Table of Contents

Shemini - Aharon's Prayers Page 2 Aharon's Silence Page 5 Parshat Shmini 5765 Page 7 Cloture and Closure: Rav Glickman on Shmini 5768 Page 11 Parshas Shemini - The Disagreement Between Moshe and Aharon Page 13 Parashat Shemini: The Sin of Nadab and Abihu Page 15 Secret of the Mishkan Page 17 At the Zoo Page 19 Intellect and Emotion Page 21 Parshas Shemini: Reacting to Tragedy Page 29 Worms in Fish: A Halachic Problem? Page 32 Parshat Shmini: Considering Kashrut Page 35

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Author: Rabbi Solomon Drillman Title: Shemini - Aharon's Prayers

Editor's Note: The following is based upon a private conversation between HaRav Drillman, zt"l and the editor that took place on 21 Adar II 5755 (3/23/95). Several of the ideas discussed herein are based upon a shiur that HaRav Drillman heard from Rabbeinu u'Moreinu HaGaon HaRav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, zt"l on April 4, 1978.

Vayikra 9:22 - Aharon raised his hands toward the people and he blessed them. He descended [from the altar where he] had offered the sin-offering, the burnt-offering and the peace-offering.

According to Rashi HaKadosh this blessing should be understood as being "Birkas Kohanim" (Nesias Kapayim) based upon the fact that Aharon HaKohein raised his hands, which is indicative the blessing of Nesias Kapayim. Interestingly, the next verse tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohein entered Ohel Moed and upon their exit jointly blessed the people. Rashi reads this blessing as "May the Shechinah reside in that which you have built for Hashem" and that Moshe and Aharon then said "V'hi No'am".

HaRav Drillman was bothered by the fact that Nesias Kapayim and Birkas Kohanim were not included in this blessing since Moshe Rabbeinu had the status of a Kohein Gadol. This being the case, why did Moshe and Aharon, both of whom had the status of Kohanim Gedolim, jointly recite Birkas Kohanim upon exiting from the Ohel Moed?

HaRav Drillman, citing The Rav, zt"l, explained the above problem as follows: Upon examination of the Torah, Aharon HaKohein's children are sometimes referred to as Bnei Aharon HaKohanim and, at other times, as Bnei Aharon HaKohein. What is the reason for the difference? If we look at all of Avodas HaMishkan, we will find that some of the Avodos HaMishkan were given specifically to Aharon. In these cases all those who assisted him were acting as his agents, and as such have the status of Aharon himself.

One such example is that of the Avodah of Yom HaKippurim which was given specifically to Aharon in his capacity of Kohein Gadol. On that day, Aharon was permitted to enter the Kodesh HaKodoshim at any time that he wanted to do so. However, following Aharon's death his successors were restricted to entering the Kodesh Kadoshim once per year, on Yom HaKippurim. This license was given to Aharon's successors only in their capacity as the representative and personification of Aharon HaKohein. This concept is portrayed in the "Attah Konanta" section of the recitation of the Avodas Yom HaKippurim which is included in Nussach Sefard Machzor. It is in these types of Avodah that the children of Aharon are called Bnei Aharon HaKohein.

What then is an example of a different category of the Avodah? According to the Ramban the Mitzvah of lighting the Menorah is such an example. This mitzvah was given specifically to Aharon. However, though the Kohanim Hedyotim were also permitted to light the Menorah, they were permitted to do so only because Aharon did so before them.

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Author: Rabbi Solomon Drillman Title: Shemini - Aharon's Prayers

Another example of a mitzvah were Aharon's participation is essential is that of Nesias Kapayim. This can be seen is the beracho of Nesiyas Kapayim. This beracho is recited as follows: Baruch atoh... asher kidishanu b'kidushaso shel Aharon", and not, as we might expect, "b'kidushas hakehunah". Why is this so? The answer is that the Mitzvah of performing the Nesias Kapayim for all subsequent generations was given specifically to Aharon, and through him, to his descendants. Moshe Rabbeinu could not participate with his brother in the Nesiyas Kapayim as he was not given this mitzvah with Aharon. It is was for this reason that Moshe and Aharon offered a different beracho together.

As noted above, Rashi states that the second beracho that was given jointly by Moshe and Aharon was that of V'hi Noam. In examining this approach, The Rav, zt"l asked if the second beracho was made by Moshe and Aharon voluntarily or if they required to give the people a beracho at this point?

HaRav Drillman quoted The Rav as explaining that it would appear that this beracho was an obligation on the part of Moshe and Aharon. There is a similar obligatory beracho made daily based on the Korban Tomid Shel Shachar. In the times of the Mikdosh, the Kohanim gathered early and the appointed leader would tell them to recite one of the Birchos Krias Shema. HaRav Drillman commented that there is actually a Machlokes as to whether it was the beracho of Yotzer Or or Ahavah Rabbah, Krias Shema and an abbreviated Shemoneh Esrei of Ritzei and Sim Shalom.

A Jew who brings a Korban is required to pray that HKB"H accept the sacrifice because there is no guarantee that the Korban will be accepted, such as in the case of Kayin. Therefore a Jew must pray and ask that his Korban should be accepted. We find in this parsha that Moshe and Aharon blessed the people with the beracho of "V'hi Noam" and prayed that HKB"H should accept their Korbanos. This is just as the Kohanim did in the Mikdosh.

The above analysis raises an interesting question - why do we not find that the Kohanim pray that a Korban should be accepted before the actual doing of the Avodah instead of reciting their beracho afterwards? In fact, explained The Rav, there is a requirement to pray after the offering of a Korban. The prayer of Moshe and Aharon was more than a personal prayer; it was the prayer of all of Klal Yisroel that the Korbanos that were just brought by Aharon should be accepted. In this instance, Moshe and Aharon offered the beracho as the representatives of Klal Yisrael.

A similar concept is found with the Anshei Ma'amad. While one group of Kohanim were present at the daily sacrifice in the Mikdosh, there were other groups of Kohanim that were located in the cities of Eretz Yisroel that would fast and pray on Monday and Thursday that the Korbanos HaTzibbur should be accepted. The source for this concept is found in this and we find that Moshe and Aharon were the first of the Anshei Ma'amad.

We can also find this concept of prayer for the acceptance of our sacrifices in the Amidah. The last berachoh of the section of Bakashos is the beracho of Shema Koleinu, which is followed by Ritzei. On the surface,

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Author: Rabbi Solomon Drillman Title: Shemini - Aharon's Prayers

these two Berachos appear redundant. Yet, upon closer inspection we find that in actuality they serve very different purposes. The Rav explained that the beracho of Shema Koleinu is recited after one concludes his requests and asks that HKB"H answer his prayers for personal as well as our communal needs. Though Hashem is the ultimate hearer of our prayers, He may not always accept them. Hence we pray Shema Koleinu, that the ultimate acceptor of prayer should answer ours favorably.

The beracho of Ritzei asks that not only should Hashem accept our Tefilos as prayer and supplication, but as a Korban and ultimate Avodah Shebelev since Tefiloh is also Avodah Shebelev, and hence equated to a Korban. This idea is confirmed by the use of the word "Ritzei", a term which is used in conjunction with the acceptance of Korbanos.

If we examine the passukim in this parsha we find that on Yom HaKippurim the Kohein Gadol would read from the Torah and recite Berachos that request that HKB"H accept the Korbanos of the day that were already brought. Interestingly, at the conclusion of the Pesach Seder in the section entitled "Nirtzah" we pray that HKB"H should accept the offering of the Korban Pesach. Why is there no such request for Shavuos or Sukkos? The Rav explained that the concept of Nirtzah only applies in a case where a Korban has been offered. It is for this reason that there is no concept of Nirtzah with Lulav.

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Author: Rabbi Meir Goldwicht Title: Aharon's Silence

Parashat Shemini The deaths of Aharon HaKohein's sons, Nadav and Avihu, who offered a foreign fire which Hashem had not commanded, appear in the Torah four times. Certainly the Torah wishes us to contemplate this episode and to analyze it in depth, as this parasha is essentially relevant to every one of us. We will attempt, in the course of this dvar Torah, to understand this episode from the perspective of the father, Aharon HaKohein, who lost his two sons, Nadav and Avihu. Aharon's reaction to the deaths of his sons, the Torah tells us, is silence: "vayidom Aharon" (VaYikra 10:3). The midrash (quoted in the Torah Shleimah footnote 24) explains: "The Torah didn't say 'vayishtok Aharon,' which would indicate refraining from speaking and crying, but 'vayidom Aharon,' indicating emotional calm and spiritual tranquility. How are we to understand Aharon's spiritual tranquility despite the deaths of two of his sons? Immediately after the Torah informs us of Aharon’s reaction, the Torah says that Hashem taught Aharon the law that a kohein may not drink wine when he comes to perform the Avodah. Rashi explains that this was Aharon's reward for his silence. In other words, according to Rashi, HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave Aharon special chizuk for his reaction to his sons' deaths by speaking to Aharon alone and not, as He usually did, by speaking to Moshe and Aharon together or to Moshe alone. The question that arises, however, is that the parasha which Hashem teaches Aharon basically comes to warn the kohein doing the Avodah that if he comes to the Beit HaMikdash after drinking wine, he will die! Is this the chizuk that one gives to a person who has just lost two sons? "Be careful or else you and your other two sons will die too"? What is the meaning behind Rashi's comment that this parasha was Aharon's reward for his silence? These questions lead us to the topic of shtikah (silence). Shtikah generally indicates one of two things: 1) Fear, such as when a person who is yelled at remains silent; or 2) acquiescence, as in shtikah k'hoda'ah, when one person claims money from another and the latter is silent, essentially admitting that he owes the claimant money. Aharon HaKohein teaches us that shtikah can indicate something else as well. We can understand this third type of shtikah from the following gemara: When HaKadosh Baruch Hu showed Moshe Rabbeinu the true greatness of R' Akiva, Moshe Rabbeinu asked HaKadosh Baruch Hu, "If You have such a great person, why don't You give the Torah through him?" Hakadosh Baruch Hu responded, "Shtok, be silent!" Moshe continued, asking to see R' Akiva's reward for his Torah. HaKadosh Baruch Hu showed Moshe the markets of Rome, where R' Akiva's flesh was being weighed and sold. Moshe challenged, "This is the Torah and this is its reward?!" HaKadosh Baruch Hu again responded, "Shtok! This is what I have decided" (Menachot 29b). What kind of response is "Shtok!"? How does that answer the question? Rather, HaKadosh Baruch Hu was teaching Moshe that there are things that one can understand only if one sees the entire picture. This can only be done when one is silent, because when one speaks, one concentrates only on what he's saying, ignoring the surroundings. Shtikah allows one to evaluate his surroundings and to see the entire picture. R' Akiva teaches us this lesson in Pirkei Avot as well: Masoret seyag laTorah, One who follows the tradition will most likely follow the Torah as well (but there is no guarantee). Ma'asrot seyag l'osher, One who gives tithes will most likely become wealthy (but, again, there is no guarantee). In

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Author: Rabbi Meir Goldwicht Title: Aharon's Silence

his conclusion, however, R' Akiva strays from his template, teaching: Seyag lachochmah, shtikah, Silence leads one to wisdom, instead of shtikah seyag lachochmah. Unlike following tradition and giving tithes, which are like segulos, so to speak, shtikah is a guarantee for chochmah, because through shtikah one is able to perceive the entire picture. This was the greatness of Aharon's silence. His silence doesn't represent emotional coldness, for he certainly cried over the loss of his two sons. Rather, Aharon had the ma'alah (positive trait) of shtikah, which let him see the entire picture, enabling him to accept the deaths of his sons with tranquility and love for Hashem. This is essentially a halacha in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim §222), which rules that one must have a tranquil frame of mind and full desire when blessing Hashem for the bad just as one has when blessing Him for the good, because when bad things happen to those who serve Hashem, they accept it with love. One who has the ma'alah of shtikah can discover great sodot (secrets), because the whole point of a sod is that it remains a sod. Aharon's silence demonstrated his mastery of the trait of shtikah, and thus, his unique ability to uncover sodot. As he began his career in the Beit HaMikdash, where he would be privy to the sod of Creation and to all sorts of other sodot, HaKadosh Baruch Hu warns him not to drink wine, because "Nichnas yayin yatza sod, When wine comes in, secrets come out." Yayin in gematria is the same as sod. This commandment is not a warning that Aharon may die too, but rather an emphasis of Aharon's intimacy with sod. We now understand how this parasha served as a source of chizuk to Aharon HaKohein, essentially praising him as the paradigm of "Sod Hashem li'y'reiav, Hashem shares His secrets with those who fear Him" (Tehillim 25:14). The concept of shtikah relates to all of us. No matter how often we become angry, rightfully or otherwise, if we possess the skill of shtikah, remaining silent until we have calmed down, we will always be happy in hindsight that we did not react immediately. Shtikah has the power to prevent machloket, to prevent anger, and to allow one to see the greater picture. The ma'alah of shtikah allows us to consider the whole situation, and to weigh our reaction with the proper balance rather than reacting impulsively. Through shtikah we arrive at chochmah. Chochmah, which allows us to see the whole picture, leads to binah, understanding one thing from another, and to da'at, incorporating our experiences into our personalities. Thus we elevate our lives, individual and communal, to new heights. Shabbat Shalom! Meir Goldwicht

