Parshat Emor by Ari Hart
The Open Door
This week we read parashat Emor. A large chunk of the portion lists and explains the rituals and dates for the Yom Tovim we still celebrate today: Shabbat, Pesach, Shavout, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot .
As Jews, these holidays make the fabric of our religious lives. Each has its own unique preparations, physical and spiritual. Each has its unique rituals, stories, and meanings. Each brings families and communities together in different, beautiful ways. However, there is one aspect that unites them all. It is also the aspect that each time one of our holy days comes around, many of us forget.
The Rambam, in Hilchot Yom Tov (The Laws of Holidays) 6:18 writes:
While celebrating a holiday, when a person eats and drinks, they are obligated to feed “the stranger, the orphan, and the widow” (Deuteronomy 16:11).
But someone who locks the doors of their house, eating and drinking with their children and spouse [alone], and doesn’t provide food or drink to the poor and depressed, is not participating in the joy of [God’s] commandments. Rather he participates in the joy of the gut, and about them it says, “their sacrifices are like bread for the dead; all who eat of them will become impure, for their bread is for themselves” (Hosea 9:4) Joy like this is disgrace for them, as it says, “I will strew dung upon your faces, the dung of your festal sacrifices” (Malachi 2:3).
The Rambam is unequivocal – any holiday celebrated without including the poor and vulnerable is not Godly, unholy, and disgraceful.
The symbol of a holy feast is not the nicest sukkah, the biggest spread of food, the most sinful cheesecake, or the fanciest bottle of scotch. It is the open door.
Now, as we are in between two of our major chagim, Pesach and Shavout, let us recommit to upholding what our chagim should be all about. Let us not permit feeding the stranger, the widow and the orphan to become secondary concerns or something “nice” to do when we remember. As we approach Shavout, and all the holidays thereafter, may we leave our doors open, preserving the spirituality and dignity of our holiest days.