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    If I were a rich man – Emor

    Sometimes Hebrew verbs are followed by lecha or lachem, “for yourself” or “for yourselves”. This form, called the ethical dative, gives a verb a reflexive sense, as in lech-lecha, “get thee out”.

    Two ethical datives come in today’s sidra. One relates to Sukkot: ul’kachtem lachem, “take for yourselves the fruit of a goodly tree” (Lev. 23:40). The second refers to the Omer: us’far’tem lachem, “count for yourselves seven complete weeks” (Lev. 23:15).

    On the Sukkot law the rabbis said lachem means mishellachem, “of your own”: the four plants taken on Sukkot must be your own, not someone else’s. But in which way can counting the Omer require that the days be “our own”? Can days be stolen?

    In a sense the answer is yes. It is tempting to wish to live other people’s lives, to say you would rather be the other person and have their advantages and opportunities.

    “If I were a rich man,” says the song: but what if you are not a rich man and not likely to be? To anyone who envies someone else’s life, the Torah may be saying, “Live your own life, count your own days, rejoice in being you!”

    Rabbi Zusya said, “In the world to come they will not ask me, ‘Why were you not Abraham?’ – for I am not Abraham! They will not ask, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ – for I am not Moses! They will ask, ‘Why were you not Zusya?’… and I am not sure I shall know what to answer!”

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