Parshat Emor

May 12th, 2017

The latter part of Parshat Emor deals with the cycle of the festivals through the year and the festival of Shavuot, soon to be upon us as the climax of the seven weeks of counting the Omer. The Torah requests that we bring quite an unusual meal offering to Hashem, in Ch23v16 – “And you shall bring a new meal offering to Hashem. From where you live, you shall bring bread that shall be waved, two loaves ….. that shall be baked leaven (chametz) a first offering (bikurim) to Hashem.” Firstly bikurim here is not, as I always thought, first fruits but an offering of two loaves of bread and secondly they are chametz, which is unusual as we are told elsewhere not to offer honey and chametz in a sacrifice.

The Talmud Rosh Hashana asks – “why did the Torah tell us to bring two loaves on Shavuot” and answers “as Shavuot is the time of the fruit and Hashem said – bring two loaves of bread made from wheat, which has ripened over the weeks beforehand, hoping for a continued good harvest.” Rashi asks how does wheat which is not fruit help here and explains that according to R Yehuda the tree of knowledge from the story of Adam and Eve was wheat which was originally a fruit and this suggests a more mystical significance of the Shavuot offering.

The Kli Yakar, R Efraim Lunshitz, notes that the Torah just prior to presenting the Shavuot discusses the counting of the Omer and then moves into to the Shavuot offering in the same sentence with “and you shall offer a new meal offering to Hashem.” R Lunshintz suggests that the use of the term “new” hints that Shavuot, as tradition holds, is the day that the Torah was given, which should be new and fresh to us every day. He explains that for this reason Shavuot is the only festival where the actual date is not mentioned as the Torah is something we received from Sinai and should be relevant and new every day.

The Kli Yakar continues, unusually in kabalistic style, that chametz signifies the “yetzer hara” our evil inclination and quotes the following tale from the Talmud. “Hashem said – I created the yetzer hara but created a remedy (tikun) which is the Torah – if it was not for the “yetzer hara” Hashem would not have brought the Torah down from the heavens. The Angels wanted to keep the Torah in heaven and Moshe came along and argued that it should be down here with us, with all our worldly failings, and Hashem agreed.”

What the Kli Yakar is trying to say is that we have the free choice and can choose one way or the other. Hashem brought Adam and Eve to the Garden of Eden – an ideal world – and the experiment did not succeed and so he gave us the tougher world with freedom of choice. The special offering of two loaves on Shavuot hints mystically at the Torah which is the remedy (tikun), both in the fact that the wheat would remind us of the story of Adam and Eve and the Chametz of our “yezter hara.” Perhaps not an obvious reminder, but interestingly in modern Hebrew we use the term “lehachmitz” from “Chametz” to talk of a missed opportunity.

Sometimes finding a little story to close my few words is more challenging than writing about the Parsha, but then going into town yesterday morning to collect something from the local Post Office, I walked through little Paris, the area of Netanya by the sea and the main square which has been taken over by the French. The good part of this is the influx of French Bakeries and after my long wait in the noisy Post Office I was able to console myself with a real butter croissant for breakfast and a French baguette for later. In some of the shops round that area they immediately talk to you in French, but I suppose my “yetzer hara”  shouldn’t complain as at least they pronounce my name correctly without pronouncing the ”s.”