The musings of a previously unemployed Jewish Freemason. I write about the job search, about Judaism, and about Freemasonry.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Emor: Leave Them Unto The Poor, And To The Stranger

In West Virginia, a man who petitions for the degrees of Masonry must have both arms and legs, and most of their fingers and toes. Why? Because in the Bible, the priests must be physically whole.
"Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous, or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken; no man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the Lord made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God." [Leviticus 21: 17-21].
This restriction was present in Masonry in its earlier days, but has generally been dropped as unfair and wrong. There are a few holdouts, but the idea of rejecting an otherwise worthwhile man because he left a leg in Iraq after his humvee hit an IED is too distasteful for most Masons to contemplate.

Later in the Torah portion, God gives the rules for holidays. After Passover, when the Jews traditionally offered the temple sacrifice of the new barley (or omer), people are to count out fifty days until the next Pilgrimage Festival, Shavuot. [Leviticus 23: 15-16]. That counting has become a ritual practice, called the Counting of the Omer, and has taken on a Kabbalistic meaning.

49 is seven times seven. The seven lowest s'firot are Chesed, G'vurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and Malchut. The three higher s'firot are Keter, Chokhmah, and Binah, which are so rare and subtle that they are in the highest of the four worlds, Atzilut, which is beyond the comprehension of most of us. Each of the s'firot has its own Tree of Life inside it, making 100 in all. By limiting ourselves to the lower seven, we get seven times seven states of consciousness to meditate upon. On the second night of Passover, we get to reflect on the Chesed aspect of Chesed. The next night, we get to reflect on the G'vurah aspect of Chesed, and so on, until the night before Shavuot, we reflect upon the Malchut aspect of Malchut. Tonight, for example, is the Netzach aspect of Hod. Each night, there is a prayer, and then you count how many days since Passover that you have counted. A person who remembers to count the Omer each night for all 49 nights is considered to be especially blessed. If someone forgets to count the Omer on a given night, he can count it the next day before sundown, but he is not permitted to say the blessing.

This Torah portion also includes the commandment not to reap all the way to the edge of one's field, so that the poor have some harvest that they can glean for their own subsistence. [Leviticus 23: 22]. I love this idea. It balances the idea that we have to provide for the poor with the idea that a man should earn his bread. This provides the poor with work to do that will sustain them. We are not permitted to snatch up all the wealth, all the opportunity, but have to leave wealth and opportunity for those less fortunate, so that with their own labor they can provide for themselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment