is in direct conflict with the holy nature of HaShem. As a result, we cannot fathom approaching him without first making some sort of restitution, which would satisfy HaShem’s righteous requirement. His nature demands that there be atonement for sin, for indeed, sin cannot exist in his sight.

    Yeshua has now become the means by which all men must satisfy the righteous atoning requirement of the Holy One! This type of atonement is not just a covering! Our sins are not merely covered for the year, only to be remembered the next year at Yom Kippur. This type of atonement is a permanent one! What does the Torah say?

"No longer will any of them teach his fellow community member or his brother, ‘Know ADONAI’; for all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest; because I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah 31:34)

Succoth (Feast of Tabernacles/Ingathering) — worship, praise, redemption, eschatology, thanksgiving, celebrating the harvest of righteousness in our lives

    "Just what exactly is a "sukkot" (say "soo-coat") anyway?" Well, this is the plural form of the Hebrew word translated as "booth", "tabernacle", "tent", or "hut". Its singular is "sukkah", and, based on the command to dwell in temporary booths for seven days (verses 42, 43), we can see why the Feast is called by this name.

    Here in Leviticus chapter 23, HaShem instructs the people to build sukkot in memory of the temporary dwelling places that they had while wandering in the desert. But the most important temporary dwelling place during that period was still the Tabernacle. To be sure, according to past history, once the people built a Tabernacle for HaShem, he indeed did come to dwell among his people" as he said he would, and they did behold his Sh’khinah (manifest Glory of God)! But Yochanan gave us an even deeper understanding of this "Tabernacle":

"The Word became a human being and lived with us, and we saw his Sh’khinah…." (1:14)

    This immediately brings to memory the indwelling, manifested-Glory present in the earthly Tabernacle. But the Tabernacle had long since been replaced by a more permanent Temple structure. Moreover, the Sh’khinah of HaShem is reported to have been displayed fully in the person of Yeshua (Colossians 2:9)!

The Feast of Sukkot is a holy convocation that speaks of corporate involvement. Is there still some future "dwelling with men" that HaShem is waiting for? What does our prophetic Scripture (from Jeremiah) for this point say? "I will be their God, and they will be my people" (31:33). So God is consistent in his intentions. Where is his sukkah today? Romans 11:25, 26 begins to hint of a future time when all Isra’el shall know the salvation of their God, once and for all ("Baruch HaShem! May that day come soon!"). Tied up within that future redemption, is the concept that HaShem started with way back in the days of the TaNaKH: "I [will] dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8, KJV, emphasis mine). From the prophetic book of Revelation, we learn that there will be a day, when the final plan of HaShem will be fully realized among men. Chapter twenty-one, verse 3, 

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them"" (NIV, emphasis mine).

    This overview of the Feasts hopefully provided some of the biblical, historical framework to which we can apply the messianic fulfillment of each feast. Ultimately, it is my intent to invite each one to consider taking HaShem up on his offer, of divine permission, to participate each year in his feasts. "Shomer mitzvot" (Torah observance) is a wonderful way to "walk out" the reality of the newness of life, found only in union with Yeshua HaMashiach! A Godly desire to be submissive to the Torah, as Jewish and non-Jewish believers, is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s activity of "putting the Torah of HaShem within you, and writing it on your heart" (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10, paraphrase mine).

I will close with the last verse of chapter 23:

"Vay’dabeyr Moshe eht-moadey Y-H-V-H el-B’ney Yisra’el."

(Thus Moshe announced to the people of Isra'el the designated times of ADONAI.)

The closing blessing is as follows:

Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-‘Olam,

asher natan lanu Toraht-emet,

v’chay-yeh o’lam nata-b’tochenu.

Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.

Ameyn."

(Blessed are you O’ LORD, our God, King of the Universe,

you have given us your Torah of truth,

and has planted everlasting life within our midst.

Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Ameyn.)

"Shabbat Shalom!"

Rabbi Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy