Weekly Torah Section: Emore (Say) Leviticus 21:1-24:23, Haftorah: Ezekiel 44:15-31
In both the Torah and Haftorah portions we read about the priests and their duties and qualifications. In the Haftorah, Ezekiel 44:15-31 we read the words of Ezekiel. Who was he? When were these verses written and where was he when he wrote this? Ezekiel was a priest from the temple in Jerusalem so he knew intimately what the priestly duties were. He wrote these verses in Babylon by the river Chebar in 585 BCE.
In Ezekiel 44:15 it says that the sons of Zadok (In Hebrew Zadok means righteous) will stand before the L-rd and offer the offerings while the other priests will do the more menial tasks. Why were they singled out? They were the only priests that kept the commandments concerning the sanctuary and offerings to G-d. Again, they stayed close to G-d and they stayed holy while the rest of Israel had strayed away from G-d. Even the other priests had not remained faithful. This reminds us of the New Testament verses where it says in the last days many of the elect will fall away. If we as the elect know our priestly duties and our role as Christians we will not be deceived in the last days. It also goes back to how important it is to stay clean in the midst of a crooked world. What was the sons of Zadok’s inheritance? In Ezekiel 44:28 it says the L-rd was their inheritance. May this be our inheritance as well.
All these verses in Ezekiel take place in the Messianic age when the Torah will go forth from Jerusalem.
Now, in the Torah section, in Leviticus 21:1-4 we read how the priest could not touch a dead body. Why is this? G-d is life, not death. Touching death would make them unclean and they could not come into His presence unclean. Leviticus 21:1-24:23 we read about the need for the priests to be clean in order to perform their duties. Even a small physical defect would prevent them from offering the bread of G-d. In Leviticus 21:8 we read that the priests should be holy because he offers the bread of G-d. So here the priest offers the sacrifices which are equated with bread. Does G-d need bread? Does He get hungry? Leviticus 3:11 and 16 talk of the same idea. What could this mean? Some scholars suggest that the food of G-d is the sweet aroma from the fat burning on the altar. Remember the word for sweet aroma comes from the root word for comfortable. So what really is the food of G-d? It is the idea that sinful man sought to reestablish a relationship with Him. His food was man drawing near to Him. So now let us look at this verse 21:8 again. In this verse I would like you to replace the word “for” which is right before he offers with the word “because” which is the more prevalent translation of the Hebrew. Now we read the priest must be holy because he is bringing the food of G-d (the offering of the people.) So the priest was bringing a clean perfect animal before G-d and he also had to be clean, pure or unblemished. How does this apply to us? The role of the priests in the physical world is a reflection of our duties as priest in the spiritual world. Look at the world around us. What is their only hope? Their only hope is that the people of G-d, namely us, keep ourselves pure and unblemished before Him and also before the world. The role and duties of the priest, on a spiritual level, has become our role. We must always be vigilant on how we live out our lives each day. This brings me to Leviticus 22:32. The priest and in fact all of Israel were to not profane the name of G-d. What does this have to do with us today. First, what does it mean to profane the name of G-d? It relates to how we live our lives. So here and in Ezekiel the stress is on what we do daily and the driving force behind what we do. We bring the food of G-d and dare not do this with dirty hands.
I Peter 1:15-16 and I Peter 2:20-21 bring us to the same point. As believers we are to be different. For us this is not an option but should be our goal every day. We are to glorify the name of Him Who saved us and purchased us with the blood of His Son.