Parashat Shemini


“But this is what you shall not eat.” (Vayikra 11:4)

After Pesach Tshuvah Starts By eating kosher food only

Every action has a reaction. Just like eating bad food has a negative effect on one’s body, eating non-kosher food has a similar effect on the soul. Apart from the sin of transgressing Hashem’s commandments, the “effect” of eating non-kosher food is “timtum halev, a contamination of the heart.

It is not only the person himself who is affected through eating non-kosher food. The Vilna Gaon was once asked why the laws of kashrut immediately precede the laws of childbirth. He answered that it comes to teach us that when a pregnant mother eats non-kosher food, it not only affects her heart, but the heart of her baby too.

To illustrate the effect of timtum halev, Rav Isaac Bernstein quoted the following story:

The Rambam was once in Yemen and came into contact with an extraordinary Talmid Hacham. Their friendship developed and this Talmid Hacham would write Rambam questions and the Rambam would respond.

One day, the Yemenite Rav sent a certain philosophical question. After the Rambam read it, he said, “A believing Jew cannot ask such questions” – and he refused to write back.

Years went by and the Rav from Yemen did not know why the Rambam refused to return his questions. Eventually, after many letters beseeching the Rambam to reply, he wrote back the following, “Investigate your shochet (slaughterer).

Shocked at having received this response, the Yemenite Rav immediately investigated his shochet and found that he had been feeding the community non-kosher meat for the past thirteen years!

The Rambam was not a Prophet. And yet, he knew that someone of the Yemenite Rav’s caliber of learning could only ask such a question if a seed was implanted within him that went contrary to Torah beliefs. When the Rambam thought about it, the only conclusion was that he was unknowingly eating nonkosher food.

It is a sad fact that today, especially in Israel, there are many Christian missionaries pretending to be religious Jews. Claiming to be a religious Jewish charity organization, they send Glatt Kosher food packages to poor widows and orphans. However, after a short time, once their trust is established, they begin to send non-kosher food in kosher wrapping. This way, they claim that a Jew’s mind becomes more receptive to non-Jewish ideas when they are presented to them at a later date. Even they acknowledge that without non-kosher food suppressing their heart, a religious Jew would never abandon his beliefs so easily!

The importance of eating kosher food was demonstrated by the CHatam Sofer when he was asked by the father of a mentally ill child if he should send his daughter to recover in a specialist school where they do not provide kosher food, or is it better for her to stay at home where she will never regain mental stability, but will only eat kosher food? The CHatam Sofer answered something that only someone on his level could answer. He answered that even though it was perfectly permissible to send his daughter there according to Jewish law, he would advise against it for the following reason: If the girl would become stable enough to be required to perform Mitzvot, it is likely that she will eventually reject the Mitzvot and live a life of sin due to the nonkosher food suppressing her heart for all those years. Therefore, it is better for her to remain in her current condition where she is not obligated in Mitzvot, instead of becoming obligated and then rejecting the Torah and Mitzvot.


torah thoughts and pearls of wisdom from PIRKEI AVOT

Mishna 5: Marriage and the Dark Side of the Force

“Yossi ben (son of) Yochanan of Jerusalem said: Let your house be open wide, let the poor be members of your household, and do not chatter excessively with women. This was said regarding one’s own wife, certainly with another’s wife. Based on this the Sages have said, one who chatters excessively with women causes evil to himself, wastes time from Torah study, and will eventually inherit Gehenna.”

As the Sages instruct, religious practices and values must not be relegated to the synagogue or some other setting outside the home. Our homes must be permeated with sanctity, and both Torah scholars and the downtrodden should be welcome within.

The second issue of our mishna, is discussing talking excessively with women. It is appropriate to approach this from the context of this and the previous mishna. The sanctity of the home to a great extent rests on the husband-wife relationship within. If their relationship is founded upon closeness and a sharing of values, the home will flourish. If it is based upon lightheartedness and lust — or if the husband finds he has better “chatter” (what we’d call today “chemistry”) with women outside the home — the basic building blocks of the home will be lacking, and the home will only with difficulty survive.

Our mishna uses the term “sicha” for speech, which means light or unimportant talk, kibitzing or chat. Regarding another man’s wife the danger is evident. Empty, frivolous conversation may lead to a much more serious breakdown of behavior. We will learn later: “Jesting and lightheadedness accustom a person to immorality” (3:17). Interaction with women may be a regular part of our daily activities, but we must always take care to maintain a certain sense of formality. This of course does not mean to imply coldness or unfriendliness. As always in Judaism, the correct balance must be sought. However, this is one area in which the Sages, in their wisdom and insight, warn us to take extra care. Dangers wait — sometimes beneath only the thinnest layer of politeness — and caution must be constantly maintained.

