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Parashat Emor – Why Can’t I Be Like My Friends?


Parashat Emor Weekly Torah Portion

   This week’s Torah portion is Parashat Emor. It is divided into emor dvar torahtwo main themes: 1. The sanctity of the Kohen– the priests who descended from Aharon- and 2. The holiness of time, Shabbat and the festivals. 

Parashat Emor opens with the Torah stating:” 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,” (Lev. 21:1)

Emor: The Question

The first verse of the Parasha uses the same verb Emor- speak-  three times! The commentators immediately ask why should the Torah repeat the same verb three times? They answer, that Hashem commands to Aharon to say to his children, “You are Kohanim. You have special rules that don’t apply to others. You have a unique status among the Jewish People and this different status means that things that others can do, you cannot. Why? Because you are a descendant of Aharon.”

Setting The Scene

Parashat Emor

Little Aharon the priest is playing soccer and the ball is kicked out of bounds. He runs to retrieve the ball when he hears a shriek. He looks up. It’s his mother. “Aharon- you can’t go there, it’s a graveyard!”

“But all my other friends can go there to get the ball. Why can’t I?” He asks. “Why must I be different?” His mother will answer him that one day he will serve in the Beit Hamikdash- the holy Temple in Jerusalem. Serving Hashem, representing the Jewish People before their Father in Heaven. This is an honour that very few people will have.

jewish values

Aharon may look at his mother and say. “But I just want to play with my friends. I want to be like them! Why must I be different?” 

On the surface, this Parasha is only speaking about the Kohanim. I may think that it has nothing to do with me. But that is not true. For the lessons for the Kohanim are for each and every Jew. In the same way, as the Kohen has special rules which separate him from the rest of the Jewish People, because of their unique role and mission within the Jewish People, so too, the Jewish People have a unique role to play amongst the family of man

This question that little Aharon is asking, is repeated by our children. “Why must we keep Shabbat? Why can’t we eat at that restaurant? Why can’t I marry whoever I love?

Appreciating The Gift

the Jewish gift

When we are young we do not appreciate the incredible gift that we have been granted. We may view our status as Jews as a burden. We rebel when we are forced to pray, celebrate Shabbat, limit what we can eat. It is only as we grow up that we begin to cherish the incredible gift we have been given to us by our parents. We are part of the greatest story in history. 

In some ways, we may feel like Esau. When he was a teenager, he sells his birthright to Jacob. Unaware of the value of what that means. A bowl of lentil soup is of far greater value. It is only when he is much older when his father Isaac wishes to bless him and give him the rights of the firstborn does he realize his tragic mistake. 

Lessons Learned From Parashat Emor


Parashat Emor teaches us, that as parents, we must imbue within our children the incredible honour that comes with being a Jew. Yes, there are things that we cannot do, that our friends can. But in the big picture, the role that they will have, the people that they are a part is unfathomable.

We are the children, the next link in a chain that has lasted 3500 years and continues to play a role on the stage of human history. We are Jews. Yes, we are different. We have different rules. However, it is through observing these rules that learn what it means to be a Jew. To take the values that we have learned and to share them with the world to make the world a better place.

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