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
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.