Rav Meir Goldwicht’s weekly sichah on the Parsha and Moadim is a service of YUTorah, the online source of the Torah of Yeshiva University. Get more parsha shiurim and thousands of other shiurim, by visiting

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Author: Editor Einayim L'Torah Title: Parshat Shmini 5765

April 1, 2005

‫כא‘ אדר ב‘ תשם“ה‬


‫פרשת שמיני‬
Published by the Student Organization of Yeshiva Volume 19, Number 11

Wellsprings of Meaning
Rabbi Chaim Packer
hough it was even beyond Shlomo Hamelech, ‫החכם מכל אדם‬, to fully understand the mitzvah of Parah Adumah, and certainly well above us, we can still search for insight and depth from the words of ‫חז'ל‬. The Mishna in Chulin (23b) contrasts Parah Adumah, the red heifer used to purify from ‫טומאת מת‬, and Eglah Arufah, the calf used to atone for the city closest in proximity to the corpse of a murder victim. A Parah Adumah must be slaughtered from the front of its neck, while the Eglah Arufah must have its neck broken from the back. Seemingly, the comparison between these two mitzvot is limited to this one point, yet other sources expand this contrast to other areas as well. The Tosefta on Parah (Perek 2) adds that the mitzvah of Parah is more stringent than that of Eglah in that Parah, unlike Eglah, must be red, cannot be blemished, and becomes unfit if one performs another activity while performing the necessary steps with the Parah Adumah and its ashes. The Gemara in Sotah 46a further compares and contrasts Parah and Eglah regarding their becoming unfit upon carrying a yolk. All these sources demonstrate that the connection between Parah and Eglah is significant. To begin to understand what may lie behind this connection, one must examine the circumstances that require a Parah or a Eglah. The Eglah is brought when, tragically, a corpse is found near a city, without anyone knowing the whereabouts of the murderer.


The elders of that city atone by taking a calf and breaking its neck in an unfertile valley. Upon completing the process of atonement with the Eglah, the elders of the city declare that they are not to blame for the murder of this individual. The Gemara in Sotah 45b explains that although, of course, the elders did not murder this person, they still must establish their innocence regarding the welcome they afforded this guest to their city. Were they and the inhabitants of the city as diligent as necessary in feeding, housing, and accompanying this individual? One may suggest that breaking the calf’s neck, specifically from the back of the neck, corresponds to the treatment that the inhabitants of the city afforded to this individual. Their “turning their backs” from him possibly left him vulnerable to the perils and dangers lurking on the roads. The Parah Adumah is required for the purification process from Tumaas Mes. Upon encountering death, an individual is often left with an overwhelming feeling of futility. As the wicked Esav declared, " ‫הנה אנכי‬ ‫—"הולך למות ולמה זה לי בכורה‬loosely translated as “Why should I seek high ambitions if eventually I will die and it will all go for naught anyway.” The Parah Adumah comes to combat that sentiment. The completely red heifer, filled with sin (if your sins colored you red like crimson...-...‫ )"אם יאדימו כתולע‬and destined for death, can become a source of purity. For the Parah Adumah to be effective, each stage requires our total attention. We find several examples in Mesechtas Parah. We separate the Kohen for seven days of preparation before burnContinued on page 4



‫מנחה גדולה‬


‫סוף זמן תפילה‬ (‫)גר“א‬ 9:56 A.M.

‫סוף זמן תפילה‬ (‫)מג“א‬ 9:32 A.M.

‫ז מ ן ק “ש‬ ( ‫)ג ר “ א‬ 8:52 A.M.

‫ז מ ן ק “ש‬ ( ‫)מ ג “ א‬

‫נץ החמה‬

‫עלות השחר‬

‫הדלקת‬ ‫נרות‬

7:07 P.M. 6:24 P.M. 12:35 P.M. 12:03 P.M.

8:16 A.M. 5:41 A.M. 4:29 A.M. 6:06 P.M.

Times are for New York City

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Author: Editor Einayim L'Torah Title: Parshat Shmini 5765

The Road to Sinfulness
he pasuk at the end of this week’s Parsha states, “Do not make yourselves repulsive by [eating] any creeping creature that crawls, and do not make yourselves unclean with them, for you will become unclean because of them” (11:43). The Torah writes the word “unclean” here without an ‫א‬. The Gemara in Yoma (39b) explains, “‫אל תקרי ונטמאתם אלא ונטמטם‬--Don’t read Unclean rather Confused.” Rashi, in Yoma, states that eating tamei foods confuses our Chochmat HaShem. The non-kosher food becomes part of our bodies, which makes it harder for us to connect with Hashem. The Chofetz Chaim explains this idea with a parable about a perfume seller. The merchant deals with perfumes all day, and while at the start of his career he was overwhelmed by the smell of perfume, eventually he got used to it. Then, one day he loses everything and must become a tanner. It was very hard for the worker to deal with the awful stench of soaking skins, but eventually the former perfume seller got used to this smell as well. The Chofetz Chaim says that this parable explains the idea in the pasuk. Someone who regularly eats forbidden foods will become accustomed to this sinful habit. Thus, the Torah commanded us not to become Tamei by eating creepy crawlers even once because it will lead down a slippery slope. The natural confusion that comes when we go against the will of Hashem makes it that much harder to find the true derech. We find this idea stated clearly in Pirke Avot. “‫מצוה גררת מצוה עבירה הגררת עבירה‬--A mitzvah leads to a mitzvah, and a sin leads to a sin.” According to our pasuk, we can understand this mishna a little better. It is this exact ‫טמטם‬, this confusion, that leads us to sin. We build a barrier between
Page 2


Dovid Yehoshua Skversky

ourselves and G-d that makes it that much harder for us to hear him, and that much more likely to fail a second time. The last stage of confusion is stated in Yoma (86b), “‫—כיון שעבר אדם עבירה ושנה בו נעשית לו כהיתר‬ Since a man sinned and repeated it, it has become for him as if it were permissible. Once a person has become complacent in his sinful behavior, he has reached a point that the Chofetz Chaim describes as being at home with the issur. At that stage, a person no longer feels that he is sinning as he grows farther away from HaShem. May we all be zoche to return to HaShem with a teshuva shleima, and remove the confusion from our hearts to become true Ovdei Hashem.

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Author: Editor Einayim L'Torah Title: Parshat Shmini 5765
‫עיניים לתורה‬

Nisayis Kapayim: The Original Source and its Implications

arshas Shemini presents one of the sources for the mitzvah of Bircas Kohanim, specifically, the requirement for a particular arrangement of the hands. After describing the various elements of the Kohen Gadol’s service on Yom Kippur, the pasuk (Vayikra 9:22) points out that Aharon then proceeded to set aside time to bless Bnei Yisrael: “Vayisa Aharon es yadav al ha’am va’yevarechem–Aharon raised his hands towards the people and blessed them.” Rashi comments on this pasuk, “Va’yevarichem, yevarechecha, ya’er, yisa” – that Aharon’s blessing is an allusion to Bircas Kohanim, which contains the initial phrases “May Hashem bless you,” “May Hashem illuminate his face towards you,” and “May Hashem raise his face to you.” A question that immediately comes to mind is why the Torah saw it necessary to bring two sources (Parshas Shemini as well as in Bamidbar 6:24-26) to describe the mitzvah of Bircas Kohanim, and why Rashi felt it necessary to link the two. The Braisa in Sotah (38a) provides a compelling answer: Both sources are needed in order to teach us the different characteristics of the mitzvah of Bircas Kohanim. From the pesukim in Bamidbar, beginning with “Ko Tevarchu,” the Gemara states that we would know that there is a concept of blessing the people, but we would not know how that is manifested. Therefore, the Gemara says that the source in Parshas Shemini is necessary, for Shemini teaches us “Vayisa Aharon es yadav”- that the Kohanim’s blessing of the people is only accomplished through the means of the hands and specifically by placing the hands in a specific formation. But how exactly are the hands to be placed? What is the precise formation? The same Gemara in Sotah (37b-38a) provides details of the manner in which the Kohen performs the Nisayis Kapayim process: When outside the Bais Hamikdash, the Kohen should raise his hands above his shoulders and recite the blessing. However, if he happens to be performing the ritual in the Bais Ha’mikdash, then he should place his hands on his head. Rashi adds that the Kohen does this to acknowledge the presence of the Shechinah. This Gemara mentions the distinction between performing Bircas Kohanim inside and outside the Bais Ha’mikdash, but does not provide a


Robbie Wizenfeld

precise formula for hand formation (except by acknowledging that it should take place above the shoulder area.) The Haghos Maymaniyos on the Rambam in Hilchos Nisayis Kapayim 14:3 notes that the Kohen should raise his right hand slightly higher than the left hand, a custom which he attributes to the singular language of “yado” in the pasuk as well as a minhag found in kabala. Furthermore, the Shulchan Aruch (Orech Chaim 128:12) tells us that the fingers should contain five spaces between them upon being spread out: The first two are found between “the two fingers and the two fingers” (which occurs upon linking the middle finger to the index finger and the side finger to the pinky), the third and fourth one are found between the index finger and the middle finger (a slight gap), and the fifth one is not mentioned by Shulchan Aruch but which he seems to imply is between the index finger and the thumb. Now we know the exact hand layout of Nisayis Kapayim. However, one must also question the importance of Nisayis Kapayim. Does its importance match or even overtake the importance of the bracha of Bircas Kohanim, In other words, if one were to imagine a case in which the formation of the hands could not be accomplished would that be me’akev the bracha of Bircas Kohanim? (and render the whole mitzvah unnecessary)? The Nodah B’Yehudah (Orech Chaim 5) proves that Nisyayis kapayim is an inherent element of the mitzvah of Bircas Kohanim. He argues that standing during Bircas Kohanim is a Biblical commandment (based on a Tosafos in Menachos 109a) and since the Shulchan Aruch equates the importance of standing with the importance of the hand formation, he must be of the opinion that if one were unable to perform the Nisayis Kapayim, one neutralizes his ability to be yotze Bircas Kohanim as well. In Igros Moshe (Orech Chaim 2:31), R. Moshe discusses whether a congregation that is entirely composed of Kohanim can be yotze the mitzvah of Bircas Kohanim. He analyzes the seemingly differing statements of R. Simlai and R. Zeira in this context (found in Sotah 38a). R. Simlai argues that the purpose of Bircas Kohanim is not necessarily to bless the members of the specific congregation in which the Kohanim are currently reContinued on page 4 siding but, rather, to bless the

Page 3

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Author: Editor Einayim L'Torah Title: Parshat Shmini 5765
‫פרשת שמיני‬
Continued from page 1 ing the Parah (Parah 3:1). Children were born and raised in a safe haven protected from tumaas mes, specifically to be involved in the process of only a single Parah (Ibid 3:2-3). According to R’ Yosi we cannot entice a Parah to move using another cow, because it must be taken alone (Ibid 3:7). It must be slaughtered for its purpose--lishma (Ibid 4:1). If the Kohen performs another activity while working with the Parah or its ashes, he deems it unfit (Ibid Perakim 6-7). In this context, we can understand that the Parah needs to be slaughtered specifically from the front of its neck (unlike the Eglah) in order to properly focus us on its significance. The first Mishna in Mesechtas Parah notes what may be the most defining connection between Parah and Eglah, that an Eglah is a young Parah. The Eglah must be less than two years old. This reminds us that when our neglect caused this individual to perish, his future was wiped away, leaving his dreams just a fleeting memory. In the words of Chazal, “We break the neck of this young calf who never bore children, in an infertile valley because this individual never had the opportunity to produce and be fruitful” Sotah 46a). We atone for the wasted potential. In contrast, the Parah must be at least three years old, already having lived a “full life-time.” It is fully reddened by sin, cynical, and established in its ways, yet attention to its every detail together with tremendous ‫ סיעתא דשמיא‬will bring new energies, while reviving what has already been used up. The burned ashes of the Parah are placed not into the infertile valley, rather into live waters, ‫מים חיים‬, waters which will generate new enthusiasm and excitement, which will be fruitful and produce more Torah and Mitzvot." ‫עוד‬ ‫"ינובון בשיבה דשנים ורענענים יהיו‬ May we pay attention to the inherent significance of everyone we meet, everything we have, every event that occurs, and every opportunity that we are offered. We will then be living in the live waters of ‫זאת חוקת‬ ‫התורה‬. "‫"וטהר לבנו לעבדך באמת‬- “Purify our hearts so we Continued from page 3 entire Jewish nation. If this were the case, R. Moshe notes, than it does not seem necessary for “outsiders” (i.e.: leviim and yisroelim) to be present at the exact moment the bracha is recited. The Kohanim are still yotze their obligations by blessing the Jewish nation as a whole (including all of those not present.) R. Zeira, on the other hand, argues that the purpose of the Bircas Kohanim is to bless the “inhabitants of the field” which, it seems, is limited to the members of a specific town. If one were to accept the opinion of R. Zeira, R. Moshe argues, than it would seem that Kohanim cannot be yotze their chiyuv of Bircas Kohanim unless the “inhabitants of the field” are present in the shul at the precise time of duchaning. R. Moshe also proceeds to discuss whether or not it is necessary that someone answer “amen” to Bircas Kohanim in order to make all involved yotze their respective chiyuvim. In this regard, R. Moshe proposes, maybe some Kohanim should “stay back” in order to answer amen during Bircas Kohnaim. Ultimately, R. Moshe is unsure whether a Kohein can set aside his own duchaning obligation for the overall benefit of the congregation.


