Shemini 5773 – Gilayon #793

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Parshat Shmini

And fire went out from before the lord

And consumed them and they died before the lord.

(Vayikra 10:2)


And they died

before the Lord – Because they thought that they did something favorable

before Him.

(Ibn Ezra, ibid. ibid)


There is no doubt that their intention was desirable;

for they were called "those close to me" even after their sin. Their desirable

intent finds expression in the words of the Torat Cohanim: "They too were

in a state of joy; upon seeing new fire they rose up to add love to love".

But the fact remains: At the very hour that the nation merited

revelation of God's closeness, they felt the need for a special offering

of their own; from this we see that their hearts did not pulsate with the true

sprit of priesthood. The priests of Israel are part of the nation; they

have no status of their own; their very essence is that they stand in the midst

of their people, and this is the essence of their position before God. We see

that their very coming close had an element of sin.


ibid. ibid)



Some thoughts on kashrut

Dalia Marx

A few years ago I overheard an amusing conversation. It went, more or

less, like this:

A: "Eat the salad, it's not fattening, it's only lettuce."

B: "But it's from … [name of a politically controversial area]!"

C: "Exactly, it's not politically kosher".

A: "Why not? Lettuce from there is ideologically choice produce."

D: "Oh, forget politics. The important thing is that no bugs are

ever found in this lettuce"

B:"What's better – bugs or all the chemicals

that kill them? In my opinion, all those chemicals are not kosher".

E: "Not only that, this lettuce is also much more expensive."

C: "Well, what about [name of foreign company which manufactures

food products] which employs children? Is that kosher?"

The conversation rolled on and the participants continued to present

arguments in the spirit of those mentioned above. This conversation is

informative. It shows that considerations about what and how we should eat are

complex and sometimes contradictory, and that ideological, economical,

aesthetic, health-related, and many other issues – such as social justice – have

to be taken into account. We Jews call this kashrut.

In Parashat Shemini

we find the first formulation of the kashrut laws. The parasha

enumerates the criteria for an animal's kashrut

(Vayikra 11:1-8).

These are followed by the kashrut of "all that

are in the water" (9-12). In

the case of fowl, the parasha provides a list of the tamei [ritually

unclean] birds (13-25) and forbids

consumption of "the swarming-creature that swarms over the earth" (41). An additional version of the kashrut

laws appears in Parashat Re'eh. The kashrut principles listed in the Torah have been,

throughout the ages, subject to considerable expansion. The classic example of

this is the command: "You may not cook a goat in its mother's milk",

which appears thrice in the Torah (although not in our parasha). It has

been understood, post factum, as a prohibition against the mixing of

meat and mild, a prohibition leading to separation of dishes and discussion of

time required between the eating of meat and milk, etc.

Sometimes the intensive occupation with details prevents us from seeing

the whole picture. While we find in the State of Israel stringency and

extremism in all the ritual, political and technical aspects of kashrut

and of supervision, we see less and less interest in the profound sense of kashrut.

Stringent reforms merit popular praise, and whoever is more stringent is considered

to be superior, and the lenient are scorned. The hechsherim [kashrut

certificates] considered "mehudarim"

[de luxe] cause splits between friends and

relatives who can no longer dine together, not because of questions of kashrut

but because of disagreements on hechsherim (kashrut


The original meaning of the term kosher is that which is apt

or appropriate. If we look about us, we cannot but conclude that many

who those who deal with kashrut matters have forgotten what kashrut

means at its core. Despite an inflation of issues of kashrut

supervision, the dealing with kashrut itself has become narrow,

technical and lacking inner essence. Still, many Jews consider these processes

with dwindling satisfaction. More and more do we hear the question What is kashrut

what makes food kosher, moral and fit for consumption? Following are some

thoughts on kashrut issues.

A Torah of

Life and Kashrut of Life


What does it mean to eat kosher?


Is fast food, which is saturated

with fat and cholesterol and is detrimental to our health and feeling, kosher?


Is food prepared by Third World children employed in conditions of servitude



Are animals raised brutally and

slaughtered insensitively kosher?


Is warmed-over frozen food served

perfunctorily to children staring at the TV screen kosher?


