Ariel Ben Avraham

Parshat Emor: life for life

God’s love creates and sustains life, and anything that threatens life (including death) shall be separated from it. This is the successive and reiterated message in the Torah, reaffirmed many times in the beginning of Emor.

“There shall none defile himself for the dead among his people.” (Leviticus 21:1)

This refers to the high priest that represents our higher consciousness and continuous connection with God, as we have pointed out before.

“He shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself.” (21:4)

The high priest’s function is highlighted as the love bearer permanently close to God’s love. In this sense he is both the messenger and the message: love as the material manifestation of God’s love from which we are sustained every moment, and we have to hold holy.

“You shall sanctify him therefore, because he offers the bread of your God; he shall be holy unto you, because I the Lord who sanctify you, am holy.” (21:8)

The people of Israel is divinely commanded to consecrate the high priest. They represent the positive traits and qualities that must honor and exalt the higher consciousness of connection with God, by being and doing His ways and attributes always.

This awareness dwells in the highest level of our consciousness which is the tabernacle or temple where we are permanently connected to Him, and should never abandon.

“(…) neither shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor desecrate the sanctuary of his God; because the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is upon him, I am the Lord.” (21:12)

The instructions regarding the high priest’s consecration to the service of God continues in the next chapter. Both Aaron and the children of Israel are commanded to bring sacrifices by offering unblemished animals to be burned upon the altar of the tabernacle.

As we have mentioned, these offerings represent untainted thoughts, emotions, feelings, passions and instincts that we use to honor our Creator’s will, ways and attributes in everything we do. Therefore we can’t offer negative, egotistic, selfish or greedy thoughts, emotions, feelings, passions and instincts to serve God because He rejects what is opposed to His ways and attributes.

Let’s remind ourselves that being His image and likeness means being and manifesting love’s ways and attributes as the material manifestation of God’s love, the divine essence from which everything comes to exist. Negative traits only attract their like, and are always separated from the attributes of love which nurture all creation.

“He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy.” (21:22)

In the following chapter (23) the people of Israel are addressed with the consecration of the Shabbat and holidays, as designed times to reaffirm our continuous connection to the Creator. In chapter 24 Israel is also reminded about the commandment of lighting a lamp to burn permanently in the sanctuary (24:2), the earthly fire that must be constantly burning and united to the divine fire that transforms and elevates our lives to God. This continuity is emphasized.SHOF

“(…) from evening to morning before the Lord continually.” (24:3-4, 8)

The transgression of desecrating the name of God, which also means to curse Him, makes us separate from Him and from the unity with His people. In this separation we die after our hearts are turned into stones, and these are the stones that cause our death. The choice to live ego’s illusions instead of living love’s attributes is the curse and the sin, and we bear their punishments.

“Whoever curses his God will bear his sin.” (24:15)

The unity of the people of Israel with the Creator is remarked again at the end of this parshah, and murdering life carries the death of the perpetrator. As we mentioned in our commentary on Kedoshim, death is not the consequence of vengeance or retaliation for transgressions committed against God’s will. We have said that the death penalty and other punishments mentioned in the Torah and the Hebrew scriptures are the result of disrespecting, dishonoring and destroying human life.

Transgressions against life are direct sins against God’s love, and the transgressors must replace “life with life”. The lesson here is that all the negative actions and transgressions one commits are also committed against himself, and the only way to repair or correct a destructive or negative action is to repair the damage caused, to restore what was stolen or destroyed, or to compensate for what is not possible to repair or restore.

Our sages explain in the Talmud that this is the true meaning of “breach for breach, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; as he has maimed a man, so shall it be rendered to him.” (24:20). This principle is addressed for everyone.

“You shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, and for the home-born, because I am the Lord your God.” (24:22)

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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