Written by Josh Schulman, who will become a Bar Mitzvah this Shabbat
We are currently in the middle of reading the book of Vayikra, which is full of different rules and laws about how to treat other people, what and what not to eat, and how to manage different situations. My parsha, Parshat Emor contains many items that are very close to me and I wanted to share them with you.
The first part of Emor deals with the Kohanim and whom they can marry, live with, and even bury. A kohen must maintain a special level of purity and may not be with the body of someone who has just passed away. But the Torah points out that when it comes to family, the kohen can and must be of help. G‑d teaches us that families should always stay together: through hard times, happy times, and every day of our lives!
Family is the most precious thing we have and I’m sure as I get older I’ll come to realize it even more. Some people make the mistake of not giving their family much thought and taking them for granted. The Torah teaches us that family always comes first.
The next part of the Parsha talks about the special mitzvah of the Omer. We are in the middle of counting it right now and we celebrated Lag B’omer on Thursday. The counting of the Omer, which last for 7 weeks or 49 days is special because it starts on the second night of Pesach. It symbolizes freedom and leads up to the Jewish people receiving the Torah from Hashem at Har Sinai on Shavuot.
Parshat Emor also discusses the holidays of Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, the laws around the oil in the Menorah, and one of my favorite holidays, Sukkot. Even though in the Torah it says we must celebrate 7 days, we do 8 days here in America. I love being in the Sukkah, helping to build the sukkah, having our family and friends over for meals, and always bugging my parents to sleep outside in the sukkah even though it might be raining or cold. The powerful message of Sukkot is reminds us that Hashem has taken us out of Egypt and cared for us because we have followed his mitzvot.
The Torah also talks about two of my favorite things--- CHALLAH and Shabbat and the origin of why we have them.
וְלָקַחְתָּ֣ סֹ֔לֶת וְאָפִיתָ֣ אֹתָ֔הּ שְׁתֵּ֥ים עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה חַלּ֑וֹת שְׁנֵי֙ עֶשְׂרֹנִ֔ים יִהְיֶ֖ה הַֽחַלָּ֥ה הָאֶחָֽת׃
You shall take choice flour and bake of it twelve loaves.
It continues on to say:
בְּי֨וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֜ת בְּי֣וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֗ת יַֽעַרְכֶ֛נּוּ לִפְנֵ֥י ה' תָּמִ֑יד מֵאֵ֥ת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בְּרִ֥ית עוֹלָֽם׃
You should arrange them before Hashem on every Shabbat—it is a commitment for all time and for all of B’nai Yisrael.
Lucky for me, both my mom and my Bubbie make the best Challah. Every Friday night we either have Shabbos dinner at my house or at my Bubbie and Zayde’s house. When it is at my house my Grandma and Poppy come and if my Aunt Nikki and Uncle Phil are in-town they join us but we are always with family.
All the holidays and words in the Torah are very important since the Torah is a guide for how to live our lives as Jews. But none of this is important without the action of brave people throughout the generations and people who have fought hard to keep our religion alive. Many of my great grandparents were Holocaust survivors and fought hard to stay alive in a very difficult time and keep their families together. Whether it was fighting in the Army, taking a train to Siberia without food, being a Partisan, living in a ghetto, or escaping a pogrom in the middle of the night. Although, many lives were lost I was lucky to enough to hear the stories from some of my great grandparents and hearing how important Judaism and family are. I feel lucky to become a Bar Mitzvah with many of my family and friends here today.