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May 04, 1984 - Image 41

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-05-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, May 4, 1984 41

MOTHER'S DAY

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Parashat Emor

The Demands of Holiness

BY SHEILA PELTZ WEINBERG
Special to The Jewish News

This week's parsha comes
from a section of Torah
primarily preoccupied with
kedusha — variously ren-
ta el
s
deirsesd, a s holiness,
sacredness, separate
.ass. Parashat Emor con-
tains the conclusion to the
"Holiness Code" which be-
gins: "You shall be holy for I
the Lord your God am holy"
(Leviticus 19:2).
This parsha deals with
the specifics of kedusha for
the priestly class as well as
for the laity. The three let-
ter Hebrew root K-D-Sh
appears 47 times. Rules
range from prohibited mar-
riages to proper priestly
grooming, from details of
sacrificial quality control to
principles of criminal law to
a full recitation of the
yearly festival cycle. The
holy days (mikra'ei kodesh)
embody kedusha's expres-
sion in time, and form a cli-
these
amidst
max
guidelines to a people's spe-
cial way of life, linking
them to the Divine.
One particular injunction
receives major play in our
parsha: hillul Hashem, pro-
faning the Name. It is men-
tioned in three separate
contexts: first applied to
priests (Leviticus 22:2),
then to all Jews (Leviticus
22:32), and finally in a case
study (Leviticus 24:10-15).
Let us look at the primary
source:
"You shall not profane
My Holy name, that I may
be sanctified in the midst of
the Israelite people — I the
Lord who sanctify you. I
who brought you out of the
land of Egypt to be your
God, I the Lord." (Leviticus
22:32-33).
We learn later in the
parsha that the punishment
for the crime of profaning
the name is execution by
stoning. We are taken off
guard. What does this
mean? Why is it such a seri-
ous offense? Certainly every

-

-

•-•

Sheila Peltz Weinberg has
been Hillel director at
Haverford and Bryn Mawr
colleges and studies at the
Reconstructionist
Rabbinical College.

time we mutter an expletive
under our breath with the
three little letters g-o-d we
don't warrant capital
punishment. Perhaps the
idea is anachronistic.
Maybe it is a relic of ancient
magic attributing super-
natural power to the word.
Yet something else is tel-
ling us that the Torah is
making an emphatic and
eternal point here in the
midst of its presentation of
fundamental moral and
ritual practice. What teach-
ings are here for us?
We see in the verse a
stunning interplay between
passive and active verb
forms. If we don't profane
the Name, God will be
sanctified and in turn will
sanctify us. The initiators of
the process are human be-
ings. Our ability to act in a

Parashat Emor:
Leviticus
21:1-24:23.
Ezekiel 44:15-31.

is the offspring of the Israel-
ite woman and an Egyptian
man. The liberation process
which is intrinsically part of
the acceptance of responsi-
bility for kedusha is stunted
within this person. He is the
nihilist, the debunker of all
values and all efforts at per-
sonal or social growth; the
chronically depressed, dis-
gruntled denier of hope
locked into a stone prison
that resembles a living
death.
What is the nature of this
profanity, this obscenity?
How many of us have been
in situations where some-
one insists upon dismission
with a bitter wisecrack
every proposal, deflating
every sign of hope,
enthusiasm and group
commitment? At those mo-
ments one may be tempted
to start throwing stones.
Speech is the quintessen-
tial human act whereby we
create our reality as God
created the universe. Pro-
fanity is abuse of speech and
the denial of ourselves —
scorn for beauty, connection
and value, a mockery of
kedusha.
The Talmud has an in-
sight into the interrelation-
ship between responsibility
and profanation of the
Name. We all share respon-
sibility for hallowing or de-
secrating the Divine name
through our conduct. How-
ever, those individuals with
more power over others'
lives have a proportionately
greater responsibility to
behave with awareness and
kedusha.
Our sages asked: "What
constitutes desecretion of
the Name?"
Rav said: "If one such as. I
were to buy meat without
paying for it immediately."
Perhaps this is why in our
parsha the priests are
enjoined separately against
profaning the Name. Those
who would promote
kedusha must set a model of
kedusha.

certain manner is the pri-
mary determinant of the
presence of God in our lives.
Dare we translate thus: If
we act toward each other
and the environment in
such a way that indicates
our belief that we are all
part of an interconnected
and purposeful creation,
then we create a world with
purpose and value.
In fact, even more than
that will happen. The world
around us will respond in
kind. It will open to us.
Myriad meanings will un-
fold before us. The realiza-
tion that human responsi-
bility is the very power
which manifests or di-
minishes the kedusha of the
Divine name adumbrates
the resonating theme of
"choose life" in
Deuteronomy. Certainly
the quality of life, in fact,
the sacred quality of life, Copyright 1984 National
rests with human beings.
Havurah Committee
Death is indeed the fate of
the blasphemous. In our
parsha, the case presented Independence

*To our readers

The Jewish News welcomes photographs of
bar mitzvah boys and bat mitzvah girls. Profes-
sional black and white photographs are pre-
ferred. In addition, we will be pleased to have you
share with the community the names of the par-
ents, brothers, sisters and grandparents celebrat-
ing your simcha, as well as the name of the
synagogue or temple at which the ceremony took
place. We would appreciate receiving your an-
nouncement within one month of the event.
There is a $10 photo-processing charge.

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Day celebration
set in Israel

Jerusalem (JTA) — "The
unity of Israel" will be the
theme of Independence Day
to be celebrated Monday.
The events will include
the annual award of the
prestigious Israel Prize by
President Chaim Herzog.
This year's prize will be pre-
sented to the development
towns and the Nahal, the
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