This week we read the Torah portion of Emor, which includes passages that celebrate the festivals of the Jewish year. Last week’s portion of Kedoshim focused on the holiness of truly ethical conduct, while in Emor we move to the ways that rituals create holiness in our lives by setting aside times and seasons for sacredness and dedicating these to God.
In a Conservative or Orthodox congregation Emor is one of the most frequently read Torah portions, chanted both when it falls in the normal reading cycle and again on each of the festivals in turn. That is, we read Emor this week, but also on each of the holy days it describes, from Sukkot in the fall to Passover in the spring to Shavuot in early summer. In Reform tradition, we read it this Shabbat, but traditionally it is re-read regularly.
In most aspects of our lives the things that happen rarely are considered more important: graduations, weddings, milestone birthdays, and vacations, for example. Paradoxically, in Jewish tradition, those rituals which are observed more frequently are considered superior in holiness to those which occur less frequently. The more you do something the holier it is.
That is, the meaningful things you do most frequently are considered to be the most important—or should be. Your actions should reflect your values. Which means that the process of remembering and celebrating the festivals, particularly the most frequent festival of all, the Sabbath, is especially important.
It is a habit of holiness, a way to raise the ordinary to the extraordinary.
And you can do that each week, on Shabbat, every Friday and Saturday, by lighting candles, singing Kiddush, enjoying a Sabbath dinner with your family or friends. And by attending Sabbath services at Temple.
This Friday, for example, we have three different services, Shabbat Rocks! at 6:30 PM or our Chapel Service at 7:30 PM at Temple Emanu-El, and Downtown Shabbat at 9:30 PM at the Jewish History Museum on Stone Avenue. Saturday morning our services are at 10 AM at Temple.
On this week of parshat Emor, may you find a way to create this habit of holiness, the Sabbath, in your own life.