Parshas Emor lists the qualifications and regulations necessary for a kohen to serve in the Beis HaMikdash. One requirement is that a kohen must perform the avodah, the Temple service, with his right hand (Z’vachim 24a-b). This preference may not seem special, as we are familiar with the general concept of emphasizing the right side as we perform mitzvos. Even outside the context of the Beis HaMikdash, Jewish people of all tribes are supposed to use their right hands when saying Sh’ma (Orach Chayim 61:5), reciting Kiddush (ibid. 183:4), and holding food while making a blessing (ibid. 206:4), among many other examples.
Parshas B’Har opens with the laws of sh’mitah, including Hashem’s promise to provide for the Jewish people throughout the year when their fields are left fallow. The Torah then suddenly shifts to discuss the obligation to support a fellow Jew in financial need. What is the connection between these two topics, sh’mitah and charity? Or, to quote from Rashi’s opening comment on the parshah: “Mah inyan sh’mitah eitzel Har Sinai?”
How do we, as physical and limited beings, transcend our finite dimensions? How do we relate to the abstract, to the infinite, to the spiritual? Let us approach this question through the lens of S’firas HaOmer, the counting of the Omer.
It’s a story of divergence, and it ends with a cliffhanger.
Every year on Yom Kippur, two identical goats were brought to the Beis HaMikdash and lots were drawn to determine which would be “for Hashem” (a special korban) and which would be “for Azazel” (pushed off a cliff). Which animal was considered the lucky winner of this lottery?