Saturday, May 14, 2005



Torah: Lv 21-24:23

Haftorah: Ez 44:15-31 JPS


1. Lv 21:1-15
2. Lv 21:16-22:16
3. Lv 22:17-33
4. Lv 23:1-22
5. Lv 23:23-32
6. Lv 23:33-44
7. Lv 24:1-23


Emor defines restrictions for the Kohanim regarding physical attributes, marriage and death. Elevated to serve the nation in holiness, they were separated from the general society. Emor includes the calendar of the major festivals: Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. The mitzvah of pe'ah, corners of the field, is repeated from Kedoshim. Injunctions concerning restitution, similar to those in Mishpatim, appear at the end.


"When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them fo the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God." Lv 23:22 JPS

"You shall have one standard for stranger and citizen alike: for I am the Lord your God." Lv 24:27 JPS

O Lord, how manifold thy works:
in wisdom thou hast made them all; the earth is full of thy riches.
So is the great and wide sea also:
wherein are things creeping innumerable,
both small and great beasts.
There go the ships, and there is that leviathan:
whom thou hast made to take his pastime therein.
These wait all upon thee: that thou mayest give them meat in due season.
When thou givest it them they gather it:
and when thou openest thy hand they are filled with good.

Ps 104: 24-28
Psalter, Book of Common Prayer


Kedoshim introduces the mitzvot of pe'ah, repeated in Emor. In Kedoshim, it is sandwiched between a partial repetition of the Decalogue after an injunction regarding the consumption of sacrifices and before social laws: thou shalt not steal, swear falsely, defraud your neighbor, commit robbery...

Curious? Indeed. Look again:

19:2 you shall be holy as I am holy.
3. revere mother and father, keep sabbaths...
4. Do not turn to idols or make molten gods...
5. sacrifice of well-being to the Lord... (must be eaten in two days and remainder is destroyed on third)
9-10 pe'ah
11. you shall not steal, deal deceitfully
12. swear falsely, profane God's name

continuing with social laws governing interpersonal relations

Verses 9-10, Corners of the Field, acts as a pivot between the individual and society. Personal behavior influences the whole society, just as parental behavior inflences how children perceive God. The experience or understanding of God is not an other-worldly, transcendental thing, but a practical experience we discover through our parents, created in the image of God.

Sacrificing was not a purely personal thing, but a community engagement, including the slaughter of a ritually pure animal and its consumption. How quickly can you eat a side of beef?

Although we wish to think that our sins are ours alone, they are not. If we steal, the theft affects the victim, possibly extending well beyond. Consider Enron and the massive loss of jobs, health insurance and pensions. If payment is not timely, workers suffer greatly through the loss of food, shelter or other immeasurable financial or psychological ramifications. Consider today's complicated credit system: Guy Mann misses a deadline, his credit is suspended— Nightmares of debt collecting wolves and foxes start gnawing at his guts. Perhaps the amount is negligible to the employer, but it represents labor hours and hardship to the employee. Wal-Mart exploits unprotected laborers for the supplier as well as workers under its roof. Moreover, exploitation spills over into broader society. Because employees cannot earn sufficient income to support their families, they must work additional jobs or hours or find financial support through other means—including government programs. Faced with insufficient income for healthy living, their lives become a cycle of dehumanizing hardship, subsisting on the charity and benevolence of others. Such treatment effaces the image of God, destroying the spark of divine life within. The corporation reaps wealth, but sows misery and spiritual poverty.

The mitzvot of pe'ah interrupts the cycle of merciless exploitation. Pe'ah cannot reverse injuries imposed on the poor, but it provides them with a way of helping themselves. Pe'ah can be applied as conceptual mitzvot to any situation where resources of an individual, business or corporation are set aside: a medical clinic opening for ten hours a week; unwanted or unsold foodstuffs donated from a store; mechanic teaching the basic car maintenance.

Holiness is not esoteric, but the practical expression of God's love for humanity.

In Emor, pe'ah follows the description of the Festival of First Fruits/ Shavuot, preceding the Day of Atonement.