‫ עיניים לתורה‬wishes a
Mazal Tov to:
Yossi Frydman and Naomi Kelman on their recent Engagement! Yonatan Stavsky and Rachel Goldman on their recent Engagement!
Page 4


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Author: Rabbi Ozer Glickman Title: Cloture and Closure: Rav Glickman on Shmini 5768

‫פרשת שמיני תשס”ח‬

‫שיחות רב עוזר‬


Insights into Torah and Halacha from Rav Ozer Glickman ‫שליט”א‬ ‫ר”מ בישיבת רבנו יצחק אלחנן‬

Cloture and Closure
:‘‫ויאמר אל אהרן קח לך עגל בן בקר לחטאת ואיל לעלה תמימם והקרב לפני ה‬ At the end of ‫פרשת צו‬, we leave ‫ אהרן‬and his sons by the entrance to the ‫ אהל מוגד‬for seven days. They will only discover later that this waiting period is effectively seven days of mourning for ‫ נדב‬and ‫אביהו‬. .(‘‫אמר להם משה לאהרן ולבניו שמרו אבלות שבעת ימים עד שלא יגיע בכם )תנחומא שמיני א‬ Moshe told Aharon and his sons: Observe 7 days of mourning before it overtakes you. For now, it is only precautionary . In the midrashic read, ‫ נדב‬and ‫ אביהו‬effectively mourn their own demise, a woefully ironic twist. In this, the Midrash tells us, they imitate the practice of the Omniscient God Who mourns tragedy before the fact: .(‫שכך שמר הקב”ה שבעת ימי אבלות עד שלא הביא את המבול כביכול )שם‬: ‘‫ושמרתם את משמרת ה‬ And you shall observe what God observed: for so did the Holy One Blessed be He observe 7 days of mourning as it were before He had even brought the deluge. This practice is normally denied human beings by virtue of the uncertainty that characterizes the human condition. Considered in this way, mourning is less a post-mortem on an event past and more a meditation on imminent tragedy. When the eighth day arrives, ‫ אהרן‬and his sons take to the ‫ משכן‬to begin their service. From that act of ‫ עבודה‬onward, the ‫ משכן‬becomes the exclusive province of the ‫כהנים‬. Significantly, the very first command to ‫ אהרן‬on that eighth day is to take an ‫ עגל בן בקר‬for a ‫קרבן חטאת‬. Now the irony cannot be lost on even a casual reader. The first time ‫ אהרן‬served before ‫ בני ישראל‬an ‫ עגל‬was also involved. We cannot even hear the word without being reminded of that calamitous episode of wanton idolatry. ‫ עגל סתם‬is the ‫עגל הזהב‬. Why evoke that image in the minds of ‫ בני ישראל‬at this juncture when they must come to view the ‫ כהנים‬as the consecrated elect of God? Why remind ‫ אהרן‬himself of a failure of leadership now in his moment of glory? The association is precisely what the Torah intends, says the ‫מדרש תנחומא‬: ‫לפי שעל ידי העגל נתפקפקה הכהנה בידך ובעגל היא מתבססת בידך‬ Because the priesthood was threatened by you through the calf, so you establish it firmly through the calf. There is closure for ‫ אהרן‬in his use of a calf to establish the ‫ כהונה‬after having undermined its existence in his use of a calf made of gold. For the people of Israel, there is an advantage too: .‫שידעו הכל שנתכפר להם על מעשה העגל‬... ...that they should know that their sin with the calf has been expiated. We are struck by an obvious question. As much as the calf is fraught with important symbolic significance for both ‫ אהרן‬and the people, does it not violate an important protocol: ‫אין קטיגור נעשה סניגור‬ the prosecutor cannot become defense counsel? An object that has been used in the performance of an ‫ עבירה‬cannot be then used in the performance of a ‫מצוה‬. The question is even stronger when we consider the principal context of this rule in the ‫גמרא‬: the ‫ כהן הגדול‬is prohibited from entering the ‫ קדש הקדשים‬wearing gold-trimmed garments because gold was used in the ‫מעשה העגל‬. How then can the ‫ עגל‬itself effect expiation? A careful reading of the ‫ גמרא‬there provides a preliminary answer. The ‫ בגדי כהונה‬were worn into the ‫ קדש הקדשים‬and therefore needed to be completely free of any association with ‫עבירה‬. The ‫ עגל‬was only offered in the outer precincts. While this distinction between the ‫ עגל‬and the ‫ בגדי כהונה‬is a fact, we should not read Talmudic

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Author: Rabbi Ozer Glickman Title: Cloture and Closure: Rav Glickman on Shmini 5768

5768 ‫שמיני‬

‫שיחות רב עוזר‬

dialectic as an exercise in hairsplitting. The distinction needs to be understood as an efficient reason for the difference in law. The places where the two serve does not seem to provide a basis for distinguishing between them regarding the principle of ‫אקנ”ס‬. Indeed, the ‫ מהרש”א‬asks by what right something that is considered a ‫ קטיגור‬inside should be a ‫ סניגור‬outside. In other words, not only doesn’t it explain the difference but it is actually incoherent. Reading the ‫ מדרש‬carefully as we certainly should, we see that the ‫ עגל‬is specifically intended to evoke the ‫ עגל הזהב‬thereby making a public declaration that the sin has been forgiven. There is no more appropriate object with which to do a redemptive act of ‫ כפרה‬than the one with the shape and likeness of the object that was exploited for the sin itself. So observes the ‫ ערוך לנר‬on the spot in ‫ראש השנה‬. In other contexts, however, the object has been disqualified as a ‫חפצא של מצוה‬. Stated another way, an ‫ עגל‬cannot but remind us of the the ‫עגל הזהב‬. In an act of ‫כפרה‬, that association is an effective tool for repairing the breach. In other contexts, that association is inappropriate and interferes with the ‫מצוה‬. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but an ‫ עגל‬is never just a calf. We live our lives not merely in the context of our own times but in the eternal context of our timeless Torah.
These sichos are published by students and admirers of Rav Ozer Glickman shlit”a. We may be reached at



Rav Glickman on the Road
Sunday, March 30, 2008 The Orthodox Forum Conference sponsored by RIETS, Yeshiva University Rav Ozer Glickman “Think Local, Act Global: Tzedaka in a Global Society” Wednesday, April 2, 2008 Community Memorial for Students of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav, Congregation Bnai Yeshurun, Teaneck, NJ sponsored by RCBC Rav Ozer Glickman “Moral Relativism vs Pure Evil: Thoughts on the Murder of Innocents”

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Author: Rabbi Avraham Gordimer Title: Parshas Shemini - The Disagreement Between Moshe and Aharon

"And Moshe queried concerning the goat sin-offering (Chattas), and behold it had been burned, and he became angry with Elazar and Isamar, the remaining sons of Aharon, saying: Why did you not eat the Chattas in the holy place...And Aharon responded to Moshe: Yes, they offered their sin offering and burnt offering before God, but in light of the event that occurred to me, how could I eat a Chattas today; would it be good in the eyes of God? And Moshe hearkened and accepted." (Vayikra 10:16-20) Rashi explains the above passage based on the interpretation of the Gemara in Zevachim and the Medrash Toras Kohanim: rather than consuming the Chattas of Rosh Chodesh, Aharon directed that it be burned to ashes, as he was an Onen (one who just lost a close relative), for his sons Nadav and Avihu had just perished, and an Onen may not consume korbonos (sacrifices). Moshe had opined that since the Kohanim were instructed to consume the Mincha (meal offering - ibid. v. 12) irrespective of their status of Onenim, they should have also eaten the Chattas of Rosh Chodesh. Aharon retorted that the Mincha was a one-time offering in honor of the inauguration of the Mishkan and the Kohanim, and its consumption by an Onen was therefore granted a dispensation; however, one cannot apply this dispensation to the Chattas of Rosh Chodesh, which was a regular korbon of a permanent nature. (See Medrash Rabbah, Medrash Hagadol and Targum Yonasan ben Uziel for modified versions of this interpretation.) What was the exact point of dispute between Moshe and Aharon? Why did Moshe hold that the Chattas of Rosh Chodesh should have been likened to the special Mincha of that day and eaten by Aharon while he was an Onen, and why did Aharon contend that the two offerings were incomparable as regards an Onen? On a technical level, Moshe viewed all of the korbonos of the day as part of the inauguration of the Mishkan and the Kohanim. Just like on Yom Kippur, when the regular, daily korbonos which are not essentially related to the Yom Kippur Avodah (service) become part of it, such that the Kohen Gadol must perform them and their sequence is subsumed under the banner of the day's special Avodah, Moshe similarly felt that the offerings which occurred simultaneously with the inauguration ceremony were to be viewed as part of it and governed by its rules. Thus, the Chattas of Rosh Chodesh was subject to the dispensation for an Onen that the day's special Mincha enjoyed. Aharon disagreed with this approach and maintained that one could not view the Chattas of Rosh Chodesh as part of the inauguration Avodah, as its mere simultaneity with the inauguration did not serve to include it as an inaugural korbon. On a deeper level, it would appear that Moshe and Aharon's disagreement hinged on the primary emphasis of the Avodas Ha-korbonos, the Sacrificial Service. We must keep in mind that Bnei Yisroel had just been granted atonement for the Chet Ha-egel, the Sin of the Golden Calf. The Mishkan served to precipitate this atonement, and the nation anxiously awaited the Shechinah, God's Presence, to fill the Mishkan, as a sign that God again considered the Jews worthy of His closeness. (See Rashi from Toras Kohanim on 9:23.) As such, the Mishkan became the primary expression of God's Presence in this world, and Moshe envisioned the korbonos as an eternal tribute to the Shechinah's manifestation in the Mishkan. Just as the Ramban explains that the Mishkan was an eternal continuance of Ma'amad Har Sinai - the Revelation at Sinai - so, too, did Moshe believe that the Mishkan's korbonos were a continuous commemoration of God's Presence resting in the Mishkan, as it were, and the original celebration of this occurrence. Therefore, the dispensation pertaining to an Onen that applied to the korbonos of the Mishkan's and Kohanim's inauguration, which was a period of immense and unbreakable joy, was logically applicable to all korbonos of that time, as the entire institution of korbonos was a tribute to the celebration of God's Presence resting in the Mishkan. In the midst of such an event, all signs of mourning were barred, as the overwhelming state of simcha and the very nature of the korbonos, which reflected the joy of encountering the Shechinah, were inconsistent with mourning. Aharon viewed the Avodah through a somewhat different lens. His position was that the primary emphasis of the Avodah was the opportunity to serve God - period. The celebratory mood of the inauguration that dispensed wth the rules of Aninus (being an Onen) for the inauguration's special korbonos was unrelated to the Chattas of Rosh Chodesh, which was a permanent and fixed korbon. Although the rules of Aninus were

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Author: Rabbi Avraham Gordimer Title: Parshas Shemini - The Disagreement Between Moshe and Aharon

suspended for the korbonos of the inauguration, as these korbonos were symbols of the experience of joy upon Hashra'as Ha-Shechinah (the manifestation of the Shechinah), there existed a whole different type of Avodah - the enduring, normative one - that was not affected by the inauguration and its mood. This Avodah was not primarily a response to Hashra'as Ha-Shechinah; rather, its thrust was an independent expression of commitment to Hashem, by which Man serves Him and gives of his bounty to God, not as a response to Hashem but as a unilateral act. The positions of Moshe and Aharon as they relate to the korbonos are actually reflections of the roles of these great leaders. Moshe's role was that of revelation of the Shechinah, for it was Moshe who experienced God's Presence on Sinai, who talked with Hashem in a face-to-face fashion, who brought down the Luchos (Tablets) which overflowed with kedushah (holiness), who communicated Hashem's Word to His people, and whose face shone due to his encountering the Divine in a most intense manner. Moshe's entire essence was one of encountering and revealing the Shechinah, and he thus identified the primary basis of all korbonos as a reflection of this. Just as we read about the Avos and other personalities in the Torah bringing korbonos when they experienced the Shechinah, so did Moshe feel that the revelation of the Shechinah was the basis for all future korbonos. On the other hand, the Medrash depicts Aharon as a pursuer of peace, such that he would approach conflicting parties and suggest that each one be the first to initiate gestures of peace. Initiating gestures of goodwill and giving were the hallmarks of Aharon's identity. And so it was when serving Hashem, did Aharon seek opportunities to initiate. Therefore, Aharon did not view the Avodah of the Mishkan as primarily the manner to mark Hashra'as Ha-Shechinah; rather, Avodah was yet another opportunity to serve God and give of one's self. Unless directed otherwise, korbonos were not a response to Hashra'as HaShechinah; on the contrary, they were a system of initiating unilateral service of Hashem. (These two themes - Mishkan service reflecting God's Presence and the Mishkan serving as a locus for Avodah - are elaborated upon in the d'var Torah on Parshas Terumah; please see Archive.) Although Moshe conceded to the rightfulness of Aharon's position in their debate, both Moshe and Aharon were correct as to the dual nature of korbonos. In that vein, we should be ever so cautious to sense God's Presence and appreciate it, while at the same time seeking to serve Hashem for His sake, not merely when something specific evokes His praise or service.

