Parshat Emor – Planting with Tears, Reaping with Joy
Beginnings are never easy. Planting something new, nurturing it, growing it until you can reap the harvest — this is never a simple process. For me, this summer, my first at Camp Yavneh, will be a new beginning. It will also be a new beginning for my son Nani and the other campers coming to Yavneh for the first time. Truthfully, though, this summer will be a new beginning for every single one of us, even those who have been coming to Yavneh their whole lives. Every summer is an exciting start to a new and different experience together.
But it’s not always easy to see that at the beginning. Being homesick or anxious is normal and can make it hard to see the rewards that one will reap in the long term — but that beginning, planting that seed, hard though it might be, will yield the deepest benefit. That’s both the wisdom of this week’s parsha and the theme of this summer at camp.
In this week’s parsha, Parshat Emor, God instructs Moses to tell the Jewish people specific details and instructions about the offerings on various holidays. To paraphrase, God says “When you come to the land that I am giving you and reap the harvest there, you must bring an omer (a specific quantity) of the very first part of your harvest to the kohein, who will offer it to God. Seven weeks later, you will bring a new bread offering to God. Moreover, when you reap the harvest you may not collect everything that you grew. You must leave the corners of the field and anything that fell for the poor person and the stranger.”
The parsha is describing a new beginning for the Jewish people wherein we must plant as soon as we enter the promised land. Planting is how we invest ourselves in a process that will yield fruit in the future. But planting is never easy! This message echoes that found in our theme this summer, of הזורעים בדמעה ברינה יקצורו, hazorim b’dimah, b’rinah yiktzoru, “those who sow with tears will reap with joy.” This also relates directly to the process that we’re in right now of counting the Omer between Pesach and Shavuot, named for the omer offering, where we count each day from when we planted the seeds on Pesach until we reap the full reward of receiving the Torah on Shavuot. God also tells us that when we reap, we must leave a portion over for the poor person and the stranger — whatever we plant for ourselves, we have a responsibility to share with those who need it most.
This summer we’ll all be planting new seeds that will yield fruit for ourselves personally and collectively, as we grow through our friendships and experiences. Whether we come to Yavneh for one year or many, we carry the fruit as our memories for the rest of our lives.
Questions for the Shabbat Table:
- Have you ever had a new beginning that was hard but which ultimately yielded great rewards? How were the “tears” in the beginning worth it in the end?
- How does your experience at camp benefit from what others have planted? How can you plant at camp in a way that others will benefit?