Parshat Emor

Parshat Emor

In this cycle, through the Torah, we will be taking a mystical journey. Our guide will be Rabbi Larry Tabick’s book, The Aura of Torah, published in 2014 by the Jewish Publication Society and the University of Nebraska. Translations of kabbalistic texts are by Rabbi Larry Tabick. Translations of the Torah and other commentaries are from Sefaria, except where otherwise noted. Translations of the Talmud are the Steinsaltz, William Davidson Talmud, on Sefaria.


The first section of Emor considers additional rules for purity for priests. That is followed by statements governing the purity of sacrificial offerings. The middle section of the parshah goes over the religious calendar.


One of the few narratives in Leviticus occurs at the end of Parsha Emor. It is an odd episode that involves a person blaspheming God’s name, leading to the sinner being stoned to death. The famous Biblical statement of “An eye for an eye,” occurs in this passage, although the rules seem to have nothing to do with the event.


Vayikra 21:1-2

The LORD said to Moses: Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: None shall defile himself for any [dead] person among his kin, except for the relatives that are closest to him …


For Saturday


Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir, 18th century, Ukraine

At first sight, we have to explain precisely that it would have been fitting if it had said “they shall not become ritually unclean,” since [the text] speaks of the totality of Aaron’s sons. It begins with the plural, but continues with the singular. “Speak to the priests” is [in] the plural, “the sons of Aaron” is also [in] the plural, “and say to them” — it all refers to the totality of the priests. But it continues by using the singular: “He shall not become ritually unclean for a dead person among his people.”

… For us, the totality of the People of Israel, the essence of our holiness and the cleanliness of our souls depends solely on the internal aspects of [each] individual’s thoughts. In whatever direction you turn your thoughts, to that extent does divinity dwell within and [to that extent] do you become a vehicle for the side of holiness, etc.

Following from this principle, the [true] teaching of how human beings should serve [God] is by purifying their thoughts, and in particular, their senses, for the service of their Creator. Then they would be fit to be named and called by the name of “priests,” a title [signifying] those who perform holy service.


We’ll take a different look at the “eye for an eye” section. The verse we’ll focus on concerns an injury that is a מאוּם or מוּם , sometimes translated as a blemish and originally meaning a spot. Emor emphasizes that priests and offerings must be without מאוּם. What is a מאוּם? What does it mean to spot or blemish someone?


Vayikra 22:21-24

… it must, to be acceptable, be without blemish [כָּל־מ֖וּם]; there must be no defect in it. Anything blind, or injured, or maimed, or with wen, boil-scar, or scurvy — such you shall not offer to the LORD; you shall not put any of them on the altar as offerings by fire to the LORD. … You shall not offer to the LORD anything [with its testes] bruised or crushed or torn or cut. You shall have no such practices in your land …


Vayikra 24:19

If anyone maims [מ֖וּם] his fellow, as he has done so shall it be done to him.

For Thursday


Bava Kamma 26b:1

With regard to the halakha that one must pay the full cost of the damage in a case where there was no intent to cause damage, the Gemara asks: From where are these matters derived? Ḥizkiyya says, and similarly, the school of Ḥizkiyya taught: The verse states: “Wound for wound [petza taḥat patza]” (Exodus 21:25). This phrase is superfluous, as the Torah states elsewhere (see Leviticus 24:19) that one is liable to pay compensation when injuring another. This verse serves to render him liable to pay for the unintentional damage just as he pays for the intentional damage; and he pays for damage caused by accident just as he pays for damage caused willingly.


Bava Kamma 27a: 4

The Gemara explains: What are the four types of indemnity that he is liable to pay? He is liable to pay for the damage, for the pain, for the medical costs, and for the loss of livelihood. But he is not liable to pay compensation for humiliation, as we learned in a mishna (86a): One is not liable to pay compensation for humiliation unless he intends to humiliate the injured party, and that was certainly not the case in this situation. [They described a set of bizarre unintended accidents.]