Even with one’s own wife the proper balance must be maintained. The husband-wife relationship must be predicated on an emotional closeness and a sharing of values, not on frivolity or physical lust. The underlying bond must be very clear to both husband and wife. We are not bound because we enjoy each other’s company, because it provides us with a beneficial financial arrangement, or because we desire the physical pleasure. In fact, our marriage must not be predicated on any reason of duration less than eternal, and likewise a truly meaningful marriage will weather all sorts of financial and medical challenges. If I am in a relationship because it is good for *me*, then when the cause of that goodness departs (or if I have more enjoyable “chatter” with the gals at the office) the marriage will be in serious trouble.

Rather, husband and wife must view themselves as bound by eternal covenant. Each partner must care for the other for the other’s sake, and they must be united in the sacred mission of building a Jewish home and becoming a unified whole. Humor and lightheadedness are often in place in the husband-wife relationship; so is physical pleasure. In fact, any activity which brings husband and wife closer strengthens the sacred bond between them. But such things must never replace the true ideals and purpose of marriage. One serious and intense conversation between husband and wife — about their goals, feelings and aspirations — is worth a thousand empty and trivial conversations. Our marriages must primarily be spiritual and eternal. And likewise our speech and conversation must never wholly lose sight of the fact that between us rests the Divine Presence.

There is a general concept within Judaism that the greater a potential for good something has, the stronger the temptation to misuse it. Love and marriage are prime examples of this. Marriage gives man and woman the ability to build the ultimate relationship — symbolic of man’s relationship with G-d, as well as to create life. Each partner loves and provides for the other for the other’s sake, yet realizes and appreciates that the other does for him or her for the very same reason. And as each partner does for the other, he or she grows closer to the other as well — for we love those to whom we give. Eventually, a couple merges — into a complete and unified whole.

However, anything which has such potential for good can as well be corrupted into a means of perpetrating the most terrible of evils. And this is the manner in which the world works, for the “dark side of the force” (we can call it Satan, but the idea is quite the same) will not allow such potential for goodness to go unchecked and unchallenged. “This opposite that made the L-rd” (Kohelet / Ecclesiastes 7:14). Just as the most terrible of crimes are committed in the name of religion, the worst acts of selfishness can be perpetrated under the excuse of “marriage”. Rather than marriage being used for selflessness, giving and bonding, it can be used for selfishness and abusiveness. Men and women are different by nature (if any of you haven’t noticed). If they merge, their natures will complement one another and they will become a united whole. If, however, one uses the marriage relationship solely for his or her own sake — to take from the other, to dominate or abuse, or to give himself an false sense of importance by putting the other down, he is involved in the most selfish and crushing relationship possible. The very closeness and intimacy of marriage gives each spouse the ability to crush and hurt the other in a manner not possible in any other sort of relationship. And sadly, we all know how ugly, painful and devastating unhealthy relationships can be, and how slowly the scars heal.

The sex drive is another example of this concept. Marital relations, at their highest level, are a form of giving and sharing, and are potentially an act of creation. (There is also a Kabbalistic concept that sex is a physical manifestation of our ultimate spiritual relationship with God — one reason the Prophets so often rebuke Israel for going “a whoring” after idolatry. (Thought heard from R. Motty Berger, However, precisely because it can be used for such good, there is no other drive which man is so tempted to misuse and to vulgarize, to pervert from an act of holiness into one of selfishness, hedonism and animalism.

For all of the above reasons, Judaism has always placed top importance on the separation of the sexes, in such areas as synagogue service, schooling and general social interaction. This does not stem from a sense of inequality between men and women, and certainly not from any kind of notion that sex and marriage are in any way “sinful”. To the contrary, God says, “It is not proper for Adam to live alone” (i.e., unmarried) (Genesis 2:18), and the Torah sets this as a precedent for all future generations: “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife” (2:24).

Rather, knowing the unique quality of the husband-wife relationship, the Rabbis took every precaution that such potential for good and beauty not be compromised. The more we spread ourselves out — the more we enjoy interaction and good chemistry with other members of the opposite sex — the less special and unique will our relationship be with our spouses.

Thus, our mishna encourages us: Do not become overly light and frivolous, not with your own wife and certainly not with another man’s. We are quite literally dealing with fire: with human passions and with the most delicate and precious of human emotions. And only with the most caring and sensitive nurturing can man and woman, in spite of — or perhaps because of — their differences, merge into a sacred and sanctified whole.



A Guest At The Wedding


When Aaron’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu sinned by offering an eish zarah (foreign fire) on the Alter, they were punished with their lives and so, this most joyous day of the inauguration of the kohanim and the erecting of the Mishkan was the mood was dampened for all of K’lal Yisroel. Yet Aaron, who lost two of his children, who Chazal (Rabbis) tell us were greater in stature than Moshe and Aaron, did not react. He was silent, and accepted the Divine decree without question and without emotion. Although we cannot begin to understand the level of emunah and bitachon of Aaron HaKohen, it still behooves us to ask how it was possible that he was completely silent and did not question the decree? Chazal tell us that Aaron was duly rewarded for his silence; Hashem spoke straight to him, alone, immediately thereafter. A most wonderful reward for sure, but what is the connection? Furthermore, as is true of all of divrei Chazal, it seems from that we are supposed to learn something from this. Since we cannot expect that Hakadosh Baruch Hu will ever speak directly to any one of us, this seems far from a lesson that we can apply to our own lives. How can we relate to Aaron’s “super-human” qualities and apply it to our own lives?

