This week’s Torah portion in Israel is Emor, Leviticus 21:1 to 24:23. The Haftarah reading is Ezekiel 44:15-31 and the reading from the Apostolic Writings is Luke 14:25-33. The first two chapters of Emor give credence to the alternate name of Leviticus, that being Torat Kohanim or the Law of the Priests, as they deal with various restrictions and limitations imposed upon the men who would stand before HaShem representing the people of Israel. Then in chapter 23, HaShem commands Moshe to speak to Israel, letting them know of the fixed times, the Divine appointments that He set throughout the year to meet specifically with Israel – beginning with the most frequent appointment, the weekly Shabbat. So important is it that Israel pays attention to HaShem’s Day-Timer that He basically repeats Himself twice at the beginning of the chapter.
Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: The LORD’s appointed [holy days] that you shall designate as holy occasions. These are My appointed [holy days]: (23:2)
These are the LORD’s appointed [holy days], holy occasions, which you shall designate in their appointed time: (23:4)
It would appear that HaShem wanted to get and hold Israel’s attention, ensuring that not only would He dwell in their midst (Exodus 29:45), but that they would periodically meet with Him at times of His own choosing.
Some have noticed, that I normally address the God of Israel as HaShem. The simplest reason for this is that back at Mt. Sinai, Israel was told You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain, for the LORD will not hold blameless anyone who takes His name in vain, (Exodus 20:7). In this week’s parasha, this commandment is further elaborated upon.
And the son of the Israelite woman (and an Egyptian father) pronounced the [Divine] Name and cursed. So they brought him to Moses. His mother’s name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. They placed him in the guardhouse, [until his sentence would] be specified to them by the word of the LORD. (24:11-12)
The commandment in Exodus 20 had obviously been broken, but the people did not know what to do about it. The judgment was, as it would be for the desecration of the Sabbath in Numbers 15:32-36, death by stoning through the hands of those who had witnessed the infraction. The narrative goes on to apply this for all generations
And one who blasphemously pronounces the Name of the LORD, shall be put to death; the entire community shall stone him; convert and resident alike if he pronounces the [Divine] Name, he shall be put to death. (24:16)
This is why, to this day, many, if not most Jews, do not speak the Name of HaShem that was revealed to Moshe at the burning bush. Or why many hyphenate any personal reference to HaShem, so as not to inadvertently transgress this commandment.
Psalm 19, which is recited at least three times a day at the end of the Amidah, addresses the importance of our words,
יִהְיוּ לְרָצוֹן אִמְרֵי-פִי, וְהֶגְיוֹן לִבִּי לְפָנֶיךָ:ה׳, צוּרִי וְגֹאֲלִי
May the sayings of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be acceptable before You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
We are responsible for every word that comes out of our mouth – whether in anger or in jest, whether planned or in the heat of the moment. Yeshua affirmed this truth when He reminded the crowd, “Out of the good treasure of his heart the good man brings forth good, and out of evil the evil man brings forth evil. For from the overflow of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45), a lesson that Ananias and Saphira apparently forgot (Acts 5:1-11).
The Haftarah continues with the various restrictions and limitations required of the priests, this time specifically of the priestly line of Zadok who stood firm with HaShem while the people of Israel went astray. There are a number of important aspects that HaShem charged this priestly line to accomplish
And My people shall they teach the difference between holy and profane and cause them to discern between the impure and the pure. And in dispute they shall stand in judgment, according to My ordinances shall they decide it; and My teachings and My statutes shall they keep in all My appointed times, and My Sabbaths they shall sanctify. (Ezekiel 44:23-24)
The priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok were responsible to ensure that the people learned how to be holy as He, ADONAI is holy, and to guide them from their wandering and straying back to their LORD and King. As believers in Yeshua, we have been placed in that same role to assist in leading and guiding others – those whom He brings into our spheres of influence. Peter, in his letter to the sojourners of the Diaspora proclaimed,
…you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (I Peter 2:9)
However, we cannot teach what we do not know, so we have the responsibility to continue learning and obeying so that we can be the conduit of the HaShem’s grace and mercy to a people desperately in need of His provision.