OOooppps—got that?

Pe'ah is sandwiched between the Festival of Thanksgiving of the Haves and the Day of Atonement. Who celebrates Shavuot? Landowners reaping their first harvest of wheat. More precisely, landowners, having sufficient means to partake in the holidays in Jerusalem. If you have no harvest, you have nothing to bring to the Temple. There is a definite split between the Haves and Have-nots. What is Yom Kippur all about? Confessing and repenting the sins made against man and God. However, one cannot confess sins before God unless restitution is first made. In the weeks leading to Yom Kippur, there is time to right the wrongs and heal the injuries of interpersonal relationships. This is the time to repay the debt: hurry across the street and compensate the unpaid worker and clear the book of old wrongs.

Moreover, sacrifices and gifts for the Temple, gained through unethical means, are inacceptable to God. A corporation, contributing to United Way or AIDS relief, cannot claim to be doing God's work, healing the world, while simultaneously exploiting the workforce for cheap goods and cheap labor. This is not sanctioned, nor do such "acts of charity" sanctify God's name, but rather blot it. Who believes in a loving God if life is a continual struggle for daily bread and unrelenting misery of economic hardship? Such a company, institution or individual desecrates God's name.

More ominously, the placement reveals a warning: how we treat and exploit those in need is how we ourselves shalll be judged.

Capitalism works for a very limited time for someone, never considering that he stands in the antechamber of the World-to-Be. Capitalism is man's way of exploiting everything possible and driving his gas-guzzling SUV down the freeway while plastering a bumpersticker, SAVE THE WHALES, on his rear windshield without considering the consequences. In the Pacific, an island of plastic sacks over ten miles long exists --a death trap to sea-life. Moreover, plastic like sins, only multiplies and never disappears. Presently, there is more plastic than plankton in the sea.

Pe'ah is the commitment to the neighbor: the holy obligation of the Haves to provide for the Have-nots. Pe'ah is the portion of ground on which we stand, confronted with our own lives and stewardship of the things of this world.


"When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of the harvest. You shall not pick your vineyards bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard, you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger." Lv 19: 9-10 JPS

"Love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord." Lv 19:19 JPS


Kolel: Emor 5760
corners of the field

Rav Kook, Kedoshim: "Peah" and Lessons in Tzedakah
a concise explanation of Peah and its significance as a model of charitable acts

Rav Kook, Kedoshim: Love your Neighbor

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Emor: The Pursuit of Happiness

Steve Greenberg, Behar: Fairness in the Marketplace

Charity from The Path of the Righteous Gentile translated by Chaim Clorfene and Yakov Rogalsky

Rabbi Yaakov Menken, Lifeline-Terumah 5763

Rabbi Avraham Fischer, Terumah: On the Way to Sanctity

If your hands are stained by dishonesty, your prayers will be polluted and impure, and an offence to Him to whom you direct them. Do not pray at all before you have your hands purified from every dishonest act.--Exodus Rabba 22

Erasmus on wealth:

"What wealth brings is a host of evils...St Jerome says that a rich man must be either dishonest himself or the heir to a dishonest man. You can neither keep nor get get riches without sin. Wealth robs one of a sense of value. St Paul tells us that avarice and idolatry are the same things..."

from "The Handbook of the Militant Christian" in
The Essential Erasmus edited by John Dolan, Mentor: New American Library 1964 p87

(you can tell Erasmus had no easy time of it, but never ceased to be outspoken against Church or State. Highly recommended read and good weapon of defense. Withering criticism of hypocrisy within Christianity.)


II-7 Terumah An offering Making a Sanctuary From Scratch 10 February 2005

II-7 Terumah Making a Sanctuary From Scratch 10 February 2005

6 May III-7 Kedoshim Love Your Neighbor

6 May III-7 Kedoshim Love Your Neighbor

5 May III-7 Kedoshim Be Ye Holy

5 May III-7 Kedoshim Be Ye Holy

21 III-6 AchareiMot Blame it on the Scapegoat

21 III-6 AchareiMot Blame it on the Scapegoat


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