Shemini 5766 – Gilayon #443
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SPEAK TO THE CHILDREN
OF ISRAEL SAYING: THESE ARE THE BEASTS THAT YOU SHALL EAT OF ALL THE ANIMALS ON
THE FACE OF THE EARTH.
This is the law of
the Torah: The Lord"s utterances are pure utterances (Psalms 12)
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: We find
that the Holy One blessed be He "bent" two or three words in the
Torah in order to avoid saying an impure thing: From the pure animals and
from the animals that are not
pure; it is of the animals which are not pure (Bereishit 7). R. Yodan said: Even when He was to begin speaking of the signs
of the impure animals, He started with the signs of the pure animals: it is not
written the camel, for it does not have split hooves, but rather, because
it chews its cud; it is not written the rabbit, for it does not have
split hooves, but rather, for it chews its cud; it is not written the
pig, for it does not chew its cud, but rather for it has split hooves
(Bamidbar Rabbah 19:2)
…the clarification of
the matter is that the presence of a sign of purity in each of them only increases
their impurity. It is as they said of Esau, that he was like a pig that shows its
hooves to make the impression that it is kosher, while inside it is full of falseness.
This teaches a lesson
about all those who misrepresent themselves, as do the hypocrites who present pretend
to be decent. They are undoubtedly worse than the completely wicked person who
is equally evil, inside and out… that is why the pig"s
hoof is a sign of impurity, because that hoof can confuse people by seeming to
demonstrate that it is kosher: it is the opposite case with the rabbit and the
he said to Aaron:
"Take yourself a calf of the herd for a sin
and a ram
for a burnt offering, without blemish, and bring them before the Lord.
speak to the Israelites, saying:
a he-goat for a
and a lamb, yearlings
without blemish, for a burnt offering;
and an ox
and a ram for an
offering of well-being to sacrifice before the Lord…
today the Lord will appear before you…
Fire came out from before the Lord
and consumed the burnt offering and the fat parts on
all the people saw, and shouted, and fell on their faces. (Vayikra 9)
parasha opens with this dramatic ceremony, the ceremony of the eighth day,
which concludes the "seven days of ordination" – the days when the
priests became qualified to serve in the Tabernacle, during which Moses passed
on authority over ritual to Aaron and the priests after they had undergone the
training and preparations described in parashat Tzav.
ceremony of the eighth day took place before the people, who anxiously stood
outside of the Tent of Meeting, waiting for fire to descend from heaven, waiting
for God to express His favor by letting his Presence descend upon the
Torah describes a tense moment, when Aaron completes the preparation of the
sacrifices, lays them out – and nothing happens. One can almost hear the strained
silence of that moment.
midrash states that only after Moses came to Aaron"s aid, and they both entered the Tent of Meeting
and prayed, did fire come down from heaven, and the Divine Presence, taking the
shape of fire, descended into the Tent of Meeting.
many ways, the ceremony of the eighth day did not merely mark the completion of
the seven days of ordination; it was a "graduation ceremony" ending
the whole process of the Tabernacle"s
construction, a project that began with delineation of the materials and the
detailed descriptions of parashat Terumah,
followed by the construction of the Tabernacle and its vessels, their assembly
and erection, the gifts offered by the princes, and the description of the
sacrifices in the beginning of Vayikra. The process
finds its completion in the final ordination of the priests for service in the
building of the Tabernacle may be viewed as constituting the first public initiative
executed by the people, who participated in each of its stages and parts,
either directly or by way of their representatives – the princes. Up until the "Tabernacle
project" the Israelites were led about and they followed. Their role was
passive; they were taken out of Egypt, the sea was split for them, even the
Torah was given to them "against their will," as the midrash explains, "He held the mountain over them like
a basin." It was only with the construction of the Tabernacle that the
people took on an active and meaningful role through their contributions, their
skills, their creativity, and their work.
is no wonder that on the eighth day the people stood at the entrance to the
Tent of Meeting, feeling satisfied and waiting tensely for Divine approval, for
the Lord"s response, for His affirmation by way
of the descent of fire and the indwelling of the Divine Presence.
the close study of Scripture"s language leads us
to discover structurally and philologically similar texts, and the comparison
of such texts with each other may be exegetically enlightening. Similar
phrasing calls out to the reader and invites us to work through the comparison
not only along philological lines, but also in terms of conceptual content.
