The parsha details restrictions which the Priests were subject to, and restrictions over which sacrifices could be brought. It then describes the commandments of Shabbat, the counting of the Omer, and all of the festivals of the year. The eternal flame and showbread of the Mishkan are described, and the parsha concludes with the laws of blasphemy.
Using Your Loaf - Raphael Zarum
Raphael Zarum is Chief Executive and Senior of the London School of Jewish Studies. He also sneaked into the JC’s Power 100.
Over Pesach I noticed an intriguing parallel in a verse from this week's sidra. If you ‘buy' it, you might experience a common bracha (blessing) in a new way.
At the end of chapter 22, God says that He is the One, "who took you out of the Land of Egypt to be for you as God, I am the Lord" (Leviticus 22:33). The refrain of God as our Deliverer occurs many times in Torah. Everyday we recall Yeztiyat Mitzraim (Exodus from Egypt) and in the Friday night Kiddush too.
What is intriguing here though is the exact language employed. I think the key to Jewish learning is the close and repetitive reading of our traditional texts and the nuances and resonances they evoke.
The exact words begin with the phrase: "HaMotzi etchem m'Eretz Mitzrayim..." This is very reminiscent of the phrase, "HaMotzi lechem min Ha'aretz", which is the end of the bracha over bread, "who brings out bread from the land".
Let's look at the parallels. In Emor ‘we' (etchem) are brought out, while in the bracha, its ‘bread' (lechem). And in Emor the bringing up is from the ‘Land of Egypt' (eretz Mitzrayim), while in the bracha its from ‘the Land' (Ha'aretz) in general.
Hasidism and the writings of Rav Kook (1865-1935, rabbi and philosopher) encourage us to actually (or playfully) interchange parallel or reminiscent texts and then to reinterpret them creatively.
So we could see the bracha over bread as saying of the bread, "who brought you out of the Land of Egypt." This works beautifully as that's exactly what we did. We took out last minute matzah bread. So every time we make HaMotzi, we're reliving the intense experience of leaving slavery and starting a new life. As we chew are challahs, munch our baigels, or crunch our toast we are reflecting on our release into a new world. No wonder eating bread makes a meal worth benching over.
Then again, we could see the bracha over bread as saying of the Children of Israel (and so us too), "who brought you out of the Land". This is a bit more mystifying. We are thinking of the bread and expressing how God brought us 'out' of the Earth in general. This could be understood in two ways:
(a) We are recalling the Creation of Adam - "And a mist went up from out of the Earth (ha'aretz), and watered the whole face of the ground. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground..." (Genesis 2:6-7). Like bread we are 'grown' from the ground. This is definitely a healthy brown bread (with big grainy bits in) interpretation.
(b) We are recalling Qayin's exile after killing his brother - "a fugitive and wanderer will you be on the Earth (b'aretz) ..." (Genesis 4:12). The bread-making process cannot be reversed. The grains are displaced forever from their origins. We too, as Jews, spent so long in exile that even now we have historically returned, half of us still choose exile and most of the other half want Eretz Yisrael to just be another Eretz.
"The Lord spoke to Moses again. Speak to Aaron and say: 'No man of your offspring throughout the ages who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the food of his God. No one at all who has a defect shall be qualified: no man who is blind...' " (Leviticus 21, 16-18)
The man whose eyes have dimmed but sees
justice in his heart isn't blind;
the blind man is he who seeing scorns
his friends and brings them shame and trouble -
until he resembles someone who flees
the Lord our God for a wretched idol.
Moshe Ibn Ezra
(Translation by Peter Cole from "The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain 950 - 1492")