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Emor (Speak) Leviticus 21:1-24:23

Torah PortionEmor (Speak) Leviticus 21:1-24:23

Haftorah Reading: Ezekiel 44:15-31

Our Torah portion today is Emor. When we read it, I would expect our initial feeling might be that theses verses have little to do with us in today’s world. However, I want to take a few minutes to see if that is an accurate way to interpret these words. I would like to do this by looking specifically at a few verses.

Let’s look at Leviticus 22:31, “And you shall not profane My Holy Name, and I shall be sanctified in the midst of the children of Israel.” This verse addresses the contrast between two terms, holiness and profane, the common and vulgar. A few weeks ago, we looked at two other words, clean and unclean. So here we see two more words that call for a deeper look. First, let us look at the word profane. This word does not appear very often in scripture. If we look at the dictionary’s definition we find profane defined as treating something sacred with irreverence and disrespect. To profane the name of G-d specifically means to damage G-d’s reputation in the non-religious world.

So here in our verses we are being told to uphold G-d’s name before a non-believing world. We are to act in such a way as to bring honor to His name. Isaiah 43:12 says, “You are my witnesses declares the L-rd, and I am G-d.” The Father has given each of us His Word and the ability to know His purpose and how to behave in the world, in every aspect of our life, as is befitting people who identify as being His people. His name is to be holy and that is what must dictate our words and our actions as we go out into the world. If we are at the grocery store or just talking with friends, our words and actions are to be such that His name is upheld. We reveal G-d to those around us because the holiness we show is an image of G-d Himself. Since we carry His name we are called by our verse to conduct ourselves in a way that will not defile it. In John 15:8-10 we see this confirmed by the words of Yeshua when He said, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.” What happens when we do not fulfill our purpose? Shaul says in Romans 2:23-24, “The Name of G-d is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Our actions and our words have consequences. People take notice of how we speak and behave. Especially today in our world there is much noise that does not bring any peace or quiet in the hearts of people. The TV, internet and social media are filled with hateful comments and falsehoods. As G-d’s people we are to not be part of these things. We are to act and speak differently. We are to bring words of love and faith to people who, especially now, are scared and lonely. Be the feet and hands of G-d. Bring honor to His name by your actions and your words.

As we read this Torah section there is a hint of how to maintain our certainty in an uncertain time like we are experiencing now. This week we can read a list of all the yearly holidays. I want us to look closely at one of those holidays. In Leviticus 23:40, when speaking of Sukkot, the verse reads, “And you shall rejoice before the L-rd your G-d seven days.” What is odd about this is that this holiday is celebrated by building small flimsy huts and eating and if possible, living in it for the days of the festival. This is an odd choice of a time to rejoice. It would seem Passover would have made more sense since it celebrates freedom from slavery, or even Shavuot, which comes in less than three weeks. Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah. So why Sukkot?

Maybe Jeremiah 2:2 might give us a hint. “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved Me and followed Me in the wilderness through a land not sown.” This verse is talking about a people who complained and rebelled but in the end they followed  G-d. They kept going. Like Avraham, they journeyed into the unknown.

This brings us to the point of realizing faith is not certainty but living with uncertainty. When we look at Israel’s journey through the wilderness they kept going. This holiday of Sukkot teaches us that life is fragile. However, G-d Almighty is always there to lead us through uncertain times. With Him we can handle the uncertainties, not knowing what tomorrow will bring, but being at peace because He knows and He is with us.

This pandemic reminds us that none of us know what tomorrow will bring but we rely on Him who does know. He is with us and each day we can rejoice in that. May G-d bless each of you with the joy of resting in Him every day.