Parshat Emor: Life as the total offering to God’s love

The distinction between life and death is underscored again in this portion of the Torah.

“And the Lord said to Moses: Say [emor] to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: Let none of you defile himself for a dead person among his people.” (Leviticus 21:1)

Hence, life is the imperative priority for the highest awareness of our connection with God. In this sense life encompasses all the positive attributes and goodness inherent to love as the common essence we share with our Creator and what makes us part of Him.

Love is the covenant, the divine precondition with which we have to handle life and approach the material world. The essence of life is the love with which the Creator made us, and the way to protect life by itself and also in our individual and collective environment. In contrast to life, death represents the opposite of love’s ways and attributes.

Again holiness is highlighted as the ways of love, as the means to consecrate life in the material world.

“They [the priests] shall be holy to their God, and they shall not desecrate their God’s name, because they offer up the fire offerings of the Lord, the food offering of their God, so they shall be holy.” (21:6)

In this context God’s name encompasses the holiness of the ways and means to consecrate life.

The highest awareness of our connection with God (represented by the priest) is what elevates our individual human traits and qualities, the food offerings of the Lord, and this awareness is the holiness that attaches us to Him.

“You shall sanctify him [the priest], because he offers up the food offering of your God; he shall be holy to you, because I, the Lord who sanctifies you, am Holy.” (21:8)

God’s love makes us holy.

“(…) because the crown of his God’s anointing oil is upon him. I am the Lord. (21:11-12)

Our mystic sages teach that, in the context of the Hebrew scriptures, oil represents knowledge and awareness of the Creator as the previous stage of enlightenment represented by the burning oil in the lamps of the Tabernacle.

The verses that emphasize the holiness of our highest awareness of the Creator are juxtaposed to the obvious rejection of any trait or quality separated from its exclusive purpose to be in love’s ways and attributes.

“Speak to Aaron, saying: ‘Any man among your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect, shall not come near to offer up his God’s food’.” (21:17)

Hence we have to be whole and complete in our consciousness when we approach our Creator.

In that wholeness and integrity, as the sum of all aspects of consciousness, there are no defects because nothing is missing or inadequate when we consciously lead all dimensions of our life to Him. If we are “blind” with our unwillingness to face the truth, “crippled” to discern right from wrong, “dwarfed” in our approach to tell true from false; we will never be able to embrace God’s love because love does not cohabit with anything different from His ways and attributes.

“[An animal that has] blindness, or [a] broken [bone] or [a] split [eyelid or lip], or warts, or dry lesions or weeping sores you shall not offer up these to the Lord, nor shall you place [any] of these as a fire offering upon the altar to the Lord.” (22:22)

Therefore we have to offer our perception, honesty, devotion, tenderness, and sensitivity as a whole in their full intention and commitment to become the vessels for God’s love, and not in their partial or limited expressions.

This also means that we have to go beyond our physical and physiological limitations, and commit our talents, potentialities and abilities to follow love’s ways and attributes because that is the way to consecrate our Creator.

“You shall not desecrate My Holy Name. I shall be sanctified amid [in] the children of Israel. I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” (22:32)

The portion continues with a whole chapter (23) dedicated to the Jewish high holidays.

“Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: The Lord’s appointed [holy days] that you shall designate as holy occasions (…)” (23:2)

These in order to periodically renew our closeness to Him, and between them it is reminded again.

“When you reap the harvest of your Land, you shall not completely remove the corner of your field during your harvesting, and you shall not gather up the gleanings of your harvest. You shall leave these for the poor person and for the stranger. I am the Lord, your God.” (23:22)

This is referred to our sacred and commanded duty to share the fruits of our individual awareness and connection with God’s love with those who are not as close to Him.

We are truly holy when our love touches and elevates others in our quest to create a better world for all. It is our collective mission to create a space for God’s love to dwell in the world.

This mission is accomplished when we all keep the light of love lit permanently in who we are and what we do.

“Command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for lighting, to kindle the lamps continually.” (24:2-4)

Emor ends reiterating our exclusion of all that oppose God’s ways, expel it from the camp of our awareness of love, and send it to the nothingness of death from where it came. Death is the field of ego’s fantasies and illusions, and love is the field of life when we live it in God’s ways and attributes, as He wants us to.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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