Bits of Torah Truths, פרשת אמר, Parashat Emor, The Sacredness of Faith and the Lamb of God
In this week’s Torah portion, we read the following, Vayikra / Leviticus 21:10-15, י וְהַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל מֵאֶחָיו אֲשֶׁר-יוּצַק עַל-רֹאשׁוֹ | שֶׁמֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה וּמִלֵּא אֶת-יָדוֹ לִלְבֹּשׁ אֶת-הַבְּגָדִים אֶת-רֹאשׁוֹ לֹא יִפְרָע וּבְגָדָיו לֹא יִפְרֹם: 21:10 ‘The priest who is the highest among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil has been poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes; יא וְעַל כָּל-נַפְשֹׁת מֵת לֹא יָבֹא לְאָבִיו וּלְאִמּוֹ לֹא יִטַּמָּא: 21:11 nor shall he approach any dead person, nor defile himself even for his father or his mother; יב וּמִן-הַמִּקְדָּשׁ לֹא יֵצֵא וְלֹא יְחַלֵּל אֵת מִקְדַּשׁ אֱלֹהָיו כִּי נֵזֶר שֶׁמֶן מִשְׁחַת אֱלֹהָיו עָלָיו אֲנִי יְהוָֹה: 21:12 nor shall he go out of the sanctuary nor profane the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is on him; I am the Lord. יג וְהוּא אִשָּׁה בִבְתוּלֶיהָ יִקָּח: 21:13 ‘He shall take a wife in her virginity. יד אַלְמָנָה וּגְרוּשָׁה וַחֲלָלָה זֹנָה אֶת-אֵלֶּה לֹא יִקָּח כִּי אִם-בְּתוּלָה מֵעַמָּיו יִקַּח אִשָּׁה: 21:14 ‘A widow, or a divorced woman, or one who is profaned by harlotry, these he may not take; but rather he is to marry a virgin of his own people, טו וְלֹא-יְחַלֵּל זַרְעוֹ בְּעַמָּיו כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָֹה מְקַדְּשׁוֹ: 21:15 so that he will not profane his offspring among his people; for I am the Lord who sanctifies him.’‘ (NASB) These Scriptures speak of the Cohen Hagadol, the high priest, and having been anointed by the holy anointing oil of God. The Priest who has been sanctified in this way (with the anointing oil) is not to leave the holy precincts, because he is specially sanctified for the service of God. Rashi on Vayikra / Leviticus 21:12 Part 1 states the following, “ומן המקדש לא יצא NEITHER SHALL HE GO OUT FROM THE SANCTUARY — This means that he must not follow the bier (attend the funeral of his father or mother) (Sanhedrin 18a). Our Rabbis further derived from this (Sanhedrin 84a) the Halacha that the High Priest may perform the sacrificial rites when an “Onan.” The following is how this is implied: even if his father or his mother died he is not required to leave the Sanctuary as may be assumed, but may perform the service;” According to Rashi, if the High Priest were to not remain in the Sanctuary, he would profane the sacred service. Note something here, Rashi speaks of an Onan did profane the service of God. (Talmud Bavli Zevachim 16a and Sanhedrin 84a) Onan (אוֹנָן) is a minor biblical person in the Book of Genesis chapter 38, who was the second son of Judah. We are told Onan’s death was retribution for being “evil in the sight of the Lord” through being unwilling to father a child by his widowed sister-in-law. Note how this is connected to the previous Torah portions and the one having profaned the Name of the Lord through the sacrifices of one’s seed to the false gods of the nations. Sforno on Vayikra / Leviticus 21:12 Part 2 states the following, “ולא יחלל את מקדש אלוקיו, so as not to desecrate the Temple of his G’d, as people would conclude that giving honor to the dead is more important than to remain within the sphere of G’d’s immediate presence, something he enjoys as the exceptional privilege of being exposed to on an ongoing basis.” The idea of leaving the sanctuary is in reference to “walking behind the dead” (one’s father and mother) and the daily priestly routine. This has significant spiritual implications. We do not walk behind the dead may symbolize following in the ways of this world. Could this be why the Lord speaks of profaning His sanctuary when the priest who is anointed does so? Nachmanides, commenting on Rashi’s interpretation along with the author of halachot gedolot are cited in the commentary Torat Kohanim saying, “the principal injunction of our verse consists of forbidding the High Priest to leave the Temple and to thereby interrupt or abandon the sacred task he had been entrusted with by preferring participation in the funeral of his parents, etc., to the task at hand. It follows that if the High Priest were to leave the Holy Temple for a lesser reason this would constitute an even graver dereliction of his duties.” Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 18 states “our verse is understood to mean that the High Priest is not to follow the bier, this is not a Biblical injunction, but seeing that by following the bier he might come closer to it than is halachically permitted, [closer than 4 cubits. Ed.,] the sages decreed that he must keep the kind of distance from it that places him a block away from the bier, beyond direct visual contact with the bier.” Note how this injunction is meant to prevent the high priest from forsaking his duty and as the Talmud states walking after the dead and coming closer than is allowed may lead to contamination. The rabbinic interpretations on this week’s Torah portion is very representative of not leaving the ways of God. Notice how the children one produces as a result of marrying a virgin as opposed to a prostitute is also written in close proximity to these statements (drawing in the context). This teaches us that one’s offspring are to be holy and sanctified. They are to be taught God’s word, His holiness, and righteousness, and the ways of the Lord and not the lawless ungodly ways of the prostitute. These Scriptures from the Torah teach us that when men and women of faith conduct themselves without integrity, he profanes the name of God. The word “profaned” is opposite to what it means to be “Holy” set apart. To profane means to make common or ordinary. When the people of God conduct themselves no differently than the common ordinary people around them, they make God look common and ordinary too. They damage their testimony and the testimonies of God according to the Scriptures. The unbeliever steals, deceives, lies, perjures and swindles and when a believer acts that way, he disgraces the faith that he claims to have and gives opportunity for unbelievers to say, “You see? He is just like us. I knew there was no substance to his God or his religion.” The rabbinic understanding on Vayikra / Leviticus 19:13 You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. (NASB) means we are not to be dishonest with others. As disciples of Yeshua we are called to obedience to God’s Torah, this is the definition of being given the power to overcome sin in our lives. It is in holiness, righteousness, justice, and truth we are to conduct our lives that make us as God’s people different from the secular person. This is what holiness is all about and why the Lord spoke to the priest of His holiness as the anointed one of God. We too have been anointed in the blood of the Lamb of God, Yeshua the Messiah, and so we too are called to holiness and righteousness as God’s people.