Emor (which means speak) begins with God telling Moses about rules that the Priests need to observe. Some of these commandments include : not being allowed to be contact with a dead body, not marrying a divorced woman and they are not shaving the sides of their heads. God also commands that a newborn animal less than eight days old must remain with its mother before being offered up for a sacrifice.

The parasha continues with laws regarding a series of holidays that we still observe.   We are reminded to observe the Shabbat every seven days.

On the fourteenth day of the first month, in the evening, the Israelites are commanded to offer up a passover offering to God. The fifteenth day of that month is a celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Pesach). For seven days we are commanded to eat unleavened bread, and on the first and seventh days of this festival we have a sacred celebration. We are not to work on those two days.

Seven weeks after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a harvest celebration (Shavuot) will take place. This involves special sacrifices and rituals. God reminds us that we are not to reap all the way to the edges of our fields, so that the poor and the stranger can gather food.

On the first day of the seventh month we are commanded to cease work and observe a sacred occasion (Rosh HaShannah), with loud blasts (from the shofar). The tenth day of that month is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It is a day of no work and of self-denial. The fifteenth day of the seventh month will be the Feast of Booths (Sukkot). The first day we don’t work and for seven days we are commanded to bring offerings to God. The eighth day will be a special day of no work as well.

Moses reminds the Israelites to keep the lamps at the Tent of Meeting always lite, and to bring twelve loaves of bread to be displayed at the alter.

The portion ends with rules regarding blasphemy (taking God’s name in vain) as well as penalties for murder and for injuring another person.

Torah Portion in English

1) The Lord said to Moses: Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: None shall defile himself for any [dead] person among his kin, 2) except for the relatives that are closest to him: his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, and his brother; 3) also for a virgin sister, close to him because she has not married, for her he may defile himself. 4) But he shall not defile himself as a kinsman by marriage, and so profane himself. 5)They shall not shave smooth any part of their heads, or cut the side-growth of their beards, or make gashes in their flesh. 6) They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God; for they offer the Lord’s offerings by fire, the food of their God, and so must be holy. 7) They shall not marry a woman defiled by harlotry, nor shall they marry one divorced from her husband. For they are holy to their God 8) and you must treat them as holy, since they offer the food of your God; they shall be holy to you, for I the Lord who sanctify you am holy. 9) When the daughter of a priest defiles herself through harlotry, it is her father whom she defiles; she shall be put to the fire. 10) The priest who is exalted above his fellows, on whose head the anointing oil has been poured and who has been ordained to wear the vestments, shall not bare his head or rend his vestments. 11) He shall not go in where there is any dead body; he shall not defile himself even for his father or mother. 12) He shall not go outside the sanctuary and profane the sanctuary of his God, for upon him is the distinction of the anointing oil of his God, Mine the Lord’s. 13) He may marry only a woman who is a virgin. 14) A widow, or a divorced woman, or one who is degraded by harlotry—such he may not marry. Only a virgin of his own kin may he take to wife— 15) that he may not profane his offspring among his kin, for I the Lord have sanctified him.

Getting to Know my Parasha

What Does my Parasha Say?

  1. What holidays are introduced or mentioned in this portion?
  2. What are the rituals associated with them?
  3. Who were the Kohanim?
  4. Why are they special?