This week’s Torah portion is Emor (Leviticus 21:1–24:23). Included is a comprehensive ‘review’ of all of the Jewish holidays, starting with the weekly Shabbat.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinci Director, United with Israel

Here’s the key to Shabbat and Jewish holidays: In secular parlance, a “holiday” implies some kind a vacation, a detachment from routines and obligations. In Judaism, however, nothing can be further from the truth. In Judaism, a “holiday” is a spiritual workshop meant to bring us closer to God by means of the many prayers and rituals that are performed on these days. The holidays are our spiritual lifeblood and connection. We need them for both our personal and national survival.

In short, a “holiday” is actually a “holy day.”

This idea can be illustrated with a parable:

There was once a man who had many children. One of his children became ill with a very dangerous and contagious disease. The father promptly phoned the doctor who quickly came to check the boy after being told how sick he was. The doctor examined the boy, prescribed a certain medication and then went on his way.

Some time later the doctor received another frantic call from the father. The doctor was surprised by this call and asked the father if he had given his son the medicine as he had prescribed. The father told the doctor that he had indeed given the boy all the medicine and that the boy had fully healed. It appeared, however, that the boy was suffering a relapse. The doctor simply told the father to acquire the same medicine and begin administering it to the boy again. The father said he tried that, but that the boy was being stubborn and would not take his medicine! In that case, said the doctor, there is nothing I can do – you have the cure in your hands. If he doesn’t take it, he will suffer.

The parable: The Jewish holidays in general, including Shabbat, are our spiritual medicines. They are the perfect cure for routine. They purify our souls and reconnect us with the Creator. Without them we fall ill from the influences in general society, secularism, and indifference.

The people of Israel are blessed with wonderful holidays – true holy days. We have ongoing opportunities to thank the Creator for the most wonderful blessing of all – the return to our Holy Land!

Making Shabbat and the holidays meaningful is well within our reach – let’s be sure to take the required dose. You’ll be glad you did!

Shabbat Shalom – Let’s make this Shabbat extra special and holy!