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This week’s Parasha, Emor, repeats a line that has already been stated twice before in the Torah: ” On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day, there shall be a Sabbath of complete rest” (Lev. 23:3). Dr. Shula Laderman, lecturer of Judaism and the Arts at the Schechter Institutes of Jewish Studies, asks “why?”. Dr. Laderman turns to Jerusalem artist, Avner Moriah, and his interpretation of Parashat Bereishit for some insight. Read the article to understand how moadim (holidays) refer both to Shabbat and to other holidays, and how they are linked to the sun, moon and stars.
Watch the video and read the article:
Parashat Emor begins with God telling Moses: “Speak (emor) to the priests, the sons of Aaron” (Lev. 21:1), but then moves on to address all of Israel regarding the special celebrations of the moadim (holidays), that is, the “fixed times of the Lord which you shall proclaim as sacred occasions (mikray kodesh)” (Lev. 23:2), such as the spring and summer festivals of Passover and Shavuot and the fall festivals of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.
Interestingly, the command about these holy days called MOADIM starts with referring to the Sabbath, the weekly festival: “On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day, there shall be a Sabbath of complete rest, a sacred occasion (mikra kodesh). You shall do no work; it shall be a Sabbath of the Lord throughout your settlement” (Lev. 23:3). Why? Why repeat here again a text that appeared twice before, once toward the end of the story of Creation (Gen. 2:1–3) and again as the fourth of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:11)?
The picture seen here, by artist Avner Moriah focuses on the Sabbath’s introductory verse, which he visualized in a painting he created for Parashat Bereshit. The picture images the six days of Creation, depicting the non-anthropomorphic spirit of God as a three-dimensional spiral; the tohu the firmament; the separation of the water and the land; all of the Earth’s flora, fowl, fish and sea creatures, land animals, and finally the very prominent images of Adam and Eve, the crown of Creation.
The artist’s decision to repeat most of the elements from the picture he first painted for Creation might serve as an answer as to why the law of the Sabbath is repeated hereafter having appeared earlier in both Genesis and Exodus. The point is to remind the Israelites that by their working six days and resting on the seventh they were imitating God and His acts in Creation.
Moreover, the reference back to Genesis serves to underscore the primordial concept of the moadim by recalling the story of Creation. The same word appears in the first chapter of Genesis in connection with the creation of the luminaries on the fourth day: “God said ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night; they shall serve as signs for the set times (moadim) – the days and years (Gen. 1:14). The word moadim is related to the verb “to assign, to appoint, or to fix.” Once the sun and the moon were created, they marked day and night and the months and the seasons, thus enabling the determination of the dates of the moadim, as we read: “Set times of the Lord, the sacred occasions (mikray kodesh), which you shall celebrate each at its appointed time” (Lev. 23:4).
That the word moadim first appears in the story of the luminaries on the fourth day lets us understand that, like the Sabbath, the moadim have their origin in the Creation story. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh and so it should be with a man. God also created the sun and the moon, but once they were in the skies it fell to man to fix the times and appoint the dates of the various moadim so they fall in the right season (Passover in the spring and Sukkot in the fall) and on the right day. Clearly then the story of Creation has a bearing on the celebration of the moadim as well as on observance of the Sabbath.
Shavua Tov from Schechter
**Beginning immediately after Pesach and until August, Parashat Hashavua in the Diaspora is one week ‘behind’ the Parasha in Israel. Shavua Tov@Schechter will follow the Diaspora schedule.
Dr. Shula Laderman worked for many years as a computer programmer and planner at Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem. While working there, she studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem towards her Ph.D., which she received in 2000. Her topic of research is the “Artist as an Interpreter” – visual interpretation of the Bible in Jewish and Christian Art. She is the author of: Images of Cosmology in Jewish and Byzantine Art- God’s Blueprint of Creation and is co-author with the artist Avner Moriah of: The Illuminated Torah. She taught for many years at Bar Ilan University as well as at the Schechter Institute, where she continues to teach in the Judaism and the Arts track (which she directed in the past).