STATE OF GRACE - Parshat Emor
Here we were, just trying to have a good time, celebrating the holidays - and you had to start talking about… poor people?! Way to kill the mood.
That’s a whinier version of a basic textual question the rabbis are asking this week. Parshat Emor contains the first full list of the holidays, starting with Shabbat, and then moving from Passover on through the whole of what is now the Jewish calendar year. Given the centrality of these holidays in Jewish life and practice, this is a big moment in the Torah.
But right in the middle of it all, in between Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah, there’s a major interruption:
And 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 for the poor and the stranger - I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 23:22)
This just comes out of nowhere. Not that these laws are unfamiliar to us, mind you. We actually saw them in last week’s parsha! But there they made sense. They appeared in a long list of laws known as the Holiness code. So that’s one way to be holy: feed the poor. But why do we need to repeat this? And, more perplexing, why is it the only law that gets stuck right in the middle of the holidays? That’s what all the rabbis want to know.