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Author: Rabbi David Horwitz Title: Parashat Shemini: The Sin of Nadab and Abihu

Parashat Shemini: The Sin of Nadab and Abihu

Leviticus 10:1-3a (JPS translation) states:

Now Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his fire pan, put fire in it, and laid incense on it; and they offered before the L-RD alien fire, which He had not enjoined upon them. And fire came forth from the L-RD and consumed them; thus they died at the instance of the L-RD. then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the L-RD meant when He said: Through those near to Me I show Myself holy, And assert My authority before all the people.”And Aaron was silent.

Numerous explanations have been attempted through the ages regarding the specific sin of Nadab and Abihu. (Rav Menachem Mendel Kasher, zatzal, in his Torah Shelemah, Parashat Shemini, Volume 28, pp. 2-10, lists many of them). Perhaps the reason each of the proponents of the various explanations rejected the others and searched for a more meaningful and a more persuasive explanation is that they were attempting to discover an interpretation that would might highlight not merely a specific act of the two sons of Aaron, but a general character trait, of which the offering of an alien fire would only be an expression. The Sifra (Midrash Halakhah on Sefer Va-Yiqra) remarkably, writes that the two sons of Aaron wish to “add love to their love.” What can be meant by these enigmatic words?

Nechama Leibowitz, in her Studies in Va-Yiqra [Leviticus] (Hebrew version, pp. 102-04; English version, pp. 66-68), writes that this Sifra is the key to the approach that stresses that the sin of Nadav and Abihu was indeed not the act of bringing the fire per se but rather the ideological assumptions that lay behind it. The first thoroughly explicit expositors of this approach, which focused on Nadab and Abihu’s predilections vis a vis mitzvoth, were Naftali Hertz Wessely (1725-1805, the author of the Bi’ur to Sefer Va-Yiqra), and Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch (1808 –1888), in his commentary on Sefer Va-Yiqra. According to their understanding, the sin of Nadab and Abihu lay in their religious subjectivism. That is to say, they felt that they could determine the proper manner to worship God. It did not matter, in their view, if God had not commanded them to bring the particular fire and incense that they brought. They simply wanted to worship God in that matter (out of love!) and they decided to do so!

The harsh lesson of the Torah is that such an approach is not acceptable for Judaism. God decrees not only that He should be worshipped, but how He should be worshipped as well. Nadab and Abihu had to pay for that lesson with their lives.

What was the response of Aaron, the father of Nadab and Abihu, to their deaths?

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Author: Rabbi David Horwitz Title: Parashat Shemini: The Sin of Nadab and Abihu

Leviticus 10:3b states: And Aaron was silent. R. Obadiah Sforno adds in his commentary (ad loc.): “He was comforted by the Kiddush Hashem that occurred through their deaths.”

This philosophical notion is expressed in the mussar literature s well. For example, many people have heard the following well-known application of the Torah’s admonition against religious subjectivism that R. Haayim Shmuelevitz, zatzal presented. (I heard the following notion over twenty years ago in R. Hayyim Shmuelevitz’s name by R. Moshe Dimmitman) It explains the sequence of verses in Deuteronomy 4:2-4. The Torah states: You shall not add anything to what I command you or take anything away from it, but keep the commandments of the L-RD your God that I enjoin upon you. You saw with your own eyes what the L-RD did in the manner of Ba‘al Pe‘or; how the L-RD your God wiped out from among you every person who followed Ba‘al Pe‘or; but you, who held fast to the L-RD your God, are all alive today.

Verse 2, of course, is the famous prohibition of “Ba‘al Tosif,” that injunction against adding mitzvoth. Why, however, the proximity of that law with verse 3 and 4, which present a reminder of the idolatry of Ba‘al Pe‘or?

Here is where the notion of religious subjectivism comes into the picture. One can add a mitzvah out of the noblest of reasons, out of love of God, out of the desire to “add love to love,” which may indeed have been the reason for Nadab and Abihu’s action. Through the proximity of this injunction not to add mitzvoth with the reminder of the horrific sin of idolatry entailed in the worship of Ba‘al Pe‘or, the Torah is admonishing the children of Israel not to follow the path of radical subjectivism. Because once one begins to travel down that road, once one’s own intellectual proclivities and not the divine command becomes the touchstone of religious observance, anything becomes possible, God forbid, even the heinous and deviant idolatry of Ba‘al Pe‘or. God, in His infinite wisdom, warned us against that incorrect path, just as He demonstrated that the service of Nadav and Abihu were unacceptable. As Rav Hirsch concludes (cited in Studies in Va-Yiqra: English version, p. 68), “Only by observance of the precepts of the Torah can the priest of Israel remain true to his principles.”

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Author: Rabbi Maury Grebenau Title: Secret of the Mishkan

Secret of the Mishkan Rabbi Maury Grebenau
The Talmud (Meggilah 10b) tells us that the day the Mishkan was set up was a day where G-d was as happy as He was at creation. This is learned from the fact that the identical word (VaYehi) is used to introduce our parsha, when the Mishkan was finished and to introduce the end of creation. There is clearly a connection between the Mishkan and creation. It seems that there is some aspect of the Mishkan which finally allowed a goal of creation to come to fruition. Rav Shlomo Gonzfried, in his work the Apiryon, suggests that we can understand the first Gemara based on a fascinating Midrash. The Midrash (Beraishis Rabbah 19:7) relates that there are seven levels of heaven and that Hashem originally resided fully in this world but the sins of each generation caused G-d to remove Himself one level until He was in the highest level of heaven. First the sins of Adam, then the sin of Kayin killing Hevel, and onwards until the Egyptians. The Midrash continues that seven righteous people were able to bring Hashem back down into the world, beginning with the three forefathers and culminating with Moshe. Rav Gonzfried explains that the ‘joy’ that Hashem has in when he is able to dwell in our midst, when we let Hashem into our lives. When we sin, as the seven generations did, we push Hashem out of our lives, preferring to place our own needs and desired above service of G-d. However, the seven righteous people brought Hashem’s presence back to the world. This finally came to a head with the completion of the construction of the Mishkan which was that which allowed Hashem to dwell amongst us. The Midrash points out that Hashem tells us to build the Mishkan so that Hashem will be able to dwell amongst us, as we can see from the fact that Hashem says he will dwell in them (referring to the Jewish people) rather than in it (referring to the Mishkan, [see Shemos 25:8]). The Mishkan brings Hashem into our lives in a very personal and apparent way. We were able to see very clearly the service of Hashem and really had a locale where we could experience G-d. This house of G-d was portable and would be taken with us in all our journeys. In addition the layout of the camp was such that the Mishkan would always occupy the center of the camp, a constant reminder of the centrality of Hashem in our lives. This idea dovetails beautifully with the approach of the Ramban to the Mishkan. The Ramban feels that the Mishkan was meant to be a mode of continuance of the experience of Mt. Sinai. We had received the Torah with much fanfare and pyrotechnics. The experience was intense and unforgettable but difficult to translate into every day life. The Mishkan was meant to be a continuation of our divine experience in a way that was more subtle and could be sustained on a daily basis in our lives. To keep G-d before us always is indeed a difficult task. Every day is filled with challenges and personal agendas which can sometimes eclipse our divine overarching

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Author: Rabbi Maury Grebenau Title: Secret of the Mishkan

agenda. The secret of the Mishkan is finding subtle ways to bring Hashem into our life to refocus ourselves on our spiritual agenda whenever possible. This can be done through daily through prayer and weekly through Shabbos and in many other ways as well. May we all find our own Mishkan and through that bring Hashem into our lives and down to dwell amongst us.

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Author: Rabbi Josh (AKA "The Hoffer") Hoffman Title: At the Zoo

The first half of this week’s parsha deals with the eighth day of the dedication of the mishkan and the events surrounding it. This includes the sacrifices that were brought that day, the death of Nadav and Avihu, and the laws given following their deaths. The latter part of the parsha deals with the laws of kosher animals, birds and fish, and the laws of forbidden creeping things (sheratzim). At first glance, there seems to be no connection between these two sections of the parsha. However, it is reasonable to assume that there is, indeed, some connection between one part of the parsha and the other. As Rabbi Asher Ben – Zion Buchman notes in his work on the unity of the weekly sidrah, Bedibur Echad, the rabbis did not divide the Torah into fifty- four approximately equal sections, one to be read each Shabbos, based on length, because we find that the parshiyos vary in length from thirty verses and one hundred seventy- six. Therefore, it would seem more logical to say that the division was made on the basis of some thematic unity within each parsha. Why, then, do these laws of kashrus follow the recording of the dedication of the mishkan? Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin, in his commentary Aznayim Le Torah, explains that once the Torah recorded all of the sacrifices brought at the inaugural ceremony, the laws of karbanos were basically completed. The Torah therefore wanted to note that the animals permitted for general consumption are more numerous than the limited number that are qualified to be used as sacrifices in the mishkan.. This explanation, however, is very technical, and one would think that a topic as important and all- pervasive in Jewish life as forbidden foods would carry a more profound message as far as its relation to the Torah section which precedes it. Rabbi Alexander Simcha Mandelbaum, in his work Ma’makim, which is based on the teachings of the Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Moshe Shapiro of Yerushalayim, cites many sources to show the deleterious effects that the consumption of non- kosher animals has on a person’s soul,. He concludes that since the mishkan is meant to bring the divine presence down to dwell among the people, the Torah teaches us, after describing in detail the dedication of the mishkan, how to maintain God’s divine presence within our daily lies, avoiding foods that prevent Him from dwelling among us. However, according to this explanation, these laws could just as well have been given at the time of the commandment to build the mishkan .I would like to offer an explanation that, on the one hand, has wider significance than the one offered by Rabbi Sorotzkin, and, at the same time, relates specifically to the moment in time at which these laws were given- after the dedication of the mishkan. The Midrash Tanchuma to parshas Shemini relates that when God taught Moshe the laws of kosher and non –kosher animal, he held up each animal for Moshe to see, just as he brought all the animals before Adam to look at and give names to. What is the connection between Moshe’s learning the laws of kashrus and Adam learning the characteristics of the animal in order to name them? Rabbi Henoch Leibowitz, in his Chidushi HaLeiv, explains that Adam needed to have a clear idea of the nature of the animals in order to give them their appropriate names. In a similar way, Moshe needed to have a clear idea of each animal in order to know how to apply the appropriate laws to each of them. Rabbi Leibovitz concludes that in learning Torah, clarity of understanding is of utmost importance, and one should not hesitate to put in extra effort to clarify even the small details. I believe, however, that there is a deeper significance to the reference in this midrash to God’s display of the animals to Adam at the time of creation. We have mentioned in the past the notion that the exodus from Egypt constituted a recreation of the world, or perhaps a completion, in a spiritual sense, of the original creation of the world (for more on this concept, see Netvort to parshas Bo, 5760, available at . This is why we find, in kabalistic sources, that the ten plagues brought upon the Egyptians corresponded to the ten sayings with which God created the world. The redemption from Egypt culminated with the giving of the Torah and the subsequent dwelling of the divine presence over the mishkan, as explained by Ramban. Thus, the dedication of the mishkan constituted the spiritual completion of the universe. This idea is reflected in the Midrash Rabbah, cited and expanded upon by Rabbi Gedaliah Shor in his Ohr Gedaliah to parsahas Shmini, that God rejoiced on the eight day of the dedication of the mishkan as He rejoiced at the end of the original creation of the universe. Seen in this context, we can better appreciate the analogy between God’s bringing the animals to Adam to name and His bringing them to Moshe to understand the laws of kashrus.

