May 8, 2020 – Emor

Shabbat Message from Rabbi Rosenberg

Parashat Emor 

Leviticus 21:1-24:23 

 This week’s Torah reading opens with the command that Moses, “emor” speak to the priests, instructing them on various laws of the priesthood. While Moses has been “speaking” or “telling” the Israelites the laws for a while now, the rabbis point out the use of the word “emor” as opposed to “daber,” both words which mean to “speak or tell someone” something. The rabbis suggest that the command “emor” is a command to speak in a specific way, meaning to recognize that the way we speak or the way we say something is important. In this case, “emor” is about speaking or telling in a gentle and kind manner, as opposed to perhaps a lecture.  

 Much of this parashah contains Moses speaking to the priests and the Israelites about the religious life of the community: regulations about one’s fitness for the priesthood, fitness for sacrifice, sacred times of Shabbat and the festivals, and regulations about the Mishkan  

 This parashah concludes with a very strange narrative about a man who picks a fight with another man and publicly blasphemes God.  

 “And the son of the Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian man, went out among the children of Israel: and this son of the Israelite woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp; and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the name of the Lord, and cursed. And they brought him to Moses: And his mother’s name was Shlomit, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.”    (Leviticus 24:10-11)  

 What I find interesting about this small piece of text, is that the blasphemer is not named, but his mother is. Yes, on the Shabbat before Mother’s Day, a mom is called out for her child’s behavior! Why is she named and not her son? What does this have to do with “speaking?” 

 According to the rabbis, Shlomit Bat Dibri, was named as such because she was always babbling, talking constantly, without thought or control (Dibri is from the same root as daber – to speak or to be talkative). The rabbis believe that Shlomit bat Dibri is mentioned, and not her son, in order to place the emphasis on her and her uncontrolled speech to teach us a lesson about the importance of speaking. Why? The rabbis want to remind us that a parent, in this case a mother, is constantly teaching their children, by example. In this case, they are suggesting that the blasphemer didn’t learn the power or importance of speaking from his mom, because she was always talking, saying whatever was on her mind, not considering those moments when perhaps she needed a filter. The rabbis want us to remember that children are watching and more importantly listening. The way we use our God given ability of speech – is noticed by our children and they learn from us. But let me also clarify, this does not imply that a mother or any parent is responsible for all actions of their children. Every person ultimately has free choice, but we should also recognize that there are parts of a child’s character that reflects the nature of the mother or parents and guardians to whom they were attached while growing up. 

 Parenting is no easy feat. And there is no “one size fits all” way to parent, but the rabbis want us to remember that our children are listening, not only to the words spoken directly to them, but also to the words we speak into the world. Are they thoughtful? Kind? Gentle? Or are we just speaking to fill the silence? 

 As we welcome in Shabbat and bring about an end to this week, let us consider the true power of our words and our actions. May we “emor – speak” always with kindness, gentleness, and certainly with thought.  

 This Sunday, on Mother’s Day, let’s not only celebrate our mothers and the mothers of the world, but let’s celebrate the women in our lives who have helped us become the people we are today. These women are everywhere. Your favorite teacher, your aunt, your grandmother, your stepmother, your neighbor, or a friend. Say thank you and celebrate them and the joy and blessings they have brought to our lives! 

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