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The Chagim in Parshat Emor

אֵ֚לֶּה מֽוֹעֲדֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֔ה מִקְרָאֵ֖י קֹ֑דֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר־תִּקְרְא֥וּ אֹתָ֖ם בְּמֽוֹעֲדָֽם:

These are the Lord's appointed [holy days], holy occasions, which you shall designate in their appointed time: (Vayikra 23:4)

Parshat Emor discusses the various festivals that are observed throughout the Jewish calendar year. The first festival mentioned is not really a festival, rather it is Shabbat. Rashi explains that Shabbat is brought up here to demonstrate that desecrating the Chagim is equal to desecrating Shabbat, and likewise, properly observing the Chagim is just like properly observing Shabbat

The word “Moed” is repeatedly used in this section in reference to the holidays, because it is also a reference for time and season. Each holiday is meant to be at a certain time of year, for example, Pesach is always in the spring, which is why it is known as חג האביב literally, the holiday of the spring. Rashi infers from the use of the word Moed in the second passuk about the importance of declaring leap years, which both keep the holidays in their appropriate season and also allow those who live farther away from Jerusalem enough time to arrive at the Bet HaMikdash. In the 4th passuk, Rashi infers the commandment to declare Rosh Chodesh, the new moon, which is how we then determine when the holidays actually take place.

The Torah then goes on to enumerate the Chagim and “moadim” in order, starting with Pesach, and the commandment to eat Matzah for the entire 7 days. Next is a description of the harvesting of the Omer, and counting of the Omer (which we still do today). Although not a holiday, the Omer is an important part of the Jewish calendar, and thus a “moed”. Additionally, it connects Pesach to Shavuot, as the counting for the Omer starts on the second night of Pesach, and culminates with Shavuot. In fact, the date for Shavuot is not mentioned, as it just takes place at the end of Sefirat HaOmer.

Next is Rosh Hashana, including the blowing of the Shofar, and then Yom Kippur, and the commandment to “afflict yourself”, or, וְעִנִּיתֶ֖ם אֶת־נַפְשֹֽׁתֵיכֶ֑ם. Note that the commandment to fast on Yom Kippur is not directly mentioned here.

And finally, the Holidays of Sukkot and Shmini Atzeret are included. And again, another reminder about Shabbat. Here Rashi points out that the Korban Chagigah, the festive sacrifice does not override Shabbat. But in general, it is a reminder of the importance of Shabbat throughout the year, and that the Chagim, in general, do not override Shabbat. Shabbat is in itself an important holiday as well.

After the final reminder of Shabbat, the Torah goes back to Sukkot, including the commandment to wave the lulav, etrog, hadassim, and aravot (4 minim), and the commandment to sit in the Sukkah. Again, here, one may not override Shabbat in order to fulfill these mitzvot.

Here in Parshat Emor, the descriptions of the holidays are pretty brief. The most extensive explanation here actually belongs to the period of the Omer, which is not a Chag at all. In fact, Parshat Emor is the main textual source for the Omer, unlike the other Chagim which are repeated elsewhere. It’s also a mitzvah that is directly connected to the Bet HaMikdash and living in the land of Israel. True, all the Chagim were marked by visiting the Bet HaMikdash, and were specifically designed to be fulfilled in Israel, but in Emor, only the Omer has a direct reference to being in Israel. For the actual Chagim, there are clear references to the commandment to come to Jerusalem 3 times a year to celebrate (such as in Parshat Re’eh).

May we all merit seeing the Bet HaMikdash rebuilt in Jerusalem, and may we all return to living in Israel very soon.

שבת שלום



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