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Author: Rabbi Josh (AKA "The Hoffer") Hoffman Title: At the Zoo

Ramban in his commentary to parshas Bereishis says that the creation of the universe was completed only after Adam had assigned names to the animals that were brought before him. Although Ramban goes on to explain his comment in a somewhat esoteric way, perhaps we can present it using a different approach. Harvey Cox, in his book The Secular City, writes that when one names something, he is rely defining it, assigning it its function within his universe of discourse. Thus when God brought the animals to Adam to name, He was telling him to understand the place of the animals within his own life. Following this explanation of what happened in regard to Adam, we can perhaps go on to explain that after the completion of the mishkan, which constituted the culmination of the redemption process and the spiritual completion of the universe, there was a need to understand the function of the animal kingdom in that universe in a spiritual sense. For that reason, just as God brought the animals to Adam so that he could define their meaning within his universe, God brought the animals before Moshe, to explain to him the way in which God wants His people to define their function within their spiritual universe. Following our explanation of the connection between the two sections of the parsha, perhaps we can say that it also informs the comment of Rashi on the verse at the end of Shemini, “For I am God Who brings you up from the land of Egypt to be a God unto you; you shall be holy, for I am holy” (Vayikra, 11, 46). Rashi, noting the use of the word ‘ma’aleh’-Who brings you up- rather then ‘hamotzi’- who takes you out- cites a teaching of the house of Rabbi Yishmael, brought in the Talmud , Bava Metzia, 61 b. God tells the Jewish people, explains the Talmud, that had He not brought them out of Egypt for any other reason that they do not make themselves impure with creeping things ( sheratzim), as do the other nations, it would have been sufficient cause for them to have been redeemed. Such abstention, Rashi continues, is an elevation for them, and that is why the expression’ hama’aleh’ is used in the verse. This verse comes at the end of the section in Shemini that lays out for the nation which animals, birds and fish they may indulge in and which they nay not. Moreover, the following two verses, the last in parshas Shemini, read, “This is the law of the animal, the bird, every living creature that swarms in the water, and for every creature that creeps on the ground; for distinguishing between the impure and the pure, and the creature that may be eaten and the creature that may not be eaten.” Therefore, we can view this comment of the Talmud as referring to this entire section of the parsha. We can then understand this verse as saying that by defining the function of these various living things on the basis of God’s Torah and indulging only in those that God permits to us, we are able to bring God’s presence into our daily lives, and thereby realize the ultimate purpose of the redemption from Egypt.

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Author: HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl Title: Intellect and Emotion


Our Parsha tells us: "Hashem spoke to Aharon saying: 'do not drink intoxicating wine, you and your sons with you, when you come to the Tent of Meeting, that you do not die'" (Vayikra 10:8-9). This is the source for the halacha forbidding a Kohen who has drunk sufficient wine to cause intoxication from entering beyond the Altar, is derived. A Kohen who trespasses beyond this point while in such a state is liable with the death penalty and his service is disqualified. Similarly, one who drinks wine or any other intoxicating beverage may not issue halachic rulings (see Keritut 13b), perform Birkat Kohanim (see Taanit 26b), or daven (see Eruvin 64a).

Furthermore, we find that Moshe Rabenu spoke to the nation about all the good that Hashem has done for Am Yisrael with the following words: "You have seen everything that Hashem did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land. The great trials that your eyes beheld, those great signs and wonders. But Hashem did not give you a heart to know or eyes to see, or ears to hear until this day. I led you for forty years in the Wilderness, your garment did not wear out from on you, and your shoe did not wear out from on your foot. Bread you did not eat and wine or intoxicant you did not drink, so that you would know that I am Hashem, your G-d." (Devarim 29:1-5). It is obvious what was the great favor Hashem did for us with "Bread you did not eat", for in place of ordinary bread we were given "heavenly bread". What, however, is the great benefit of "wine or intoxicant you did not drink"? Why is this praise of Hashem? We may conjecture that instead of wine they drank water from Miriam's well, but is water preferred over wine and other beverages? The continuation of the pasuk provides us with the answer: "wine or intoxicant you did not drink, so that you WOULD KNOW that I am Hashem, your G-d". Wine causes the mind to become confused (as on Purim when we must drink "ad delo yada bein arur Haman lebaruch Mordechai" - "until one does NOT KNOW the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai"). Hashem, therefore provided us with a great chesed, during those forty years. "Wine or intoxicant you did not drink, so that you WOULD KNOW" - you will know in a clear and unconfused manner that "I am Hashem, your G-d".


From all that we have stated, we can conclude that the consumption of wine is something which is not very commendable. On the other hand, there exist many proofs to the contrary. We are told that wine "gladdens G-d and men" (Shoftim 9:13). Chazal expound: "if wine gladdens men, in what way does it gladden G-d? From here we derive that we do not utter songs of praise to G-d except over wine" (Brachot 35a). Chazal therefore deemed that the major brachot (e.g. Kiddush, Havdalah, Birkat HaMazon, Brit Milah, Brachot at weddings) be recited over wine. It is for this reason that Chazal established for us that we drink four cups of wine at our Seder - the Seder too is praise and song to Hashem. Thus we find a positive aspect to drinking wine as well. The question then remains - does the Torah view the consumption of wine positively or negatively?

It would appear that we are speaking of two sides of the same coin. What effect does drinking wine have on man? It causes him to treat the world more lightly. A man who drinks even a small amount of wine begins to "float" - he no longer has both feet on the ground. While on the one hand, such a state is something to be

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Author: HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl Title: Intellect and Emotion

viewed negatively, it also has its positive side. With regard to service in the Beit HaMikdash, issuing halachic rulings, Birkat Kohanim, and davening, alcohol consumption is extremely undesirable. Service in the Beit HaMikdash must be performed with the utmost fastidiousness, with great attention paid to every detail, lest the service become being disqualified. When issuing halachic decisions as well, all the factors must be weighed with the utmost clarity of mind taking into account both the reasons for forbidding or permitting the issue. One who prays too, must feel as if he is standing before the King. In all of these areas "floating" is improper, and therefore drinking wine at these moments is not desirable.

On the other hand, to reach a state of true "simcha" - joy, it is better to be somewhat removed from reality. I once heard from the Rav (HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l) that although we learn that "the days of Purim will never be nullified" (Yalkut Shimoni Mishle remez 944), the obligation to intoxicate oneself until reaching a state of "ad delo yada" will not apply during the days of the Moshiach. The Rav explained that it is very difficult to truly rejoice in this world given all its troubles. The way to acquire a true sense of joy is by detaching ourselves from it and reaching a level of "ad delo yada". In the days of the Moshiach, however, troubles will cease and there will be no need to remove ourselves from reality in order to rejoice. On the contrary, reality itself will be nothing but joy and "ad delo yada" will no longer be a prerequisite for "simcha". In any event, true joy in this world requires being somewhat detached from reality, and this can be accomplished with the assistance of wine.

When it comes to our intellectual abilities, wine is a hindrance - it distorts our perceptions of things. Regarding emotions, however, wine is of great value (to a limited extent, of course). Wine helps us remove ourselves from reality and fire our imagination - very useful when we wish to sing Hashem's praises, as the language used is often that of poetry and song utilizing word plays and parables - which is in itself far from reality. (For example, if we would usually say "I saw some tall trees", in song or poetry we would exaggerate saying "I have seen trees whose tops reach until the heavens", a description that has no connection to reality).


This distinction between the ordinary style of language and that used in song we find in Scripture too. This accounts for the fact that the language of the Torah is generally more understandable than that of Neviim and Ketuvim, the Torah uses simpler language, while the other parts of Tanach are more poetic in style. Even within the Torah itself we find this distinction. The blessings Yaakov bestowed upon his children, as well as "lehavdil" the blessings of the wicked Bilaam are all in the form of poetry. The song at the Red Sea, Haazinu, and the song of the well, are but a few examples of portions of the Torah being written in a lyrical style which differs from the style used in the rest of the Torah.

Everything was written by Moshe Rabenu as dictated to him by the Omnipresent. At times, however, this writing was in poetry at other times in prose. The poetic style invoked by Scripture is filled with figures of speech and parables which are more difficult to comprehend. Rashi brings several possible interpretations of Yaakov's blessing to Yehuda: "He will tie his donkey to the vine, to the vine branch his donkey's foal" (Bereishit 49:11) because the poetic style makes it very difficult to understand precisely what Yaakov's intent was. The Torah's regular narrative, however, is less often interpreted with multiple meanings.

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Author: HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl Title: Intellect and Emotion

R' Eliezer HaKalir was one of the great poets and Rashi quotes his works often (e.g. Tehillim 121:1, Daniel 8:14, Yoma 67a). The AR"I HaKadosh greatly valued his work as well. The Ibn Ezra (commentary to Kohelet 5:1), on the other hand, launches scathing attacks against him. Among other things, the Ibn Ezra charges that his "piyutim" do not strictly conform to the rules of "dikduk" - grammar. Who are we to "place our heads between these great mountains" - to come between the Kalir and Ibn Ezra, yet if Rashi and the AR"I valued his work perhaps we can say a word in his defense. There is a difference between everyday language and that of poetry - language that does not conform to ordinary rules of grammar may be used with poetic license in the "piyut".

In my humble opinion, we find in the Torah itself a deviation from the rigid rules of grammar for the sake of poetry. The following pasuk is stated with regard to the Miluim ceremony: "ve-asita leAharon uvanav KACHA kechol asher tziviti OTACHA" "you shall do thus for Aharon and his sons, like everything that I have commanded you" (Shmot 29:35). The word meaning "for you" is generally spelled "aleph", "vav", "tav", "chaf sofit" and is pronounced either "otcha" or "otach". Here, however, the Torah uses the word "otacha" - "aleph" "tav" "chaf" "hei", a word which does not at all conform to the laws of grammar. Certainly there are many hidden meanings behind every letter of the Torah, for we know that R' Akiva would "expound from each tip of a letter heaps and heaps of laws" (Menachot 29b). In the revealed realm, however, it would appear that the Torah used the word "otacha" because it rhymes with "kacha". This is support for the idea that for the sake of the rhyme it is permitted to deviate from the rules of grammar for the sake of the rhyme. Rashi makes no note of this deviation, in spite of the fact that in other areas Rashi usually points out the differences between ordinary and poetic style. Perhaps this explanation was so obvious to Rashi that he saw no need to make any mention of it.

We have seen that the Torah's view of wine consumption differs depending on which of the two worlds we are discussing. Wine has no place in the world of intellect, for it will only harm the clarity of the mind. In the world of emotion - song and "piyut", however, wine plays a very honorable role - "we do not utter songs of praise to G-d except over wine". In the absence of being "slightly under the influence" of wine, man's two feet remain firmly on the ground. For song and praise, however he must be able to "float" and levitate above the earth, not till "ad delo yada", but at least float somewhat above the ground.


Intellect and emotion are each necessary components of the Pesach Seder. We must possess clarity of mind in order to properly follow the dictates of the halacha, to know how the Matzah and Marror must be eaten and whether we have eaten the requisite amount within the time limit. We must be aware of when we must recline and when we must sit up, when we wash our hands with the accompanying bracha and when do we not. There are so many detailed halachot associated with the Seder that they can only be properly fulfilled when our minds are functioning at full capacity.

On the other hand, the Haggadah is one great song - the song of our redemption from Egypt. Our emotions are necessary in order to properly sing songs of praise. Chazal enacted that this great song of the Haggadah

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Author: HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl Title: Intellect and Emotion

be recited over four cups of wine, to enable us to rise above the ground and our current reality in order to properly sing songs of praise. Today we are sinking in a sea of troubles - terrorist acts, the Iraqis, the Americans, and so much more. The only way to properly praise Hashem is to detach ourselves from the world in which we live in, to feel I have just left Egypt! I am now a free man! Hashem is going before me with a pillar of cloud and one of fire! I have nothing from which to fear in this world! All the while, we must make sure not to become totally inebriated. Although the Yerushalmi writes that the four cups of wine were established in order to become intoxicated (see Yerushalmi Pesachim perek 10, halacha 1 - for this reason it is preferable to drink each of the four cups all at once free of interruption), the intent there is not to reach the same level of intoxication we reach on Purim (see Halacha 6 there). Rather, as we have said, wine serves to elevate us to a state in which we "float" above the ground a bit. In this way we can feel our freedom and be less inhibited being able to freely sing songs of praise to Hashem, without sacrificing the clarity of mind required to fulfill the many requirements of this night.

Even the intellectual world of halacha is not totally detached from emotions. When debating how to rule in a case in which milk spilled into a meat dish, we must take into account who is the one asking for the ruling is it a poor or wealthy individual. If it is a widow, we keep in mind her pain and suffering as well. Clearly we may not permit a mixture of milk and meat that is forbidden beyond a doubt because the person seeking the ruling is a widow. However, regarding borderline cases where particular authorities rule leniently, we must consider following their view even if it is the less accepted opinion, when the case involves less fortunate people.

The story is told of R' Yisrael M'Salant zt"l (see "Tnuat HaMussar" volume I, chapter 31) that one year he was unable to be present at the baking of his Matzot. His students who took upon themselves to oversee the baking in his absence, asked him for guidelines regarding which "hiddurim" they must be especially careful to insist upon. R' Yisrael asked that they take care not to cause undue pain and aggravation to the woman kneading the dough by egging her on to complete her work sooner - even in the name of being more careful and fastidious in carrying out this Mitzvah. R' Yisrael explained that this woman was a sad and unfortunate widow and such behavior would violate the Torah commandment - "you shall not cause pain to any widow or orphan" (Shmot 22:21).

There is no question that R' Yisrael did not wish to eat chametz on Pesach, yet he realized that one must pay attention to this widow as well - not to pain her by urging her to complete her work the way the "taskmasters" did in Egypt (see Shmot 5:13). A Talmid Chacham keeps this attitude in mind as well, together with the great care required to avoid having chametz on Pesach.

