Parshat Emor

Torah Reading for the week of April 27-May 3, 2014


By Rabbi Eli Schochet, AJRCA Professor of Talmud



“March 1961.  Morris forgot my birthday.  Although I was upset, I successfully restrained myself and did not get angry.

“June 1963.  Morris made me upset when he commented that the soup was too salty in front of the guests.  I made up my mind not to mention it until we were alone, and I continued the Shabbos meal as if nothing occurred.

“October 1965.  Steven (our oldest son) decided to raid the refrigerator and ate all of the pies I was saving for the shul pie sale.  I disciplined him by telling him; however, I never raised my voice or displayed any anger.

“May 1968.  Morris and the two boys left Miriam (our youngest child) in Coney Island.  Thank God, a friendly policeman watched her until they fetched her.  Although I wanted to scream and yell at them, I laughed about it with them when they came home as I saw how embarrassed they were.”

You are probably wondering what these strange words are, and what they have to do with this week’s Torah reading, Emor.  They are three excerpts from a 44-year-old journal which Rabbi Ron Yitzchak Eisenman placed in a funeral casket alongside the body of their author.

What was so holy about that particular journal that merited its sacred internment?

It was a journal that this lady lovingly created and in which she detailed all the times she wanted to get angry but didn’t!

What a powerful and indeed sacred collection of moments are encompassed in this volume!

Let’s admit it: is it not true that all too often beautiful interpersonal relationships become dark and ugly because of explosions of anger?  Too frequently, a pure atmosphere becomes polluted by words spoken in rage and bitterness.

Would it not be admirable to emulate the pietists of the Lithuanian Mussar tradition as exemplified by this woman and devote oneself to “anger management” and “rage control”?

What a contribution and investment into our relationships and our loved ones it would be to multiply and treasure moments when we want to get angry, but we don’t.

In fact, this week’s Torah reading encourages this:  Emor addresses itself to what Abraham Joshua Heschel termed “the sanctification of moments,” and the challenge of celebrating moments with one another in love.

“Rabbi” Thumper Rabbit phrased the matter simply and aptly in Bambi: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

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