And Rabba says another, similar halakha: If one fell from a roof due to an atypical wind, such that it could not have been anticipated in advance that he would fall, and while falling he caused damage and humiliated the injured party, he is liable for the damage but exempt from paying the four types of indemnity, as he did not intend to fall. If he fell due to a typical wind and caused damage and humiliated the injured party while falling, he is liable to pay the four types of indemnity, as his fall was caused by negligence. But he is nevertheless exempt from paying compensation for humiliation, as he did not intend to fall. But if he tumbled while falling so he could fall on this person in order to protect himself from the impact with the ground, he is liable to pay compensation for humiliation as well, because although he did not intend to cause shame he did intend to land on the person.

The halakha that one is exempt from paying compensation for humiliation unless he intended to strike his victim is as it is taught in a baraitaFrom the fact that it is stated: “And she extended her hand” (Deuteronomy 25:11), do I not know that she took hold of something? Consequently, what is the meaning when further on in the verse it states: “And she took him by his genitals”? It is to teach you that one who intends to cause damage, even if he does not intend to humiliate the injured party, is nevertheless liable to pay compensation for humiliation.


Bava Kamma 90a:13-90b

MISHNA: One who strikes another must give him a sela. Rabbi Yehuda says in the name of Rabbi Yosei HaGelili that he must give him one hundred dinars. If he slapped another on the cheek, he must give him two hundred dinars. If he slapped him on the cheek with the back of his hand, which is more degrading than a slap with the palm, he must give him four hundred dinars.

If he pulled his ear, or pulled out his hair, or spat at him and his spittle reached him, or if he removed the other’s cloak from him, or if he uncovered the head of a woman in the marketplace, in all of these cases, he must give the injured party four hundred dinars.


A midrash provides further explanation:


3) (Vayikra 24:19) (“And a man, if he inflicts an injury upon his neighbor; as he did, so shall it be done to him.”) “And a man, if he inflicts an injury upon his neighbor”: This tells me only of an (actual) injury). Whence do I derive (that the same halachah applies) if he screamed in one’s ear, tore one’s hair, spat at someone and hit him with his spittle, pulled off someone’s garment, or uncovered a woman’s head in the market place? From “as he did” (though no actual injury was inflicted), so shall it be done to him.”

The Gemara considers a situation where a person is both humiliated by another and humiliates themselves. Is the other person still liable? They considered a situation where a man forcibly uncovers a woman’s head but she is found later walking around with an uncovered head.


Rabbi Akiva said to him: You did not say anything, i.e., this claim will not exempt you. One who injures himself, although it is not permitted for him to do so, is nevertheless exempt from any sort of penalty, but others who injured him are liable to pay him. In this case as well, the man was liable to compensate the woman for shaming her, despite the fact that she did the same to herself.


Mishnah Bava Kamma 3:10

There are cases where one is liable for an act of damage caused by his ox, but exempt from liability for the same action if he performed it himself. Conversely, there are also cases where one is exempt from liability for the action of his ox, but liable for his own action. How so? If his ox caused a person humilation, he is exempt from paying compensation, but if he himself humiliated another, he is liable.


Bava Metzia 59b

What is the meaning of that which is written: “And you shall not mistreat a convert nor oppress him, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:20)? We learned in a baraita that Rabbi Natan says: A defect that is in you, do not mention it in another. Since the Jewish people were themselves strangers, they are not in a position to demean a convert because he is a stranger in their midst. And this explains the adage that people say: One who has a person hanged in his family [bidyotkei], does not say to another member of his household: Hang a fish for me, as the mention of hanging is demeaning for that family.

For Saturday


Yisrael of Modshitz, 19th century, Poland

The meaning is [that] those who harm another of their people by disgracing colleagues or putting them to shame put themselves to shame. As they have done, so is it done to them. This follows the verse: “for those who honor Me I will honor” (1 Samuel 2[:30]). It is also a sign that this blemish is in them [too]. It may be found here, but it exists there. This follows the teaching: “Do not taunt your colleague with a blemish that is within you.”