Although emotion plays a role in rendering halachic decisions, our rulings must remain within the framework of the Shulchan Aruch. Whenever a leniency can be followed we can rule leniently but if not - not. However painful it may be, if a woman is uncertain about the whereabouts of her husband and does not know if he has died, she remains an "agunah", even if many years have passed as long as there is no basis permitting her to remarry. The Chazon Ish was once presented with the case of a woman who had been an "agunah" for more than ten years, and despite the pain and suffering, he could find no way to permit her to remarry. On the other hand, it is told that the Rav was once presented with the case of a woman unable to obtain a "get". The Rav could find no way in which to permit her to remarry, and he suddenly burst out crying. In the midst of all this, he received a telephone call which helped him formulate an idea for enabling the woman to remarry without the benefit of a "get". It seems that those tears were necessary in order for the Rav to come up with

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Author: HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl Title: Intellect and Emotion

the necessary "heter"! Emotions, as necessary as they may be however, may not serve as a basis for ruling in violation of the halacha.


As we mentioned, we must make great use of our intellect to properly fulfill all the halachot of the Seder. Our Seder must, however, contain emotion as well. We must understand which parts of the Seder should solicit an outpouring of emotions. Let us cite three examples of things we should be happy for on the night of the Seder.

1) Firstly, when reciting "shehecheyanu" we must rejoice over the factthat Hashem has "kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to thisnight". This is a night in which we are given the opportunity tofulfill many Mitzvot - those of Matzah, Marror, the four cups of wine,and retelling the story of the exodus. How fortunate are we that wehave merited being able to fulfill all of these precious Mitzvot!

2) We must also feel a great sense of joy at the great KiddushHashem that took place in Egypt. The entire purpose of the ten plaguesand all the miracles of Egypt was to sanctify Hashem's Name andpublicize His Divine Providence to the entire world. The Ramban at theend of Parshat Bo describes the purpose of these great miracles asfollows: "from the great and public miracles a person will come toacknowledge the hidden miracles" (Ramban Shmot 13:16), and "thatwe should believe that all that happens to us (even "naturally") is alla miracle, there are no laws of nature and no ways of the world"(ibid.). What then is a miracle? A miracle is when it is clear to usthat it did not happen "on its own", but only resulted from a heavenlydecree. The clear and open miracles must serve to teach us that eventhat which we do not classify as "miracle" was through Hashem's decreeand did not just happen "on its own".

Why does water descend when we turn the cup upside down, why doesit not fly upwards? The answer is simple - gravity. This, however,was not always the case. On the first and second days of creation thewater had not yet descended specifically to low lying areas but werespread throughout the earth (see Rashi Bereishit 1:9). It was only onthe third day when Hashem decreed: "let the waters beneath the heavengather into one area" (Bereishit 1:9), that the situation as weknow it today was created - water travels downward and not upward.(Should Hashem desire, He could make the water stand up like a wall asit did at Yam Suf and the Yarden). Nothing in this world is activated"on its own". Everything is heavenly ordained.

What then is the distinction between nature and miracle? Why isit that when water stands tall like a wall we refer to this phenomenonas a "miracle", while when it runs downward we refer tothis as "nature"? The explanation is that acts of nature are events inthe world which conform to the usual way in which Hashem guides theworld. A miracle is something uncommon, out of the ordinary. What we are accustomed to seeing in our daily lives we refer to as "nature", while out ofthe ordinary, one-time events we refer to as "miracles". The fact is thatboth are decrees of the King, to Him there is no difference between nature and miracles Hashem created nature and Hashem created miracle. Bothcategories of events can only occur with His

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Author: HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl Title: Intellect and Emotion

guidance and will, there isnothing that takes place "on its own". The Ramban is telling us that theidea of the universe being guided by Hashem was publicized to all through themiracles in Egypt. It is this publicity that sanctifies His Name in theworld, and this brings us great joy.

(We find an idea similar to this Ramban in the words of theSabba M'Kelm zt"l. The Beit Yoseph asks the following questionregarding the Mitzvah to kindle the Chanukah lights: If the flask ofpure oil which was found in the Beit HaMikdash contained sufficient oilto burn for one day, why did Chazal establish Chanukkah as an eight dayfestival, after all the miracle was only for seven days (see BeitYoseph Orach Chaim 670)? Many answers have been given to thisquestion, among others is the answer offered by Rav Kook zt"l (seeMitzvat Reiyah Orach Chaim 670:1) and Rav Frank zt"l.They claimedthat had Chanukkah been merely a seven day celebration, Jewish peoplearound the world would have made Chanukkah menorot containing sevenbranches - which would possibly be in violation of the Torahprohibition of constructing a Menorah similar to that used in the BeitHaMikdash (see Rosh Hashana 24a). By establishing an eight dayfestival, this potential pitfall is avoided.

There is another answer offered by R' Simcha Zisel Ziv zt"l, the Sabba M'Kelm which relates to our discussion. Had Chanukkah been merely a seven day celebration, we would have been left with the impression that "miracle" oil requires Divine intervention in order to burn while "natural oil" does not. Chazal wished to demonstrate that everything is a miracle - just as "miracle oil" defies the laws of physics and only kindles when Hashem commands it to, so is the case with "natural oil" - it only kindles because Hashem commanded it to. With this understanding, we can also conclude that the victory of the Chashmonaim over the Greeks was also not something supernatural and out of the ordinary. This victory only came about as a result of Hashem's Providence. It was not the unusual strength of the Chashmonaim, nor was it due to their great military tactics and strategy. It was only Hashem's decree and Divine Providence that accounted for the victory. Nothing happened "on its own" and nothing happened "naturally". (See Chochma UMussar volume II, article 61). The idea put forth here by the Sabba M'Kelm is similar to the words of the Ramban we mentioned above, that we must believe that all that happens to us, even "naturally" is all miraculous, "there are no laws of nature and no ways of the world".) 3) A further reason to rejoice at our Seder is of course, for the great redemption of the Jewish people. We are overjoyed that we have emerged not only from the grueling physical bondage of Egypt, but even more so from the spiritual bondage, to a state of "eternal freedom". Klal Yisrael had sunk to the forty ninth gate of impurity in Egypt and had they remained there even a small while longer, G-d forbid, there would have been nobody to take out of Mitzrayim. We find an allusion to this in the words of Chazal which we recite in the Haggadah: "there was no time for the dough of our forefathers to sour". The real meaning here is that our forefather's spiritual dough had not yet managed to sour when Hashem revealed Himself to them and redeemed them. Had the redemption been delayed even a small amount longer, Am Yisrael in Egypt would have completely sunk to a level of impurity from which there was no rising. We recite in the Haggadah "'Hashem took us out from Egypt' (Devarim 26:8) - not by means of an angel and not by means of a seraph ...". Many explanations have been suggested regarding why the slaying of the firstborn had to be carried out by Hashem Himself and not through an intervening angel. One of these explanations is that there were many Jews who could no longer be identified as Jews rather than Egyptians. Only Hashem still had the ability to make this distinction and knew not to slay them. Clearly we are not speaking of the entire nation, for after all there were tzaddikim the likes of Aharon HaKohen and Yehoshua bin Nun, but there were also many Jews whom an angel would not be able to tell apart from

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Author: HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl Title: Intellect and Emotion

non-Jews. Even afterwards, when the nation had passed many tests of its faith, such as agreeing to leave Egypt without complaining "how can we go out to the desert without any food for the journey" (see Shmot 12:39 and Rashi there), the Egyptian ministering angel asked on the seventh day of their journey: "in what way are these people different from those?" (see Yalkut Shimoni remez 238). The angel was unable to discern the difference between Jew and Egyptian and demanded that the Jewish people be drowned at sea along with the Egyptians! Hashem indeed ruled otherwise, that the Jew was distinguishable from the Egyptian, but what we do see is just how close the Jewish people were to totally drowning in the impurities of Egypt. It was from this low level that we ascended in a small number of days to the level of prophets of Hashem "a maidservant witnessed at the sea what the prophets did not" (Rashi Shmot 15:2). Shortly thereafter they took part in that great gathering at Har Sinai eventually arriving at the land flowing with milk and honey. On this night of Pesach we must feel immense joy for these incredible gifts Hashem has showered us with, not just to sing with lip service, but we must awaken our hearts to truly rejoice at this great redemption Hashem has brought about for us, at our ability to leave the impurity of Egypt and ascend to all these great spiritual levels. "ANI MAAMIN" WITH THE HEART AS WELL AS THE HEAD Belief in the future redemption is not only intellectual, but has an emotional aspect to it as well. The Brisker Rav zt"l points out that of the "Thirteen Principles of Faith", twelve of them are purely intellectual beliefs. Beginning with the first principle, belief in the existence of a Creator, and continuing onward to belief in His Uniqueness, that He takes on no physical form, etc. are purely intellectual beliefs. For one of the Principles, however, intellect will not suffice. "I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Moshiach, and even though he may delay, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come" must come from our emotions as well. It is not enough to believe that the Moshiach will arrive, but we must eagerly await and desire his arrival - "whoever does not believe in him, or one who does not await his arrival ... is an apostate" (Rambam Hilchot Melachim 11:1). Our hearts as well as our emotions are required for this Principle. "Those who mourn for Yerushalayim will merit to witness her joy and those who do not mourn for Yerushalayim will not witness were joy" (Taanit 30b). Rav Kook zt"l explained that is not simply a matter of reward "measure for measure" (Shabbat 105a), but it is a natural feeling as well. When someone takes something to heart, he rejoices at the healing of the situation, while one who does not take something to heart does not care whether or not the situation has improved. Many, for example, go out of their minds when "Beitar Yerushalayim" wins. I, thank G-d, am able to live very well even if had "Beitar Yerushalayim" loses. Therefore, I am not overly excited by their victory either (there are those who used "Beitar Yerushalayim"'s victory as proof that there is a G-d. I, Baruch Hashem, believe in Hashem even when "Beitar Yerushalayim" loses, therefore I have no need for their victory and I have nothing to rejoice over when they do win). One who takes something to heart, feels a sense of joy at the improving of the situation. One who feels pain at our low spiritual condition, with our "wonderful" Minister of Justice, and with those people who would never EAT pig but see nothing wrong with appointing one as Minister of Justice. One who feels the pain of our desperate economic plight, with all the terrible economic decrees that are awaiting us, when it is difficult to forecast if in the long run they will produce any positive results. One who feels the pain of our terrible security situation. Whoever takes our desperate situation to heart will obviously feel immense joy when things come right, when His Great Name will grow exalted and sanctified speedily in our day. I once heard the following from HaRav Ovadia Yoseph Shlit"a: The prophet promises us in the Name of Hashem (regarding the future redemption): "as in the days when you left the land of Egypt, I will show it wonders" (Micha 7:15). Chazal comment on this "as in the days when you left the land of Egypt I will show

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Author: HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl Title: Intellect and Emotion

it wonders - more than the wonders I did with your forefathers" (Yalkut Shimoni Bshalach remez 25). How can we explain these words of Chazal, does the pasuk not imply that the upcoming miracles will be EQUAL to those performed in Egypt? How can Chazal conclude from this pasuk that the wonders of the future redemption will be GREATER than those experienced in Egypt? Rav Ovadia explained as follows: The invention of the telephone generated tremendous excitement. What a miracle! Imagine being able to speak here and being heard in another house! Today, however, if we try to call America and do not get through we immediately complain to the telephone company. It is all so simple today, there is nothing new in being able to be heard in America. The only way to generate excitement is to show something even more novel, on a greater level than being able to speak to someone in America. The same may be said regarding Hashem's "miracles". The fact that water can be transformed into blood and that a non-Jew can drink blood from the same cup from which a Jew drinks water is nothing new to us, we have seen it all in Egypt. These are no longer "wonders" for us, but rather things which we are used to. We teach our children every year about these great events. When the prophet promises us "wonders" in the future he must be referring to miracles beyond what we have seen in Egypt, for otherwise we would not be able to refer to them as "wonders" but rather as events we have seen before. This explanation is a very nice one, but because "shivim panim laTorah" "there are seventy facets to the Torah" (see Ibn Ezra's introduction to the Torah), I thought we could offer an additional explanation: It is quite likely that the wonders destined to take place in the future redemption will not exceed those that took place in Egypt (Chazal's interpretation therefore does not contradict the simple meaning of the pasuk). The difference is that the future miracles will penetrate deeper into our hearts. Although we witnessed many miracles in Egypt, at the sea, and at that Great Gathering at Har Sinai, forty days later Am Yisrael sinned with the Golden Calf. The miracles that took place did not sufficiently penetrate their hearts. The miracles to take place upon the arrival of the Moshiach may perhaps not be objectively greater but they will make more of an impression upon us. The words of the Ramban that "all that happens to us (even "naturally") is all a miracle, there are no laws of nature and no ways of the world", will not last a mere forty days, but will be an eternal recognition that will never change. In that way there will not be another destruction of the Temple, there will be no more Golden Calfs, and no more spies. The city of Yerushalayim will be built for eternity, and the Kingdom of Heaven will remain for eternity. We will arrive at a deep and strong understanding that "there is none beside Him" (Devarim 4:35), and that "Hashem will be the King over all the land" (Zecharia 14:9), speedily in our day. Amen.

