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Parashat Emor - 5774

My friends,

Today is the second day in the new month of Iyar. For thousands of years the month of Iyar, unlike most Jewish months, had no special day to be observed as a holiday or even a day of fasting. Then came 1948 when the 5th of Iyar was declared Israel's Independence Day. We are privileged to live at a time when we can observe and celebrate this newest Jewish holiday, Yom Haatzmaut. Make it a point to join your community's observance of this day, come this Monday, May 5, the 5th of Iyar.

This Shabbat, we read the portion of Emor. The first chapter deals with the Kohanim and their service at the Temple. The second chapter describes the various donations brought to the Temple by the children of Israel. The third chapter is addressed to the entire community and lists the Festivals of the Jewish year. It begins with these words:

"Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: These are My fixed times, the fixed times of the L-rd, which you shall proclaim as sacred times." (Leviticus 23:2)

Now that the Israelites are free they are able to observe special days, the first being Shabbat. "Work may be done all week," the Torah tells us, "but the Seventh Day is a day of holy convocation, you shall do no work, it is the Sabbath of the L-rd."

With all the comforts and conveniences that we enjoy in our days, we know how easy it is for each and everyone of us to find things to do. There is work, travel, hobbies, shopping, TV, entertainment, being on the phone or on line - in fact, the days are too short for everything that there is to do. As free individuals who are able to make choices, do we set Shabbat and the "Fixed days of the L-rd" as different and not fill them with the ordinary activities of a regular day? These days can only be observed by free people - those who are able to make the choice and not let themselves be servant to the daily demands.

Make your Shabbat and the festivals special. As a free person you can make Shabbat different by feeling the sacredness of the day. It is a Mikrah Kodesh, a Day of holy assembly.

It is Shabbat Kodesh.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram