Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

My Photo
Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Parshat Emor

Say it with Love

All parshiyot get their name get their name by a major word that appears at the beginning of the parsha.

Our parsha, Emor, is no exception.

"The Lord said (ויאמר) to Moshe: Say (אמור) to the kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and say (ואמרת to them (VaYikra 21:1).

What is interesting an exceptional however, is that the root "אמר" – "say", appears three times in the opening passuk. Even more exceptional is the change from the regular "וידבר" – "He spoke" to "ויאמר" – He said, which appears ten times in the parsha.

Is there any significance to the use of "אמר" and how does it differ to "דבר"?

Rashi notes in Shemot 19:3, that the word: "אמר" is a "softer" form of instruction. Indeed, we often see the root used in non-halachik instructions and at times when God wants to establish a relationship, covenant with people, e.g. with Noach (Bereshit 9:5), Avraham (ibid 17:9) and Israel (Shemot19:3).

However, the word: "דבר" is a "harder" form of the expression, as Yoseph's brothers claimed: "the lord of the land spoke harshly with us".

When it comes to giving commandments, the Torah generall uses: "דבר" the people are being given instructions and have no choice but to accept the laws. However, a Moshe explained to Aharon, the Kohanim are closer to God (VaYikra 10:3) and "the bread of their God, they do offer" (ibid 21:6).

The Kohanim are being made to asked to make extra sacrifices, large burdens, that are not required of the regular Israelite. Our parsha begins with a prohibition for a Kohen to bury and even mourn his family. The chapter continues with other restrictions as to who he can marry. Furthermore these restrictions are so serious, that breaking them could lead to his death.

It is possible that because of the close relationship that God has with the Kohanim and because of these extra restrictions, He uses a softer tone, to express to them His desire to be close to them and show compassion to their sacrifice.

Last years' Sedra Short on Parshat Emor, entitled: "The Tale of the Blasphemer" appears at

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home