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Author: Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb Title: Parshas Shemini: Reacting to Tragedy

After Aharon and his children successfully completed the inaugural service in the Mishkan there was a feeling of great joy among the people. Aharon, along with Moshe, blessed the people and they, in turn, sang songs of praise to Hashem. Everything was going well – and then tragedy struck. Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, entered the sanctuary, “va’yakrivu lifnei Hashem eish zara,” and offered a “strange” fire which they had not been commanded to bring (Va’yikra 10:1). And then, without warning, “va’teitzei eish mi’lifnei Hashem,” and fire came down from the heavens, “va’tochal osam va’yamusu lifnei Hashem,” and killed the two brothers (10:2).

The sudden change of events is nothing less than shocking. What began as a day of national celebration turned into a day of enormous tragedy. What started as the high point of Aharon’s “professional” career ended with a profound personal loss; one minute he is acting as the Kohen Gadol for the very first time and the next minute two of his sons are suddenly and violently killed in front of him and the rest of the nation.

Moshe immediately steps forward and explains to Aharon that, “hu asher diber Hashem leimor,” God has explained to me, “bikerovai ekadesh ve’al peni chol ha-am ekaveid,” that He was sanctified by those closest to Him – i.e. Nadav and Avihu – and He was honored in front of the Jewish people (10:3). The verse then concludes, famously: “va’yidom Aharon,” Aharon was silent.

When considering these events it’s not clear what is more surprising, the deaths of Nadav and Avihu or Aharon’s muted reaction. After all, given the enormity of the tragedy – which was exacerbated by its timing and circumstances – it would have been natural for Aharon to break down in tears and perhaps even complain to God. And yet, apparently, there is only silence. In fact, the meforshim offer various interpretations which not only provide insight into Aharon’s behavior, but may also guide our own reactions to tragedy as well.

As surprising as such behavior is on a human level, many commentators understand the verse literally and assume that Aharon was in fact silent and had no reaction to his sons’ untimely death. While the Abarbanel implies that this silence came from an overall numbness – perhaps out of shock – others assume that Aharon’s non-reaction was a conscious choice. Rashi, for example, cites a Midrash that Aharon was rewarded for his silence – something that only makes sense if the silence was a conscious, even heroic, choice.

Elaborating on this idea, Rav Yaakov Zvi Mecklenberg (Ha-Kesav Ve’hakabalah) explains that Aharon’s silence reflected a genuine inner peace, as he accepted God’s decree “bli shum ir’ur,” without any complaint. Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Commentary to Tehillim) takes this idea one step further and connects Aharon’s reaction to the verse, “be mute (dom) before Hashem and wait with longing for Him” (Tehillim 37:7). R. Hirsch explains that if a person truly understands that everything comes from Hashem then it is easier to cope with – and not complain about – the difficult and painful events that are experienced. By extension, therefore, Aharon was able to accept without protest the tragic death of his sons because he knew for certain that it was the doing of Hashem.

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Author: Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb Title: Parshas Shemini: Reacting to Tragedy

While this understanding of Aharon’s silence is well grounded in the text and is even, to some extent, inspiring, it also suffers from the fact that it makes Aharon almost super-human and, therefore, virtually impossible for the average person to relate to. After all, how many of us can realistically aspire to – or even want to – such a level of stoic acceptance of God’s decrees?

Another understanding of Aharon’s reaction is offered by the Seforno. He agrees that “va’yidom” means that Aharon was silent but he explains that this silence was only because Aharon was comforted by Moshe’s comment that Nadav and Avihu had died in the service of kiddush shem shamayim, sanctifying God’s name. The clear implication from the Seforno is that, unlike the assumption of the previous explanation, Aharon needed to be comforted because he was initially distraught. The Ramban offers a similar explanation but goes even further, stating that until Moshe comforted him Aharon was “bocheh be’kol,” crying and wailing audibly.

This explanation not only presents Aharon in a way that is “human” and which we can relate to, but is also insightful in the way it understands Aharon’s reaction to Moshe’s words. One of the factors that can inflict additional pain on someone who experiences a loss is when that loss seems to be devoid of any meaning or purpose. If, however, a person finds meaning in the tragedy, that can provide a degree of comfort. Aharon was consoled by Moshe’s words because they provided redemptive meaning to the death of Nadav and Avihu and showed how this tragedy served a higher purpose.

Finally, the Ramban also seems to imply that perhaps “va’yidom” doesn’t mean that Aharon was nonreactive but rather, whereas Ahraon was initially crying intensively, after Moshe offered words of comfrot Aharon continued crying - but now more quietly and calmly. This understanding is also profoundly important and truly instructive.

When a person suffers a tragic loss there can be two levels of pain: an intellectual pain at not understanding why this tragedy occurred and an emotional pain from the actual loss of a loved one. When Nadav and Avihu died Moshe had the ability to explain what happened with 100% certainty that his explanation was correct. As a result, once Aharon heard Moshe’s prophetic explanation his natural desire to understand why his children were killed was satisfied. However – and this is the key point – even in this unique situation where Aharon understood why it happened that still didn’t change the fact that it happened. Moshe’s explanation had the ability to satisfy Aharon’s curious mind but it could do nothing to heal his broken heart. As a result, even after Moshe’s words of comfort, Aharon’s pain remained; his crying was muted but his tears remained.

At the recent funeral for the members of the Fogel family one of the speakers, Motti Fogel, made the point that, “all the slogans about Torah and settlement, the Land of Israel and the people of Israel are attempts to forget the simple and pain-torn fact: you are dead. You are dead and no slogan will bring you back.” These heartbreaking words echo the Ramban’s insight and should remind us that even when we strive to find deeper meaning in a tragedy, we must never lose sight of the human dimension. No lesson and no “higher” purpose should blind us to the tragedy of the irreplaceable loss of life.

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Author: Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb Title: Parshas Shemini: Reacting to Tragedy

Dedicated in memory of the Fogel family, hy”d. May their memory be a blessing.

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Author: Rabbi Michael Taubes Title: Worms in Fish: A Halachic Problem?

Among the living creatures whose consumption is forbidden to Jews are various species that live in the water. Specifically, the Torah states that we may eat only those water species that possess fins and scales, but those that do not, including those categorized as sheretz hamayim, may not be eaten (Vayikra 11:9-11). Rashi (to passuk 10, s.v. sheretz) explains that the word “sheretz” refers to a low-lying creature that teems or creeps about along the ground, or, in this case, in the water. At the very end of the parashah (ibid. 11:41-47), the Torah again addresses the prohibition against eating a sheretz, adding that one can become contaminated through this type of creature; Rashi there (to passuk 41, s.v. lo) notes that a sheretz is something which is low-lying, has very short legs and (thus) appears to slither when it moves. Rashi later (to passuk 45, s.v. ki) demonstrates the significance of the prohibition against consuming a creature classified as a sheretz by citing the Gemara in Bava Metzia (61b) which teaches that the Jewish people’s adherence to this prohibition, in contradistinction to the behavior of other people who do indeed eat such creatures, would have sufficed by itself to warrant their being redeemed from Egypt (see also Pri Chadash to Yoreh De’ah 84:53). It is noteworthy that the requirement to eat only those water dwelling species which have fins and scales, and to refrain from eating those that do not, is actually presented again later in the Torah (Devarim 14:9-10).

Based upon the multiple formulations of this prohibition relating to a sheretz in all of the above pesukim, the Gemara in Makkot (16b) states that one who eats a certain type of small water creature (see Rashi there, s.v. achal putita) violates several prohibitions at once, and thus incurs several sets of lashes as punishment; Rashi there (s.v. lokeh arba’ah) delineates them. It should be noted at this point that although the creatures in the category of a sheretz are small (Rashi to Eiruvin 28a, s.v. tzir’ah, says that because it is so small, a sheretz is often detectable only when it moves; see also Rashi to Pesachim 24b, s.v. tzir’ah), the prohibition against consuming them is limited to those that can indeed be seen by the naked eye. The Aruch HaShulchan (Yoreh De’ah 84:36) writes that even though one who looks at water through a microscope may see many, many tiny creatures, invisible to the naked eye, there is no problem drinking that water because the Torah forbids only those species which can be seen under ordinary circumstances, as the Torah was not given to angels, but to human beings. Otherwise, he points out, it would be prohibited to breathe the air, because it too is filled with microscopic creatures. He concludes, though, that a creature which is indeed visible to the naked eye, even if barely visible and only in the proper light, is classified as a prohibited sheretz. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igrot Moshe, Yoreh De’ah 2:146) rules similarly, citing Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, that the Torah outlaws the consumption only of those creatures which are visible to the naked eye, because when one breathes the air one ingests any number of tiny organisms; the fact that one may be able to detect such creatures with a microscope is irrelevant. He notes in addition that regarding other halachot as well, such as the square shape needed for tefillin or the smooth blade needed for the shechitah knife, we consider only what is visible to the eye without magnification. Rav Ovadyah Yosef (see Shu”t Yechaveh Da’at 6:47 and Shu”t Yabia Omer 4, Yoreh De’ah 20:2 and 21:7) comes to the same conclusion regarding both the consumption of insects and other halachot.

The Gemara in Chullin (67b) cites an authority who states that kukyanei, certain very small worms found inside a larger creature, are forbidden, because they come from outside the creature, that is, as Rashi there (s.v. me’alma) explains, the creature ingests them from the outside while eating and they are thus in the category of an ordinary sheretz which may not be eaten by a Jew. According to Rashi (s.v. kukyanei), these worms are found in the liver and lungs of animals, but according to Tosafot (s.v. kukyanei), they are found in fish, entering through various orifices in the fish. Another authority cited in that Gemara rules that kukyanei are permitted, because they in fact germinate from the flesh of the larger creature, and do not come from the outside; they thus do not qualify as a forbidden type of sheretz (see Rashi there, s.v. minah). The Gemara concludes, though, that kukyanei are indeed prohibited, the assumption being that they enter the larger creature from the outside while it is sleeping (see Rashi there, s.v. meinam nayem, and Ran, 24a in Rif, s.v. kavra); the Pri Megadim (Siftei Da’at to Yoreh De’ah 84:42-43) says that we are stringent here because we are actually not sure where the worms come from, and it might be that they are from outside the creature.

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Author: Rabbi Michael Taubes Title: Worms in Fish: A Halachic Problem?

The Gemara (ibid.) then states regarding worms called darnei, certain tiny parasitic larvae, which are found, as explained by Rashi (s.v. darnei), between the skin and the flesh of the larger creature, are prohibited when found in meat, but permitted when found in fish. The reason is that the darnei are considered the products of the larger creature in which it germinates and grows. In the case of an animal, the host creature is forbidden at the time that the parasite develops because it needs to be slaughtered in order to be eaten; the darnei thus have the same forbidden status (see Rashi there, s.v. beshechithah). In the case of fish, however, the host creature is permitted as is, without being slaughtered; the darnei are thus similarly permitted. As for the possibility that like the kukyanei discussed above, these darnei worms may have entered the fish from outside, and should thus be forbidden, the Rashba (Chidushei HaRashba to Chullin ibid., s.v. muranei) asserts that it is for certain that such is not the case, but that these particular worms rather come from the inside of the fish, where they grow and develop. The Meiri (Beit HaBechirah to Chullin ibid., s.v. ule’inyan bi’ur), the Yam Shel Shlomo (Chullin 3:104), and others state similarly that it is known for sure that these worms emerge from inside the body of the host creature and do not come from the outside, and they may thus be consumed by a Jew. It must be noted that the Rambam (Hilchot Ma’achalot Asurot 2:17) rules that all worms found in fish are forbidden (unless they grew after the fish has died, as sometimes happens with fruit that rots after being detached from the ground), but the Ra’avad there disagrees and says, referring to the aforementioned Gemara, that worms in fish are in fact permissible. The Maggid Mishneh there, while explaining how the Rambam understands the Gemara, asserts that the majority opinion among the authorities is in fact that of the Ra’avad, and the aforementioned Meiri similarly considers the Rambam’s position very difficult.

In view of all of the above, it would seem that any worms found between the skin and the flesh of the fish do not present any Kashrut problem; the Hagahot HaAsheri (to the Rosh in Chullin 3:69, s.v. hachi), among others, states this explicitly, but adds that those worms found elsewhere in the fish are not allowed. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 84:16) rules accordingly, stating without making any distinctions that all worms found in fish between the skin and the flesh of the fish or in the flesh itself are permitted, but if found elsewhere in the innards of the fish they are prohibited; the Shach (No. 43) explains that this is because those found in the former locations grow and develop there, while those found in the latter location enter from the outside. The Chochmat Adam (38:28) adds that any organisms found on the outside of the skin of the fish are forbidden because they certainly do not grow inside the fish (see also Darkei Teshuvah to Yoreh De’ah 84:184).

