Parshat Emor presents us with an unusual combination of laws that span a wide spectrum of area of Jewish life. Among other laws, The Parsha spends a significant amount of time on the following three seemingly unrelated topics:
1- Various laws relating to the Kohen including which deceased relatives he may come into contact with, who is eligible to marry him and what handicaps and blemishes render him unfit to serve in the Mishkan.
2- The Cycle of the Festivals of the Jewish calendar and their laws
3- Laws pertaining to the Menorah, the Table and the Showbread that were in the Tabernacle
As we learn through the Parsha, one has to wonder about the connection between these topics and why they were chosen to be placed together at this point in the Torah.
To understand the unifying thread, perhaps we can apply a well-known principle in Jewish myticsm known as Olam-Shanah-Nefesh which means that every aspect of holiness can be found in a higher intensity and concentration in specific places (Olam), during specific times (Shanah) and embodied in specific holy individuals (nefesh).
Based on this we can suggest a connection between these three topics. The Torah is giving an address to go to for inspiration, when we need to turn up our sense of awareness of the Divine Presence in the world, when we need to connect in a deeper way. And that address manifests itself in a person, the Kohen, who is asked to live an exalted level and adhere to laws that will maintain absolute sanctity and purity. It can be found during specific times, the Holidays of the Jewish calendar. And it can be found at all times in the Tabernacle. Thus the Torah puts these three together.
Nowadays we don’t have a Tabernacle, and without one, the status of the Kohen has also been significantly diminished as well. Even the holidays have lost some of their inspiration without the special service. But there is still a very important message we must take away from this week’s Torah portion.
Perhaps, the greatest challenge we all face is the challenge of maintaining inspiration. The daily grind wears us down, the constant pressures of day-to-day life zap us of our energy and often we lose our fight. The key to staying inspired is finding your oasis in Olam-Shan- Nefesh, in space, in time and in others.
In “space”, means that we need to find a location which is our special place to reconnect. Whether it is attending Synagogue for prayers, a quiet place outdoors to think, a corner in our home to meditate or frequent trips to Israel, we need to discover a place that helps us access that inner energy and brings it forth.
In “time” means that we designate specific times in our schedule where we disconnect from the noise, drama, stress and intensity of everything going on in our lives. During that time, we focus inward to remind ourselves who we really are, what we really feel, our hopes, our dreams, and our values.
And finally in “others” means that we find role models in our life who inspire us and who bring out the best in us. It means identifying those who embody what we are trying to grow towards. People we can observe, talk to and learn from.
Parshat Emor is teaching us how the secret of spiritual survival lies in discovering the Kohen in our life, whoever that may be, the Holiday moments in our schedule, whenever they may be, and the Sanctuaries in our world, wherever we might discover them.