Following the command in last week’s portion to be sanctified and holy, Parshas Emor begins by discussing various laws directed specifically to the Kohanim and the Kohen Gadol (High Priest). Included is the command for the Kohen to refrain from becoming ritually impure through contact with a dead body (except for close relatives) and increased restrictions on whom they may marry. G-d requires those with greater spiritual responsibilities to maintain a higher standard of spiritual purity. Parshas Emor contains two of the most significant mitzvos in the entire Torah; to always be mindful of not desecrating G-d’s name, and on the contrary, to sanctify Him at all costs.
The Torah goes on to discuss the festivals of the year — Pesach, Shavous, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Succos and Shemini Atzeres. The festivals, including Shabbos, are referred to as moadim, appointed times; they are special days when Jews ‘meet’, as it were, with G-d. The festivals interrupt our ordinary weekday activities and inspire us to rededicate ourselves to those ideals that life is really about. Later, two mitzvos in the Mishkan are stated: The daily lighting of the menorah and the display of the lechem hapanim (showbread). The portion concludes with the horrible incident of a man who cursed G-d’s name.