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Friday, May 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Emor

In this week's parsha, the Torah, yet again, enumerates the various festivals. After an introductory pasuk, the Torah shockingly begins (23:3) with a discussion pertaining to Shabbos which is not usually included amongst the festivals.


Many commentaries deal with the unexpected inclusion of Shabbos here but the GR"A suggests that this pasuk is not talking about Shabbos at all. When the Torah says, "On the six days you shall do work but on the seventh day... you shall do no work" it is referring to the seven days of Yom Tov. On six of those days of Yom Tov - the first and last days of Succos, the first and last days of Pesach, Shavuos and Rosh HaShanah - it is permitted to do work such as cooking for food purposes. The seventh day is Yom Kippur. This day differs in its laws from the other days of Yom Tov in that it is exactly like Shabbos and even food-related work may not be done.


Another puzzling aspect of this sequence is the fact that the introduction seems to be repeated. In accordance with the opinions that the pasuk is indeed referring to Shabbos, I think the following understanding of the pesukim, which addresses both difficulties, may be suggested: Shabbos is considered among the other festivals because it is also a significant and unique day. However, the Torah removes Shabbos from the rest of the group. It is by means of the two introductions that this separation is accomplished. The first introduction (23:2) is unique to Shabbos. It ends with the words "Eileh heim moadai," these are My designated days. The pasuk refers to Shabbos as HaShem's own festival. This is because Shabbos is a day that was declared at the beginning of creation and can never be changed. Forever, Shabbos will occur every seven days.


The other festivals, however, are not called "moadai." They are prefaced by a significantly different introduction. The festivals are described as "asher tikr'u osam bemo'adam," those which you shall declare in their proper time. The word "osam" is written without a vuv, the same spelling as "atem," meaning you. The exact days of the festivals are contingent upon the declaration of Rosh Chodesh which is solely in the hands of Beis Din. Essentially, it is us, B'nei Yisroel, who are in control of the festivals. Indeed, the gemara (Rosh HaShanah 25a) and the midrash (Sifra Emor 9) cite this pasuk in asserting that the month is set according to Beis Din's decree even if it is in error.


This enumeration of the festivals is divided into two distinct parts. The first are HaShem's festivals, over which man has no control. The second set of festivals involve significant human intervention.


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