Parashas Emor

In this week’s parashah, the Torah tells us (Vayikra 22:27): “When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall remain under its mother for seven days – and from the eighth day and on, it shall be acceptable as a fire-offering unto Hashem.” The Torah continues with some laws concerning offerings. The Midrash expounds on the above verse as follows (Vayikra Rabbah 27:7, end, building on Yeshayah 41:24):
“Behold, you came from nothingness, and you simply gave forth voice.” … Said R. Levi: “All the sublime good works that the Holy One Blessed Be He will bring about for Israel in the end of days are only on account of the simple call that you gave forth before Me at Sinai, when you said (Shemos 24:4): ‘All that Hashem has spoken we shall do and we shall listen.’” “The abominable one shall choose you” – this refers to the abominable one of which it is written (Shemos 32:8): “They made for themselves a molten calf.” From this very “abominable one,” bring before Me an offering, as it is written: “An ox or a sheep ….”
The Maggid inteprets this Midrash with a parable. A rich man decided to marry a certain young lady from a poor family, because she was of fine character. In the past, the young lady often went knocking on neighbors’ doors to borrow various things, as poor people usually do. The rich man sought to educate her in the mode of conduct that it would befit her to follow when she became his wife. He told her: “Once you are married to me, you will have no need to go to the neighbors anymore. You should just stay at home.” The young lady asked: “Will I have to be a shut-in?” The man answered: “Of course not. But when you are married to me, it will be different from how it was before. Up to now, you had to go out to seek others. From now on, others will come to seek you.”
The explanation is as follows. When we were slaves in Egypt, we were suffused with Egypt’s idolatrous culture, and thus virtually in a state of spiritual nothingness. Then, with a mere word – the simple call we gave forth at Sinai – we became bound to Hashem and thereby rose to a supremely lofty station. But, as the episode of the golden calf showed, we were still drawn toward the lowly idolatrous practices to which we had been accustomed. (While the Kuzari explains that the golden calf was not an idol in the usual sense, it was clearly patterned after idolatry.) Hashem sought to wean us from these practices, and educate us in the mode of conduct we would follow as a nation of ministers devoted to carrying out His word. He therefore told us: “It will not be as it was in Egypt, where people turned to the constellations to draw bounty from them. On the contrary, the animals that these constellations represent will run to put themselves at your disposal – and as you bring these animals as offerings to Me, the entire universe will draw sustenance through your holy service.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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