Home » D'var Torah » Emor: Words for the Next Generation

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When the Rabbis divided the Torah into its 54 parashiyot (portions), they generally arranged for each portion to begin with a unique or otherwise significant word that would in some way summarize major themes of the entire section. Such is the case for most of the portions we have studied in Leviticus—until we come to this week’s portion, Emor, which means “Say.” Say? How many times is that word used in the Torah? What is unique about that word—what could the Rabbis have been thinking?

When we look at the whole first verse of the portion (Leviticus 21:1), however, we see something curious: the word occurs three times in this first sentence: “And Adonai said to Moses: Say to the “priests,” kohanim, the sons of Aaron, and you shall say to them.” It occurs once in the third person, twice in the second person; once in past tense, once in the imperative, and once in the future. It would appear, then, that one of the reasons the Rabbis began the portion with emor, “say,” was to emphasize that this was a portion about speaking.

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