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The Torah portion Emor continues the teaching thread of death, burial, post-mortem experience, and resurrection. There is a very special commandment called the "
Met Mitzvah," which refers to the commandment to care compassionately for the remains of the dead. The Met Mitzvah is literally "the dead person of the commandment."
Emor gives simple instruction for the priest in case of the death of a close family members, yet the text hints in Leviticus 21:18 that the principles of Aaron's descendants extend to "
ish ish," or "any man." For a royal priesthood, there is merit in learning and applying the instructions of the Met Mitzvah. Malachi 1:8 establishes the relationship among the priestly instructions, animal sacrifices, and the everyday Israelite.
There is an important principle that applies to Torah study that newcomers may not see at first. The Torah is one continuous document, and no matter whether the portions link narrative, commandments, ordinances, history, genealogy, or explanations, there is continuity. The previous portion was Kedoshim (Holies), and the final instructions of Kedoshim concerned those who attempt to interact with the dead contrary to the instructions of the Torah:
Now a man or a woman who is a medium or a spiritist shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones, their bloodguiltiness is upon them.'" (Le 20:27)
The distinction of animals is tied to this injunction against improper contact with the dead:
'You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean.
The teaching of unclean animals is designed to protect the nation of Israel, a nation of priests, against the oppression of unclean spirits that are attracted to ritually impure animals (Is 66:17; Mt 8:31). A medium also meddles in the realm of the unclean, which is death. If it helps our Western, politically-correct mindset, according to the Jewish law, putting to death a spiritist would only occur following explicit, instructive warnings that it was a transgression that would lead to death.
Kedoshim gives these final instructions to prepare the student for the next portion, Emor (Say...), which further details the "kedoshim" from Kedoshim. The parting shot of Kedoshim was that each individual was to distinguish between clean and unclean animals and to abhor improper communication with the souls of the dead.
Although caring for the corpse of a deceased human being is a Met Mitzvah, by no means should the dead soul be encouraged to linger or return to the grieving loved one. This is unholy.
Emor picks up the theme of undertaking the sorrowful commandment of the Met Mitzvah. It delineates the seven classes of the dead for which everyone, even a priest, is obligated to mourn:
Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them:
'No one shall defile himself for a dead person among his people except for his relatives
who are nearest to him [she-er], his mother and his father and his son and his daughter and his brother, also for his virgin sister, who is near to him because she has had no husband; for her he may defile himself.'
The spouse is not referred to as the priest's wife, but as the one "nearest to him," for she is his own flesh (in Hebrew,
is flesh). She-er has a similar spelling to
(goat). The difference is the middle letters, the sound-alike letters of
. Seir and se-ar are symbolic of the soul, or
as well as to Esau, who represents the nefesh that masters the spirit, while Jacob represents the spirit of man who obediently masters the nefesh. In fact, the Lexicon relates the hairy goat to the swine cited in Matthew 8:31! If you ever needed a reason to leave bacon off the burger, now you have it!
How this works in the realm of the soul is still a mystery, but if the nefesh is in the blood (Le 17:11), and we swallow even minute quantities of unclean animal blood, then it may be the equivalent of smearing honey on ourselves and standing on an anthill when it comes to giving unclean spirits a new location to sniff out, just as the demons request of Yeshua in Matthew 8. A husband and wife are one another's "flesh," and they are joined in one holy soul, influencing one another every waking moment to walk in holiness.
Unless the priest still has the consecration oil upon him, he must care for the dead in the seven classes of his Met Mitzvah. Even Aaron mourned, although silently, while the anointing oil was upon him, refusing to eat the sin offering, but he neither tore his clothes nor disheveled his hair, which are outward signs of mourning for the dead. There is a phrase in Leviticus 21:1, however, that adds even more weight to the mitzvah of honoring the dead. It is "among his people."
A priest may not defile himself for just anyone when he is "among his people." What if, however, as Yeshua taught in a parable, the priest happens upon a corpse, or an even weightier example, a dying man who still has the breath of life? There is no one else around to care for the corpse or the one near death. Should the priest press on toward the Temple to perform the rituals, or should he stop and perform the met mitzvah?
"Among his people" clarifies that even the priest is commanded to stop and care for the dead if no one else is present to do so. There are plenty of other priests who can perform the Temple service if the compassionate priest defiles himself for seven days after touching the soul, the corpse.
The Met Mitzvah was well-known among the Jewish people of the First Century, and Yeshua taught them this parable, which agreed with the Jewish interpretation of the met mitzvah:
Jesus replied and said, 'A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance
a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise,
a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him,
he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him...'
Sometimes we need to be reminded that on our way to a special event or privilege, we may encounter someone in need. If a priest is commanded to perform met mitzvah even for the dead, then how much more someone who is still alive? Both the souls of the dead and the compassionate priest benefit from the mitzvah. Both the souls of the injured and the compassionate priest benefit from the mitzvah.
How does the soul of the dead benefit from a compassionate mitzvah after death? The Torah doesn't say explicitly, but there are lots of clues that we've explored in the last few newsletters. Another clue is found in Leviticus 21:11, which clarifies how the priest behaves when he is serving inside the Temple with the anointing oil still upon him: "He shall not come to any souls of the dead; he shall not make himself impure..." (Saperstein Ed). The Hebrew word for the corpse is "soul," or nefesh. Although the decaying body remains, it is
the soul that will make the priest disqualified for service. For three days after death, physically, the corpse's blood "gels." After that, fast decomposition sets it.
The Emor text reinforces the connection of souls, and even unclean animals in 22:4-5:
And if one touches anything made
unclean by a corpse (nefesh, soul) or if a man has a seminal emission, or if a man touches
any teeming things by which he is made unclean...
According to Jewish tradition, the soul may hover around the corpse for three to seven days post-mortem before the angel delivers it over to the next phase of the journey. Although it's unsure where they derive these days, Scripture gives a hint:
Perhaps we can explore the significance of these ritual immersion days in the near future! As a hint, think of Day Three as the culmination of Yeshua's resurrection with the saints of old, and of Day Seven as the culmination of the greater resurrection at the Feast of Trumpets.
In the meantime, in the midst of all our feast-gathering, studying, and worshiping the Holy One, let's not forget there are dying souls in need of our compassion. They need someone to pour comforting oil into their open wounds, bind them up, and offer some wine of joy. We may need to turn loose of some coins to make sure they have a safe place to stay. If we have everything, then we have enough time to stop and give of our own souls.
If it is good to pay our respects to a deceased soul, then how much more a living one?
"Execution by the court applies when there are witnesses and warning,
(cutting off), applies in the absence of either, and a sin-offering applies for unintentional violation."-Rashi
-appetites, emotions, desires, and intellect
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