Shemini 5766 – Gilayon #443

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Parshat Shmini




(Vayikra 11:2)


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

(Vayikra 11).

(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


(Keli Yakar

Vayikra 11:4)



Between Two


Oshrat Shoham


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


a calf

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

the altar.


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

ben ha"betarim,

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)



Strange Fire

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

be He.

(Tanhuma Aharei

Mot 6)



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.

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 HaKlaliOt Ve'Eid,

Perek Iyyun Ve'Meida, quoted in Miyah op

cit pg. 64)



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