The Torah Portion of Emor
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
"Say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon". (Vayikra 21:1)
The Sages say that the Holy One Blessed Be He cautioned Israel about the holiness of the Kohanim. This is analogous to the son of a king whose eating is not similar to that of the resident of a village; for if the son of the king eats the food of the villager, he won't digest his food and it will damage him. Thus Hashem said to the Kohanim -- guard yourself from every impurity, for even a slight impurity can cause you damage.
"These are the festivals of Hashem...declare them (Otam) in their season" (Vayikra 23:4)
There is a Hebrew word in this verse "Otam" (them), which the Sages interpret as "Atem" (you). That is to say, the interpretation is that YOU shall declare the festivals, even if you accidentally err, and even if you intentionally err in your declaration of the timing of the festivals. If when it is written "Otam" (them), we interpret it as "Atem" (you), all the moreso in the verse "You are children to Hashem" in which it is explicitly written "YOU". Then certainly "You are children to Hashem", even if you sin by accident or on purpose; in all circumstances, you are still children of Hashem.
"And you shall afflict your souls " (Vayikra 23:27)
After every fast we pray and request that the lessening of our blood and fat should be considered as if we were bringing a sacrificial offering, but that will be the case only if the blood and fat are pure. Therefore the Torah commands us to eat on Erev Yom Kippur so that the food we put into our bodies will be considered to be a Mitzvah, and that way we can say that our blood and fat which diminish on Yom Kippur are pure and come from the fulfillment of a Mitzvah, and then our sacrifice will be appropriate and acceptable.
Another reason why it is a Mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur
The "Sefat Emet" says another reason why it is a Mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur. Since it is a day in which we need to forgive our fellow man, the Torah commanded us to eat and drink on Erev Yom Kippur, in order so that we will be relaxed and settled and will forgive our fellow man with a full heart, because when someone eats he has a happy heart.
The Torah writes that the Succot and Arba Minim (Four Kinds) should be majestic and beautiful.
HaRav Yakovson ztz"l would explain this by means of a parable. There was a boy whose mother needed to dress him in beautiful clothing so that he could participate in a Simcha (happy occasion). The boy came from the street, and his body and clothes were dirty. Then his mother went to dress him in his beautiful holiday clothes. People told her, that's not the right way. First give him a bath, and when his body is clean then dress him in the beautiful clothing. And similarly, this also applies to the people of Israel. During the month of Elul we purify ourselves, and also on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. And after that, we arrive at those things which have majesty and beauty -- a beautiful Succah, and the Arba Minim (Four Kinds) which are majestic.
Regarding two holidays it is written "on that very day" -- Shavuot and Yom Kippur
The reason is that because all of the holidays are connected to events which occurred in the past. Passover is connected to the Exodus from Egypt, and Succot is connected to the Clouds of Glory. But Shavuot, which is about the giving of the Torah, even though this also was an event which has already occurred in the past, nevertheless, on every single day it should be in your eyes as if it is something new -- as if the giving of the Torah occurred "on that very day". And with regards to Yom Kippur, the Holy One Blessed Be He forgives us (every year) "on that very day".
"...That I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in Succot..." (Vayikra 23:43)
The Tur asks why we don't build Succot in the month of Nissan, since the Succot are a remembrance of the Clouds of Glory, and the Clouds of Glory were there immediately upon our leaving from Mitzrayim (Egypt). The Gr"a explains that after the Sin of the Golden Calf, the Clouds of Glory disappeared, as it is written: "...and Moshe saw the nation, that it was uncovered..." (Shemot 22:25), that is, they had become revealed to everyone's eyes since the Clouds of Glory had disappeared. It was only afterwards that the Holy One Blessed Be He forgave Israel for the Sin of the Golden Calf, as it is written "I have forgiven according to your word" (Bamidbar 14:20), and that was on the 10th of Tishrei (Yom Kippur). Immediately afterwards on the day after Yom Kippur, on the 11th of Tishrei, the Children of Israel were commanded about the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). During the course of two days they brought the donations for the Mishkan, that is on the 12th and the 13th of Tishrei. On the 14th of Tishrei all the wise-hearted took the donations for the Mishkan in their hands and immediately on the 15th of Tishrei they began to occupy themselves with building the Mishkan. It was then that the Clouds of Glory returned. Therefore we find that on the 15th of Tishrei, which is the time when the Clouds of Glory returned, we make a remembrance for that on the Holiday of Succot.
It is written in the Holy Books that "Sefirat Haomer" (which is the name of the time period during which we count the 49 days of the Omer) has a linguistic connection to the words "Sapphire" and "Zohar" (brightness), because these days shine with a great light so that we will be capable of preparing ourselves for receiving the Torah.
The Torah Portion of Emor has 124 verses, 24 positive commandments, and 39 negative commandments. Haftora: "V'hakohanim Haleviyim" (Yechezkel 44)
Pirkei Avot, Chapter 4.
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772