Can food eaten with anger and

shame to compensate for all that is missing in life be kosher?

Our parasha provides the rationale for

the obligation to observe kashrut: "For I am the Lord your God and

you shall hallow yourselves and become holy, for I am holy" (Ibid, ibid. 44). From this we understand that

the reason for strict attention to the way in which we sustain our lives and

are joyful in our nourishment should assist us in our obligation to sanctify

our lives. And the reason we have to sanctify our lives is to strive to imitate

God, to have Godliness in our lives: "Sanctify yourselves and be holy, for

I am holy". The demand for a life of sanctity goes beyond the demand for

observance of the accepted kashrut laws; it is an aspiration to approach

the sublime and to relate to the Eternal.

I should like

to suggest a tentative list of ten parameters for examination of food kashruth,

not including the rules of halachic kashrut in the limited sense of the


1. Social justice, concern for those who lack: "It is to

share your bread with the hungry" (Isaiah


2. Preservation of nature and avoidance of waste: "You

shall not destroy" (based upon Devarim


3. Decent attitude to animals: You shall not cook a kid in its

mother's milk" (Shemot23:19)

4. Fair employment: You shall not oppress your fellow and you

shall not steal" (Vayikra


5. Health and preservation of the body: "For your own sake,

therefore, be most careful: (Devarim 4:15)

6. A

sense of gratitude: "Let all that breathes praise the Lord, Hallelujah"

(Psalms 150:6)

7. Family: "How good and how pleasant it is that brothers

dwell together" (Psalms 133:1)

8. Community: "And the people went to eat and drink and

send portions and make great merriment" (Nehemiah


9. Taste and pleasure: "Honey and milk are beneath your

tongue" (The Song of Songs, 4:11).

10. Moderation: "If you find honey, eat only what you need,

lest, surfeiting yourself, you throw it up" (Proverbs,


Perhaps not everyone considers part (or all) of these criteria to be kashrut-related,

but in my opinion they go back to the basic and fundamental meaning of kashrut,

as a measure for determining what is right and proper to enter into our bodies.

Some of these criteria are self-understood, some are less obvious. But in a

world where children gobble up ready-made food in front of a TV, it is

important to stress eating together as a family – even as a community – as a value.

In a society where so many people suffer from various eating disorders, it is

important to emphasize both the need for pleasure from food and the need for


Some of these criteria complement each other, but some stand in tension

and contradiction. For example, food created under conditions of fair trade are

guaranteed not to have been created under conditions of exploitation, but it is

likely to be markedly more expensive then comparable products and is therefore

socially problematic. Organic food is said to be healthier but some of the

companies which produce organic food employ workers under unfair conditions.

Insistence upon family meals can sometimes be at the cost of variety and

refinement of the menu. Waiting for food in a restaurant which employs mentally-impaired

workers can be trying. Use of single-use utensils can make for easier halachic kashrut,

but is not beneficial to the environment, etc. Our Torah is a Torah of life,

and the food with which we nourish and pleasure our bodies should conform to

life kashrut.

Indeed, there are no easy solutions to the critical questions regarding

the food we put into our mouths. But the differentiation between kosher and not

kosher lies at the foundation of Jewish thought. Conscious eating is essential,

because that which we put into our bodies becomes that which we are, and

therefore we should be extremely careful with our nourishment. Even if we do not

come up with clear solutions to all these questions, and even if it is not upon

us to complete the labor in this matter, we are not free to desist from the


Towards the end of our parasha and the discussion on kashrut,

we are commanded to be holy: "For I, the Lord your God is holy, and you

shall hallow yourselves and be holy for I am holy" (11:44), and further on" "For I the Lord and He who brought

you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; you shall be holy for I am

holy" (11:45). The exodus from Egypt,

which we are currently celebrating, and the entry into the Land, are

accompanied by ascendance. This ascendance and the obligation to be holy are

tied by their umbilical cord to the consciousness of freedom of man redeemed.

Dr. Dalia Marx teaches Liturgy and Midrash

at the Hebrew Union

College in Jerusalem. Her book "Tractates Tamid, Middot and Qinnim: A Feminist Commentary, Tuebingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013 has been published recently.