HaRav Yeruchem Levovitz zt”l explains that it wasn’t that Aaron HaKohein was superhuman that he didn’t react. Nor was it because he had worked on controlling his emotions that he remained completely silent. The key to Aaron’s reaction or lack thereof was simply the behooves. Just like a guest who is invited to a wedding understands that he cannot complain if the menu is not to his liking or that the chatan and kallah didn’t walk down to the songs he would have chosen, so too Aaron understood that reacting would be out of place. A guest understands that the menu was not designed to honor him as he is not the guest of honor. Rather the entire wedding was planned to honor the Groom and Bride, and whatever he does not find to his liking, is irrelevant. Aaron understood that the world was created by Hakadosh Baruch Hu for His own kavod – k’vod Shomayim, and He continues to run the world for the very same purpose. Whatever He does that seems to interfere with our own agendas is completely irrelevant, even if it appears to detract from k’vod Shomayim. Aaron fully understood that his place in this world was like that of a guest and so how could he get upset by anything in the “menu of life”? Realizing his place, made Aaron closer to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and Hashem only speaks directly to those who are closest to Him. This is a powerful lesson. While most of cannot come close to controling our emotions and reactions to (lo aleinu) absolute tragedies, we need to realize that everything that happens to us is directed by Hashem. There is a higher plan behind all delayed flights and traffic jams. Becoming frustrated impacts badly on our character traits, at best. Accepting our “misfortune” is often an opportunity for kidush Hashem and always a step forward in spiritual growth.

simcha corner

the Father Of Five Children Had Won A Toy At A Raffle. He Called His Kids Together To Ask Which One Should Have The Present.

“Who Is The Most Obedient?” He Asked. “Who Never Talks Back To Mother?

Who Does Everything She Says?”

Five Small Voices Answered In Unison.

“Okay, Dad, You Get The Toy.”


Jennifer Watched As The Cashier Rang Up Her Purchases. “Cash, Check Or Charge?” She Asked, After Folding The Items Jennifer Had Bought. As Jennifer Fumbled For Her Wallet, The Cashier Noticed A Remote Control For A Television Set In Her Purse.

“Do You Always Carry Your Tv Remote With You?” The Cashier Inquired.

“No,” She Replied. “But My Husband, Jeff, Refused To Come Shopping With Me, So I Figured This Was The Most Evil Thing I Could Do To Him.”


Parsha Summary 

First/second Aliyah: The Parsha begins on Nissan 1, 2449. The seven-day inauguration of Aaron and his sons was completed and the ceremonies for the Mizbeach’s consecration had begun. Over 40 offerings would be brought on that first day, each requiring the direct ministrations of Aaron. Aaron blessed the nation with the standard priestly blessing after which Moshe and Aaron blessed the nation with the special Bracha of Psalm 90.

THIRD Aliya: The deaths of Nadav and Avihu are recorded at the very same time that fire descended from heaven to light the Mizbeach. Their cousins removed the bodies of Nadav and Avihu from the courtyard of the Mishkan. Moshe instructs Aaron and his two remaining sons, Elazar and Isamar, that they are forbidden to overtly mourn the deaths of Nadav and Avihu in the standard manner. It is from here that we are taught the standard practices of tearing Kriyah and of mourners not cutting their hair.

FOURTH/FIFTH Aliyot: Moshe instructs Aaron and his sons to continue the service of the Mizbeach’s consecration. The first recorded difference in Halachik rulings is recorded between Moshe and Aaron as it pertained to the eating of the Rosh Chodesh offering. (Note 16-20, Stone Edition ArtScroll pg. 595)

SIXTH Aliya: The basic laws of Kosher and non-Kosher animals, fish, and fowl are recorded. Note that verses 11:4-7 is one of the established proofs for the divine authorship of the Torah.

SEVENTH Aliya: The basic laws of purity and impurity are recorded. It is important to clarify that the Torah does not associate “Tummah” impurity and “Taharah” purity with good and bad. The entire process involves the concept of life and death and the symbolic emphasis that the Torah places on serving G-d with optimism and vigor. So long as there is life there is the opportunity to grow in our relationship with G-d.

The question of “Why are we commanded to keep Kosher?” is answered in 11:44-47. The Torah clearly states that the reason to keep Kosher is to emulate G-d’s sanctity. Sanctity “Kedusha” means being set apart and different. Just as G-d is apart from all things and divine in every way, so too are we to be set apart from all other nations and be different in the manner of our eating.