All this, however, leads to the question of how one can tell for sure where in the fish a particular worm originated – is it not possible that a worm found in a fish between the skin and the flesh started out elsewhere and simply moved into that part of the fish? Could one not argue that even a worm found between the skin and the flesh of a fish came in from the outside and settled in that spot? There is evidence, for example that certain worms “tunnel” from the inner organs out to the flesh; on the other hand, as noted by the Hagahot Sha’arei Dura (47:2), the worms may travel the other way too (see also Bach to Yoreh Deah 84, s.v, kol tola’im). Moreover, some of the Rishonim cited above (see also Ran to Chullin, 24a in Rif, s.v. tola’im) said that it is known with certainty that the darnei worms develop inside the fish, but what if things are not actually so certain? Finally, it is currently accepted as scientific fact that worms and other such creatures do not in fact emerge as living organisms from the insides of the creature in which they are found; there is no such thing as “spontaneous generation,” that is, of a living creature being created from within a larger host organism without procreation. Does our present scientific knowledge, which indicates that any worms located inside fish certainly did not originate independently in the fish, regardless of where in the fish they were subsequently found, impact the halachah, in light of the fact that the Gemara and the Shulchan Aruch permit the consumption of worms found between the skin and the flesh? (Regarding the issue of spontaneous

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Author: Rabbi Michael Taubes Title: Worms in Fish: A Halachic Problem?

generation, see the Gemara in Shabbat 107b, with Rashi to 12a there s.v. matirin, about killing certain types of lice on Shabbat, and see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 316:9 with Mishnah Berurah No.41. See also the encyclopedia Pachad Yitzchak under the entry “tzayid ha’asurah” and Michtav MeEliyahu Volume 4, Letter 31B, Note 4.)

Considering the above issues, there are contemporary Rabbinic authorities who have ruled that because of what we now know to be scientifically accurate, we must assume that any worms found anywhere in fish originated outside and are thus in the category of a forbidden sheretz. Since certain species of fish, including several commonly eaten types, have been shown to be infested with worms, such as the “anasakis” worm, these worms must be removed before a Jew may eat the fish; as this is often not practical, consumption of these fish must be avoided. Some posit, along these lines, that the worms of today are different than the darnei worms expressly permitted by the Gemara and the Shulchan Aruch or that times have changed and there are now new species of worms which did not previously exist and were thus never expressly allowed. At the other extreme are certain authorities who assert that in as much as the Shulchan Aruch allows one to eat worms found between the skin and the flesh of fish, without imposing any qualifications or limitations on this ruling, we need not consider any modern scientific evidence at all; fish containing such worms thus pose no Kashrut problem whatsoever. Still others insist that the scientific evidence is not really compelling; one may maintain, for example, that although we know today that there is no such thing as spontaneous generation, it is possible that if a particular worm enters another organism while it is still microscopic in size, it is not then a halachic entity; when it grows, it appears to be growing out of that other organism, and is indeed considered by the halachah as if it is indeed so doing, and it thus does not qualify as a prohibited sheretz. One should consult one’s own Rabbinic authority to determine whether fish containing these worms may be eaten or not.

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Author: Rabbi Shmuel Goldin Title: Parshat Shmini: Considering Kashrut


As Parshat Shmini draws to a close, the Torah abruptly turns its attention to a set of laws that fall into the halachic category popularly known as kashrut.

The text delineates, among other laws, the categories of animals, fish and fowl that are halachically permitted or prohibited for consumption.

To be considered kosher, an animal must possess split hooves and chew its cud, while a fish must possess both fins and scales. Prohibited birds are listed individually in the text without the delineation of defining characteristics.

After outlining a series of additional regulations, Parshat Shmini ends with the following broad exhortation:

For I am the Lord your God, and you shall sanctify yourselves and you shall be holy, for I am holy.… For I am the Lord your God Who raises you from the land of Egypt in order to be for you a God; and you shall be holy for I am holy. This is the law of the animal and the bird and all living creature that swarms in the water and for every creature that teems on the ground. To distinguish between the impure and pure and between the creature that may be eaten and the creature that may not be eaten.


Is there any logical rhyme or reason to these laws of kashrut which occupy such a critical, prominent place in the life of every observant Jew?

Why does the Torah append these laws, in seemingly arbitrary fashion, to the end of Parshat Shmini? Does the placement of these regulations provide a hint towards their significance?

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Author: Rabbi Shmuel Goldin Title: Parshat Shmini: Considering Kashrut

Before answering these questions, two general observations must be made.

A. The laws of kashrut do not emerge from the biblical text monolithically. In addition to the regulations before us, numerous strictures recorded in various passages in the Torah play a role in determining the status of specific foodstuffs. These restrictions are further expanded upon through rabbinic legislation.

The parameters found in the Torah include (but are not limited to):


The bans on the consumption of blood and forbidden fats of even kosher animals


The ban on the consumption of the sciatic nerve of a kosher animal

3. The prohibitions concerning the cooking of a mixture of kosher meat and milk, the consumption of such a cooked mixture, and the derivation of benefit from such a cooked mixture


The requirement for the proper slaughter of a kosher animal


The ban on wine that had been used for idolatrous purposes

In isolated cases, the Torah does provide historical or ethical rationales for the laws in question. On the whole, however, the text is conspicuously silent.

B. Due to the Torah’s silence, most specific laws of kashrut fall into the legal category of chukim, laws for which no reason is given in the Torah text.

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Author: Rabbi Shmuel Goldin Title: Parshat Shmini: Considering Kashrut

Faced with the challenges presented by chukim in general, the rabbis debate whether or not one is allowed to posit potential reasons for these seemingly “reasonless” regulations. In this study we will adopt the position that one is allowed to suggest reasons for specific chukim, as we sample some of the suggested interpretations for the practical yet enigmatic laws that close Parshat Shmini.



In her opening comments on this section, Nehama Leibowitz distinguishes between the Torah’s regulations concerning permitted/prohibited food sources and seemingly similar laws found in other ancient cultures. While other traditions demonize the forbidden creatures themselves, seeing them as representing forces contrary to God’s will, no such value judgments are rendered in Jewish law. The halachic ban on specific food sources is simply that: a restriction on human behavior. The animals designated as forbidden within the Torah are not inherently evil; they are simply forbidden for consumption by Jews.

This distinction mirrors the much greater divide between superstitious and religious practice; between belief in arbitrary, dangerous forces vying for governance of the world and loyalty to a unified, thinking God Who makes demands upon human behavior.

In light of Leibowitz’s observations, however, our primary question gains even greater traction. If the creatures forbidden by the Torah are not “inherently evil,” why would God prohibit their consumption?


A number of prominent classical scholars, including the Rambam, the Ramban and the Ba’al Hachinuch, maintain that the foods prohibited by the Torah are physically injurious to human health.

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Author: Rabbi Shmuel Goldin Title: Parshat Shmini: Considering Kashrut

“If there are some among [these foods],” argues the Ba’al Hachinuch, “whose potential for harm is known neither to us nor to medical scholars, do not be concerned. The ‘True Physician’ [God], Who warned us of them, is wiser than you or they.”

Even the Rashbam, staunch defender of textual pshat, offers this health-based explanation as the “literal interpretation of the text and as a response to heretics.”


Other authorities, however, vehemently oppose the notion that the laws of kashrut could possibly be based upon health concerns.

“Heaven forbid that I should believe so,” claims the Abravanel, as he raises three primary objections to health-based explanations for the laws of kashrut:

1. Such interpretations reduce the stature of the Torah by lowering it to the level of a simple medical tome.


The foods prohibited by Jewish law are regularly consumed by non-Jews to no adverse physical effect.

3. Countless other dangerous substances abound in our environment, yet are not included in the Torah’s list of forbidden foods.

In the face of these and other arguments, a number of scholars shift the focus of concern. The foodstuffs prohibited by the Torah, they maintain, are indeed potentially damaging to man. The threat posed by these substances, however, plays out in the spiritual, rather than in the physical, realm.

As the Abravanel clearly states:

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Author: Rabbi Shmuel Goldin Title: Parshat Shmini: Considering Kashrut

[Through the ban on specific foods] the Torah does not seek to heal the bodies of man nor to ensure their physical well-being…but rather to safeguard the health of the soul and to cure its infirmities. [The text], therefore, bans those foods which defile and desecrate man’s pure soul…, creating in him an evil disposition…, giving rise to a spirit of impurity, desecrating both thought and action.

One by one, with minor variations, commentaries such as the Sforno16 and the Kli Yakar17 fall in line with this approach. The creatures prohibited for consumption by Torah law, they maintain, all share one common feature. Their ingestion as food somehow damages man’s moral fiber and spiritual fabric.

Even the Ramban, who is willing to accept the idea that forbidden animals are damaging to man’s physical health (see above), nonetheless sees spiritual danger as a primary motive for prohibiting their consumption.


Building on the notion that the substances forbidden by the Torah are injurious to man’s spiritual welfare, the Sforno offers a fascinating rationale for the seemingly arbitrary placement of these laws towards the end of Parshat Shmini.

In order to understand the textual flow, this scholar maintains, we must return to the book of Shmot, to the sin of the golden calf. There, in the very shadow of Sinai, we find that God withdraws from His people in response to their overwhelming failure. The Israelites become a nation bereft, unable to relate to their God directly, as they did before their sin.

In the course of his prayers, however, Moshe discerns the mechanisms through which the Israelites can once again achieve direct communion with the Divine. The Mishkan, its utensils, priestly servants and sanctified offerings will draw God back into the midst of His people.

A journey of reconciliation thus begins, framed by God’s detailed commandments concerning the

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Author: Rabbi Shmuel Goldin Title: Parshat Shmini: Considering Kashrut

construction and operation of the Mishkan, the nation’s ready response, the building of the Mishkan, the transmission of the laws of the korbanot, the preparations for the investiture of the kehuna and the launching of the Sanctuary service. In the opening segments of Parshat Shmini, this transformative process reaches its dramatic climax, as the Kohanim enter their sanctified role and a heavenly fire consumes the offerings upon the altar.

Suddenly these events are tragically marred by the violent death of Nadav and Avihu at God’s hand. Moshe’s goal, however, has been achieved. God has returned to His people.

Noting this success, Moshe now moves to prepare the Israelites for God’s constant presence in their lives. He commands them to consume only those foods that will enable them to “bask in the light of eternal life” and he instructs them to refrain from ingesting those substances that would impede their spiritual growth.

Through the eyes of the Sforno, the Torah laws concerning permitted and prohibited foodstuffs are transformed from technical regulations into an essential component in the dramatic reconciliation between God and His people.


Finally, a number of commentaries propose what is, perhaps, the most basic rationale of all for the laws of permitted and prohibited foodstuffs. The foods banned by the Torah, they maintain, are not prohibited because of specific characteristics in the substances themselves. Instead, God commands these regulations because He knows that the very act of selective abstinence, in the area of sustenance, will benefit the Israelites in manifold ways.

According to these scholars, the laws of permitted and prohibited foodstuffs are designed to:


Help maintain a clear separation between the Jewish people and surrounding cultures.


Train each Jew towards a disciplined lifestyle marked by the acceptance of God’s will.

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Author: Rabbi Shmuel Goldin Title: Parshat Shmini: Considering Kashrut

3. Connect the ordinary act of eating to Jewish law, thereby injecting God-awareness into the daily life of each Jew.


Cultivate the people’s recognition of their own powers of self-control.

From the perspective of these scholars, the regulations of permitted and prohibited foodstuffs help maintain an essential equilibrium within the life of each Jew. As we have consistently, the Torah preaches that our physical surroundings are a divine gift, to be appreciated and enjoyed. Man’s embrace of the material world, however, must be balanced by a sense of limits, humility and personal perspective. To live a sanctified life, we must always be in control of, rather than controlled by, our passions. Through continued abstinence from those foods prohibited by the Torah, the Jew learns to control his own desires by bending them to God’s will.


When all is said and done, the Torah’s silence concerning many of the laws of kashrut leaves these regulations squarely in the realm of chukim. We may never fully understand, for example, why a deer is kosher while a horse is not; why shellfish are forbidden yet turkeys allowed.

As the above study demonstrates, many scholars find the struggle to comprehend these and other mysterious edicts of the Torah worthwhile, potentially yielding insights that can enrich our observance of the law. Success or failure in our search for meaning, however, can have no ultimate bearing on our observance of the law. The revelation of God’s will in the Torah is, in and of itself, enough to command the observant Jew’s obedience – even when God’s ultimate purposes remain unknown.

Points to Ponder

Sometimes it’s simply a matter of perspective…

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Author: Rabbi Shmuel Goldin Title: Parshat Shmini: Considering Kashrut

With a short, incisive observation, the Chatam Sofer offers an approach to the laws of permitted/prohibited foodstuffs that turns things around one hundred eighty degrees.

The novel idea raised by the text, the Chatam Sofer suggests, is not what is forbidden to us but, rather, what is permitted.

This section of law opens with the statement “These are the creatures which you shall eat…,” and then continues with a list of foods that are allowed for consumption. With these passages, the Torah informs us that God grants us permission to eat “permitted foods.” Without this divine authorization, apparently, even these foods would not be allowed. The Torah thus reminds us that man acquires the right to benefit from the world only through God’s acquiescence.

In our age of “entitlement” we would do well to consider the Chatam Sofer’s perspective. Man should not begin with the assumption that the world is fundamentally “his” and that God then sets limitations.

The opposite is true: The world is a gift from God. Man is “entitled” only to that which God allows.

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