Drash on Parashat Emor – Leviticus 21:1-24:23
Rabbi Em Mueller
May 16, 2016
The center of this week’s Torah portion, Emor, is about our obligation to observe specific holy days: Shabbat, Rosh HaShannah, Yom Kippur, Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. Rabbi Elyse Goldstein (reformjudaism.org) points out that, when Torah states
אֲשֶׁר־תִּקְרְא֥וּ אֹתָ֖ם מִקְרָאֵ֣י קֹ֑דֶשׁ
… that you shall call them sacred callings
the obligation for fixing their time falls upon us! If we humans proclaim a date holy, then Poof! that’s the date, even if it’s off by a day or two! For example, the Reform Movement celebrates Pesach for 7 days instead of 8. She goes on to state that we are active partners with God.
I agree with her . . . to a point. I’m thinking of all the changes that have occurred in the Reform Movement: First meeting on Sundays, wearing top hats and listening to choirs singing to organ music, then moving to Saturday services, and in the most recent prayer book, Mishkan Tefillah, the inclusion of all prayers in English — with transliteration! When I pray in a Reform synagogue, the congregation chants and sings all the Hebrew in full voice. Quite a change.
But Judaism is a religion and a tradition that spans millenia. The changes we see over these last few hundred years — the beginnings of Reform and Conservative, Reconstructionism, Jewish Renewal, and now Jewish Universalism — are our attempts to bring Judaism into our lives in a meaningful way. We can declare whatever we want to declare, but will any of this last? What of it will last? Only Time will tell. We can declare holy days and create new traditions, but only Time will tell. Only Time gets to sift out the gold from the dross.
May this week give us an opportunity to add our own portion of holiness to Time.