June 13, 2024 ~ Shabbat NASO. Maqam SABA.

Shabbat Emor - שבת אמור



אמר אל הכהנים בני אהרן ואמרת אלהם - In every society, teachers play an invaluable role in inspiring students to lead exemplary lives. I’ve been lucky to have had many teachers who helped shape my life. In college, however, I once had a teacher who had tattoos, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, and who can often be seen outdoors smoking with the students. Although this teacher "was good," he was different from the other more dignified educators and was not acting as a role model. In Israelite society, it is the priests (descendants of Aaron) who are designated as the nation's teachers. Ezekiel 44:23 elaborates that the priests “teach between sacred and profane" (יורו בין קדש לחל). To maintain this elevated status, however, the priests, as the words "tell them" (אמר... ואמרת אלהם) in Leviticus 21:1 indicate, are ordered to separate themselves by refraining from some of the indulgences that are otherwise permitted to ordinary people. Beth Torah Bulletin, May 5, 2018.

Repeating One Verse

אשה זנה וחללה - "Ki Tob" refers to the old custom of opening and closing Torah Aliya on a positive note. As per Syrian custom, there are a few times in the Torah where the last verse of the previous Aliya is repeated in order not to begin an Aliya on a negative note. They are: Emor (Levi), Qorah (Yisrael), Debarim (Rebi'i), and Vaethanan (Levi). Relating to the Aliyat Levi of Emor, an unusual incident happened many years ago that shows the importance of "Ki Tob." I was in a minyan that did not follow this custom. When it came to Aliyat Levi, the Aliya recipient was standing by the Torah ready to begin. As the words "Isha Zona VaHalala" (Leviticus 21:7) are shown to him, his face grows pale and he walks down from the Torah in disgust. He was very offended that he was selected to receive an Aliya that opens with the word "prostitute." Scrambling to keep everything moving, the synagogue had to find a different Levi (my father) for this Aliya. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, May 18, 2019.

The Omer

והבאתם את עמר - The period from Pesah to Shabuot, known as 'the Omer,' commemorates the offering of an 'Omer' (measuring 'unit') of the first grains and then the count of seven full weeks to bring a New Flour offering. This is not the only explanation, however, to refer to these days as "the Omer." At the very start of Israel's journey through the desert (Exodus 16), many complain about the lack of food. To feed them and instill discipline, God sends manna from the sky and says that each person may only collect one 'Omer' of manna each day. Many ignore this limit and try to collect more, but God equalizes everyone's portion to always end up at exactly one Omer. Despite only having one Omer to eat, everyone was always satisfied with their respective portion. During the Omer period, we recall the message of this story; that God, our Provider, makes sure that every person has exactly what they need to thrive. Beth Torah, May 13, 2017.

Starting the Count

מִֽמָּחֳרַת֙ הַשַּׁבָּ֔ת יְנִיפֶ֖נּוּ הַכֹּהֵֽן - In Leviticus 23:11, God instructs that a "sheaf" (Omer) of the new crop is brought to the Kohen on "Mimahorat HaShabbat," translated as "on the morrow of the Sabbath." There were different opinions throughout history on how to interpret this ambiguity. The interpretation of this ambiguous phrase advocated by the Talmud is that "Shabbat" refers to a festival. This follows the idea that a festival is also referred to as "Shabbaton." Therefore, Jews follow the Rabbinic tradition to begin counting one day after the First Day of Pesah. The Karaites & Saduccees (who did not believe in the Oral Law) dissented from the traditions handed down by our Hakhamim. The former interpreted the word "Shabbat" to only mean the seventh day of the week (Saturday) and would start counting on the Sunday after the First Day of Pesah. The latter opinion of the Sadducees is that the "Shabbat" does refer to Saturday, but the counting begins on the Sunday after the end of Pesah. This interpretation is cited by sources in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Pseudepigrapha (Books of Enoch and Jubilees). Following the tradition of our Rabbis, we start counting the Omer one day after the First Day of Pesah. Beth Torah Bulletin, May 9, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: SIGAH or ASHIRAN

For Shabbat Emor (Leviticus 21:1- 24:23), which most years is the Shabbat prior to Lag La'Omer, prayers are conducted in Maqam SIGAH. The main reason for applying SIGAH is because the flagship song for Lag LaOmer, Bar Yohai (page 61), is in this maqam. This song has both a slow and a fast version; both of which can be applied to the pieces of prayers. Maqam SIGAH will be familiar to most congregants as the maqam applied for Torah readings. Sephardic Pizmonim Project, www.pizmonim.com.