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Parsha Emor

The Torah section of Emor (“Speak”) begins with the special laws pertaining to the kohanim (“priests”), the kohen gadol (“high priest”), and the Temple service: A kohen may not become ritually impure through contact with a dead body, save on the occasion of the death of a close relative. A kohen may not marry a divorcee, or a woman with a promiscuous past; a kohen gadol can marry only a virgin. A kohen with a physical deformity cannot serve in the Holy Temple, nor can a deformed animal be brought as an offering.

A newborn calf, lamb or kid must be left with its mother for seven days before being eligible for an offering; one may not slaughter an animal and its offspring on the same day.

The second part of Emor lists the annual Callings of Holiness—the festivals of the Jewish calendar: the weekly Shabbat; the bringing of the Passover offering on 14 Nissan; the seven-day Passover festival beginning on 15 Nissan; the bringing of the Omer offering from the first barley harvest on the second day of Passover, and the commencement, on that day, of the 49-day Counting of the Omer, culminating in the festival of Shavuot on the fiftieth day; a “remembrance of shofar blowing” on 1 Tishrei; a solemn fast day on 10 Tishrei; the Sukkot festival—during which we are to dwell in huts for seven days and take the “Four Kinds”—beginning on 15 Tishrei; and the immediately following holiday of the “eighth day” of Sukkot (Shemini Atzeret).

Next the Torah discusses the lighting of the menorah in the Temple, and the showbread (lechem hapanim) placed weekly on the table there.

Emor concludes with the incident of a man executed for blasphemy, and the penalties for murder (death) and for injuring one’s fellow or destroying his property (monetary compensation).

The Parshah begins by telling us that a kohen must always be careful to remain tahor, pure, so that he can serve in the Holy Temple. In order to do this, he must make sure not to come in contact with a dead body because that would make him impure. He is only allowed to become impure by going to a funeral or cemetery if a close relative of his passes away. That means his father, mother, son, daughter brother, or unmarried sister. A kohen is also not allowed to marry somebody who was married before and got divorced.


The kohen gadol--the "high priest" or "head kohen," is never allowed to become impure, even if a close relative passes away. Also, he's not allowed to marry anybody who was married before at all.

When an animal (a cow, sheep, or goat) gives birth (to a calf, lamb, or kid) nobody is allowed to take the newborn away for seven days. Also, an animal and its offspring may not be killed on the same day.

The Jewish Calendar

The Torah then tells us about the special times of year on the Jewish calendar

First it discusses Shabbat. For six days we do work and the seventh is a day of rest.

Next is Passover, in the Hebrew month of Nissan. For seven days we eat matzot, and the first and last of those days are days of rest on which we're not allowed to do any work.

Next is the Counting of the Omer, which begins on Passover and counts down until Shavuot.

The fiftieth day of the Omer is the festival of Shavuot.

Next comes Rosh Hashanah, the "head of the year" on the first day of Tishrei. This is when we blow the shofar.

Ten days later is the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, a fast day when we pray for forgiveness for our sins.

Next is Sukkot, a joyful festival when we eat in a booth called a sukkah and make a blessing on four types of plants gathered together.

The Parshah ends by telling us about somebody who cursed G‑d. Moses asked G‑d what his punishment should be and G‑d said that he must be killed. We also read that somebody who kills a person is punished with death and that somebody who hurts a person or animal must pay money to compensate for the cost.

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