reading the text regarding the eighth day, I hear echoing the words of brit ben ha"betarim (the covenant of the severed pieces)
– the fundamental covenant between God and Abraham and his descendants:
He said to him:
"Take Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year
old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young bird."
brought Him all these and cut them in two, placing each half opposite the
other; but he did not cut up the bird.
said to Abram: "Know well… "
the sun went down it was very dark
and there appeared a smoking oven, and a
flaming torch which passed between those pieces.
that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying… (Bereishit 15)
The expressions take yourself
and take Me, the choice of a number of animals of various species, their
butchering and the laying-out of the pieces in a ceremonial and orderly
fashion, the anticipation of the descent of divine fire upon the butchered
flesh, the ritual"s stage-setting, the element
of suspense, and the arrival of divine fire which ends the moments of waiting –
all of these are so similar that it seems that the ceremony of the eighth day
in our parasha constitutes an echo to brit ben ha"betarim to a degree that may have even have
been apparent to those who were actually present on the eighth day.
ben ha"betarim is
thought to be the fundamental and foundational covenant between Abraham and his
descendants and God. In it, God makes His clear and full promise, describing
the Egyptian exile, the enslavement, redemption, and the return to the land. However,
the covenant with Abraham was made only after he had proven himself worthy of
it through his deeds and steadfastness, his way of life and his faith. Only
after Abraham toiled and prepared himself for his role, and then set the stage
for the covenant by preparing the animal parts, only then did the divine fire,
the flaming torch pass between the pieces, and the promise was made.
the completion of Israel"s first collective
effort – the construction of the Tabernacle – it seems that the people were brimming
with satisfaction over their handiwork and felt deserving of having the Divine
Presence dwell within Tabernacle that had been built through their generosity
and hard work. On the eighth day, the people stood before the slaughtered
animals that laid waiting on the altar of the Tabernacle, waiting for the God
who had commanded the staging of a scene similar to if not almost identical to
that of the covenant that was etched in the ancient Hebrew memory – brit ben ha"betarim. They waited as Abraham did for the
Divine fire to come down and consume the parts of flesh – the sacrificial
people waited expectantly for the re-affirmation of brit
for God to respond, saying that they were indeed worthy to continue Abraham"s covenant, worthy of the indwelling of the
Divine Presence, that they were worthy of enjoying the fulfillment of the
promise given to the nation"s father.
came out from before the Lord. At that dramatic moment, when fire descended
from heaven and consumed everything on the altar, like the flaming torch which passed
between the pieces, the people received confirmation of their deeds, showing them
to be worthy. The covenant was confirmed and was again revalidated between Abraham"s descendants and God.
people who had seen the realization of both first parts of the covenant between
the pieces – slavery and redemption – required confirmation of the third part
of the covenant: the third generation shall return here and I have
given this land to your seed.
indwelling of the Divine Presence in the Tabernacle, in the people"s
handiwork, at the moment when fire came down in the ceremony of the eighth day,
validated the existence and renewal of the covenant between the pieces. Perhaps
it was not for naught that, like Abraham who fell on his face in reaction to
the flaming torch, all the people saw, and shouted, and fell on their faces.
Oshrat Shoham belongs to the Pelekh community in Jerusalem and serves as a criminal
attorney for the district attorney of the Jerusalem area
And Aaron was silent – Silence of Pain or of Acquiescence
His heart turned silent as a stone; he did
not lift his voice in weeping and eulogy as a father usually does over a son.
He also refused to be comforted by Moshe, for he had no more strength and he
was unable to speak.
(Abarbanel, Vayikra 10:3)
text does not read va-yishtok (va-yishtok and va-yidom
– are both translated as was silent.) because the Holy tongue
recognizes a difference between the synonyms demama
and sh'tika; the latter connotes only
refraining from speech or from weeping and moaning, and cessation of other
external movement, as is written (Psalms 107:27), They reeled and staggered like a drunken
man and further on They rejoiced when all was quiet (yishtoku). But demama also indicates inner calm, serenity of the
soul… therefore the Torah testifies that Aaron, holy man of God, was not only
silent, but va-yidom – his heart was
quiet and his soul was tranquil, for he did not question God's nature at all,
but fully accepted His decrees.
