Emor is a challenging portion. Ritual laws, the calendar and the power of time form the basis for this week’s study. And, not surprisingly, yet again we see a text that speaks directly to what we are experiencing in our lives. Leviticus [23:22]: When you reap the harvest of your field you shall not reap all the way to the edges, or gather the gleanings; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger , I am God”.
This verse, with a parallel in Leviticus 19:9, “reminds the worshipper that he has social as well as ritual obligations.” (Plaut 929). In the current debate in the USA about social distancing and opening the country, Jewish texts and values again speak loud and clear. No doubt your rabbis have spoken about the value of saving life (p’kuach nefesh). This verse reminds us that we have a sacred duty to be concerned with all segments society. We ARE all in this together. We ARE all inter-connected and if everyone does what everyone wants to do whenever they wish, without concern for the general social welfare, then we are reduced to chaos. “The rabbis understood that strengthening society as a whole requires building relationships so that a sense of personal connection is present among members of the community.” (A Year WIth Mordecai Kaplan. Rueben. p.122)
This text can also be seen as a bridge to discussing the inequality of access to health care that the pandemic is exposing. The over-riding ethical “call” from tradition in this verse is a clear reminder that we have a duty and a responsibility to see decisions in light of the good of the community. This is a wonderful verse that speaks to so much of what we are experiencing now.
Rabbi Richard F Address