Parshas Emor: The Callings of Holiness

This week’s Parsha is named Emor, meaning ‘speak’. It contains various laws and instructions; those of the kohanim; those of crime and punishment; and those of the festivals. We find a concise explanation of the different festivals in Chabad.org’s ‘Parsha in a Nutshell’ series, which tells us;

”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).”

What’s interesting about this paragraph is the term used to refer to the festivals. Rather than simply calling them holidays, they are named ‘Callings of Holiness’. Initially, this seems to refer to the act of being ‘called’ to the Temple, to present festival offerings, but in a modern day sense, the term ‘Callings of Holiness’ has a different meaning.

In last week’s Sedra, we read that G-d enjoined us to keep the mitzvos, to make ourselves Holy; Kedoshim states, ”You shall be holy, for I, the L‑rd your G‑d, am holy”, before telling us of the mitzvos we must keep. It’s through the observance of the laws that we become Holy- we do this by following G-d’s word and thus ‘connecting’ with him. When we follow His word and laws- even when we don’t totally understand why- we are unified with Him and strengthen our emunah and bitachon.

And so, with this in mind, we can properly understand the term ‘Callings of Holiness’. The festivals can be difficult to prepare for; between cleaning and cooking and hosting guests, they provide us with a fair amount of work. With Shovuos coming up, many of us are probably worrying about recipes and guests and even all night Torah study. But at the end of the day, none of these things matter. Because no matter how our minds feel about the festivals, our neshomos- our souls- are rejoicing.

It’s through our souls that we make ourselves Holy, and through our souls that we continue the legacy of Moshe Rabbenu. And as our souls rejoice on the upcoming holidays, we find ourselves surrounded by Holiness- we just need to know where to look for it.

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