(Rabbi Eliezer Lipman Lichtenstein – Shem
Olam, quoted in Leibowitz:
New Studies in the Book of Vayikra)
This is one of the points in which Judaism
and Paganism go in diametrically opposite directions. The Pagan brings his
offering in an attempt to make the god subservient to his wishes. The Jew, with
his offering, wishes to place himself in the service of God; by his offering he
wishes to make himself subservient to the wishes of God. So that all offerings
are formulae of the demands of God, which the bringer, by his offering,
undertakes to make the normal routine for his future life. So that self-devised
offerings would be a killing of just those truths which our offerings are meant
to impress and dominate the bringers, would be placing a pedestal on which to
glorify one's own ideas, where a throne was meant to be built for obedience,
and obedience only.
S.R. Hisch's commentary on VaYikra
10:2, Isaac Levy translation)
and Avihu died before the Lord while offering a strange fire (Bamidbar 3:4)
Rabbi Yohanan said: Did they die before the Lord? Rather, this teaches us that the hour in
which the children of the righteous die is difficult for the Holy One blessed
Foods: Feelings, Reasons and Commandments
Elazar ben Azaryah says: From whence do we know that a person should
not say, "I could not possibly wear sha'atnez,
I could not possibly eat pork, I could not possibly indulge in forbidden sexual
relations" – but rather [one should say] – "I could but what can I
do? My Father in Heaven has forbidden them to me." This is learned from
the verse and I have set you apart from the other peoples to be Mine (VaYikra 20:26). One takes upon himself the yoke of the
Kingdom of Heaven by avoiding transgression.
(Yalkut Shimoni Kedoshim 626)
It is known that the fruit born by a tree
before its third year is over is useless and harmful, just as any fish lacking
fins and scales damages the body and the flesh of birds of prey and impure
animals harms the soul of wisdom. The knowledgeable understand this.
(Ibn Ezra Vayikra 19:23)
Those things that taint the soul alone, such
as fish and fowl and the other creeping things that do not cause impurity
through touch are referred to as abominations, as it says, it is an
abomination for you, do not eat it, it is an abomination; do not
eat them for they are an abomination.
(Seforno Vayikra 11:2)
Dietary prohibitions come to separate [us]
from the nations and also to exalt the soul, since the consumption of disgusting things causes the soul to be diminished. Bodily health is not the point [of these laws]; camel meat is good for one"s health and is relished by the people of the east.
from the nations and also to exalt the soul, since the consumption of
disgusting things causes the soul to be diminished. Bodily health is not the
point [of these laws]; camel meat is good for one"s
health and is relished by the people of the east.
The dietary prohibitions are prohibitions of
holiness, given in order that Israel be a kingdom
of priests and a holy nation. Just as the priests of other nations were
separated and distinguished by special laws and prohibitions, so too each and
every person of Israel is separated from the idolatrous nations by means of
laws and instructions. As a result, each and every soul in Israel is exalted
and does not learn from the deeds of the nations, and will always cleave to the
God of its fathers and to the straight and holy paths, and will not exchange is
honor for the abominations of those peoples.
the Holocaust a Preface and Condition for Redemption and Independence?
the past, grave things were said in connection with the Holocaust: There were
those who claimed that the Holocaust was a preparation, a kind of price that
the Jewish People had to pay in exchange for the creation of the State of
Israel. There were those who clamed that the State of Israel serves as a kind
of compensation for the Holocaust. They also claimed that this was the only way
to cause the Jews, or rather to force them, to immigrate to the Land of Israel.
These are very grave words, which are difficult to hear.
(From Harav Yehudah Amital's
"Af al Pi shemeitzar umeimar li", quoted in M. Miyah's
Olam Banuy, Hareiv, Uvanuy, pg. 64)
is no accomplishment or blessing in this world that can compensate for the
burning of those sinless multitudes of people. All of these words about the
creation of the State in the wake of the Holocaust – they are hollow words.
Neither the actual State of Israel, which occasionally must bleed to survive,
nor the ideal State of Israel described in the prophecy of each man beneath
his vine and beneath his fig-tree can begin to justify what the Jewish
People went through during the years of the Holocaust.
(HaRav Amital's lecture on the Yom
Kaddish HaKlali – Ot Ve'Eid,
Perek Iyyun Ve'Meida, quoted in Miyah op
cit pg. 64)
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