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The Jewish Federations of North America

Parshat Emor
Rabbi Shelly Zimmerman
The Jewish Center of the Hamptons
East Hampton, N.Y.

It’s hard to believe that we ended our celebration of Pesach just over three weeks ago. We still are suffused with the joy and meaning of our annual celebration, as well as just getting over the fatigue that comes from all the work that the festival brings with it. These celebratory moments touch and bless us and become part of an unbreakable chain and link to the collection of Jewish memories which binds us to our people and our story. We remain connected and sensitized to the remembrance of our exodus from Egypt.

The many different interpretations of the Exodus redemption story lead us to greater awareness about words that describe so much about the potential for further meaning and lend themselves to yet added interpretations.

When we read or hear the words from Emor (Leviticus 22: 32 & 33). We feel something different being taught by something that is changed in the words themselves. “You shall not profane my Holy name, that I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people – I the Eternal who sanctify you, I who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your G-d, I the Eternal “.  So goes our usual  translation (Check out the old and new JPS translation).

But this translation does not do justice to the Hebrew itself. We know that in both versions of the  Aseret Ha-Dibrot, the ten divine utterances (commonly called the Ten Commandments) – both in Exodus (20:2) and Deuteronomy (5:6) the same form of the verb is used. That is: “ Asher hotseiticha mei-erets meets-rayim”, “who brought you out of land of Egypt”. But in this Parasha the form of the verb is participial, “who brings you out of the land of Egypt” –“Ha-motsee”.

Surely there is meaning here. This is not a story about the past and about what was. This is a teaching about what is, about what happens each and every day.  It is the Eternal,  “motsee”,  who redeems us each and every day. The Eternal One brings us out of the Egypt of our lives each and every day. The Holy One is active always in helping us break free of our own enslavements which are either self-inflicted or inflicted by others. Then the next verse (23:1) takes us further  by reminding us that each fixed time of the Eternal we observe,  and proclaim as a sacred occasion,  is a reminder of the continual divine process of redemption and freedom.

Egypt was, and is, servitude.  We are not yet fully redeemed and free. Daily we can open ourselves up to the Eternal’s redemption and each day free ourselves in concert with the Eternal, of ridding our lives from the moral, spiritual and physical hametz which enslaves us and keeps us in chains. “I am the Eternal who sanctifies you, redeeming and freeing you each day from the Egypts of your life”.


The Jewish Federations of North America Rabbinic Cabinet

Cabinet Chair: Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt
Vice Chair: Rabbi Les Bronstein
Vice Chair: Rabbi Frederick Klein
Vice Chair: Rabbi Larry Kotok
Vice Chair: Rabbi Steve Lindemann
President: Rabbi Steven E. Foster
Honorary Chair: Rabbi Matthew H. Simon
Director of the Rabbinic Cabinet: Rabbi Gerald Weider

The opinions expressed in Mekor Chaim articles are solely of the author and do not reflect any official position of Jewish Federations of North America or the Rabbinic Cabinet

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