Emor – “Say”

This week’s Torah portion is entitled Emor, which means “Say.”

Adonai declared, “You shall be holy because I, the LORD am holy.” Israel was to be a different kind of people because the Lord loved and chose them as His own.

In chapter twenty-one Moses exhorted Aaron and his descendants to live a higher level of devotion to Adonai. The priests were to be role models, set apart from the people, and consecrated to the Lord as living illustrations of what holiness looks like. They symbolized Adonai’s presence in the midst of Israel.

There were important distinctions for those serving as priests. They were required to live by stricter standards, including no contact with the dead, more exclusive marriage parameters, and they could not have any facial or bodily disfigurements. Dietary restrictions and sacrificial specifications were to be followed strictly. There were even stricter demands on the High Priest, because he had a special anointing, and was clothed with the holy garments. He had a greater responsibility to serve the Lord faithfully, and honor His name. Just as sacrificial lambs were to be offered without blemish or spot, the High Priest could not serve before Adonai unless his life was exemplary. He represented a type of Yeshua, our Great High Priest, who was spotless, sinless, and perfect in every area of His life.

Chapter twenty-two opens with a warning from Adonai to the priests, not to contaminate the sacrificial offerings brought to the Tabernacle, by being ceremonially unclean when performing their duties. This serious offense would profane God’s Holy Name, and fail the people who depended upon them to present their gifts to God. Those who disobeyed would be put to death!

They are the ones who present sacrifices made to the LORD by fire and set apart as holy to never defile His holy places. The focus here is a holy life presentation to God, which applies to believers as well, which is why the Apostle Peter quotes Leviticus, writing, “You must be holy because I Am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

The laws of holiness also applied to Israel, but leaders were judged more severely because they were representatives of God’s holiness to the people. He expects His chosen people to be holy, and to offer holy sacrifices in His designated places.

In chapter 23 God gave His people designated times as holy days unto Him, for sacred assemblies. It begins with Shabbat, the weekly day of rest, which from the very beginning God set apart as holy (Gen. 2:3).

Israel was to observe seven annual Feasts, to remind them of God’s sovereignty and providential mercy in their lives. They are as follows:

Passover which commemorates the night when they were freed from Egyptian slavery, by the blood of a perfect, unblemished lamb. The lamb was sacrificed, and its blood smeared on the horizontal beams and side posts of their houses.

Their first born was saved from death that night because they were protected by the blood of the lamb.  Yeshua is our Passover Lamb, and redeemer, He has freed us from the bondage of sin and death!

The Feast of Unleavened Bread, a seven-day celebration, which begins immediately after Passover, is a reminder of their quick departure from Egypt.

Next is the Feast of Firstfruits during which an offering of the first bundle of wheat from the barley harvest was presented to God our Provider, thanking Him for His generosity, past, present, and future.

The Feast of Pentecost is fifty days after Firstfruits. This was a time of celebration and thanksgiving to God for His provision of the wheat harvest. In fact, the first disciples received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

The Feast of Trumpets commands the blowing of the shofar for a holy assembly in preparation for the Day of Atonement, a time to examine our hearts, repent, and ask forgiveness.

During the Feast of Tabernacles, Israel was to live in booths seven days to commemorate their wandering in the wilderness under Adonai’s provision. It symbolizes Yeshua’s harvest of humanity, of Messianic Jews and Christians gathered into God’s eternal kingdom.

The focus in chapter 24 continues to be God’s holiness. The priests were commanded to keep the lights burning continually on the menorah in the Tabernacle, with the purest olive oil supplied by the people.

“The Golden Lamp symbolizes Yeshua, the word of God, who brought light into this world. Some of us have fallen into darkness and no longer appreciate God’s word because they don’t have the oil of the Holy Spirit.

Our Torah portion ends with a man who lost his temper and blasphemed Adonai, for which he was stoned to death. This should remind us that, as holy people, we must reverence God by living holy, and not use unholy words that profane God’s Holy Name.

So, let us live as burning lights for Yeshua, and as salt to the world.

Concluding Thoughts:

Adonai wanted Israel to be a nation like no other nation. The priests and the people were to reflect the character and moral values of God, by observing holy days, having fellowship with Him through worship, celebration, and remembering all that He’d done for them. God created Israel to be a light in a dark world, and that light would only shine through obedience to God’s law. The same lifestyle is expected of all believers because we too are set apart, to serve God in holiness. We are a chosen people, and a royal priesthood. The Apostle John wrote, “Those who are born into God’s family don’t practice sin because God’s life is in them (1 John 3: 9).” Whatever we say or do should be guided by the Holy Spirit, and not driven by our earthly appetites. The two natures are in conflict, and only one will win.