The Laws of Slaughter and the

Restrictions on Eating Meat are Stages Towards a Higher

Spiritual State

These are

the creatures that you may eat: It begins by permitting certain types of

meat, (and so with grasshoppers and fish), implying that it would be best not

to eat any living thing at all. That is why it had to begin: Speak to the

Israelite people thus: these are the creatures that you may eat –

the permissibility of meat-eating is a new idea that must be explicitly set


 (From the Hatam Sofer's Torat Moshe, as quoted by Prof. Nehamah Leibowitz

in her Iyyunim Hadashim BeSefer Vayikra, pg. 127)


A Torah

scholar – a spiritual man – regularly engaged in the slaughter and sacrifice of

animals? This does not jibe with the heart's pure feelings. Even though it

remains necessary to practice the slaughter and consumption of living beings,

in any event it is proper for this work to be performed by those who have not

yet refined their emotions. It is fitting for ethical, knowledgeable, and pious

scholars to supervise and see to it that the animals are not killed in a

barbaric manner, so that a noble light may enter into the whole

matter of meat-eating, a light which will, in time, illuminate the entire

world. This is truly bound up in the laws of slaughter.

(From R. A.I. Kook ZTz"L's Iggrot HaRAYaH, #178)


 The World Goes On As Usual – A Person's

Fate Is Evidence Neither of His Righteousness Nor His



the death of Aharon's two sons"

– Rabbi Shim'on opened [his discourse] with:

"The same fate is in store for all: for the righteous and for the

wicked." "The righteous" – this is

Noah, regarding whom it is written (Bereishit

6) "A righteous man". Said Rabbi Yossi the

Galilean, When Noah went out of the ark, a lion bit him and maimed him, and he

was not fit for offering sacrifices, and Shem, his son, offered in his place.

"The wicked" – this was Pharaoh Nechehwho

desired to sit on Shelomo's throne; he was

unacquainted with his customs, a lion bit him and maimed him. This one died a

cripple and this one died a cripple, bearing out what is written "The

same fate is in store for all: for the righteous and for the wicked, for the

good and pure and for the impure". "For the good" – this

is Moshe, regarding whom it is written (Shemot

2) "And she saw that he was good"; Rabbi

Meir said that he was born circumcised. "And to the pure" 

this is Aharon, who devoted himself to the purification of Israel,

as is written (Malachi 2) "He

served Me with complete loyalty and held the many back

from iniquity". "The impure" – these

are the spies; some spoke in praise of Eretz Yisrael and some spoke

derogatorily; neither these nor these entered the Land, as is written "for

the good and pure and for the impure"… "For him who is pleasing

and for him who sins" – "For him who is pleasing" – this

is Davidas

is written (I Samuel 16) "So

they sent and brought him… and he was of pleasing appearance". Said

Rabbi Yitzchak, He was pleasing in Halacha, and all

who saw him recalled his study. "Him who sins" – this

was Nebucadnezer, as is written (Daniel 4) "Redeem your sins by

beneficence". This one built the Temple

and ruled forty years and this one destroyed the Temple and ruled forty years – illustrating

"the same fate is in store for all." …An alternative

exposition: "The same fate" – these are the sons of

Aharon, of whom it is written (Malachi 2) "Served

me with complete loyalty". "for

the wicked – this is the Assembly of Korachof

whom it is written (Bemidbar 16) "Move away from… these

wicked men" – these entered in order to offer in a state of

discord, and were burned and these entered to offer not in discord, and they

were burned.

(Vayikra Rabba,



The Death of the Righteous is Troubling for the Holy One blessed be

He and Effects Atonement

R. Abba bar Avina said: Why is the

story of Miriam's death placed next to [the passage regarding] the [red]

heifer's ashes? To teach that just as the heifer's ashes atone, so too the

death of the righteous atones.

R. Yudin said: Why does [the story

of] Aaron's death appear next to [the story

of] the breaking of the Tablets? To teach that Aaron's death was as troubling

for the Holy One blessed be He as was the

breaking of the Tablets.

R. Hiya bar Abba said: Aaron's sons

died on the first day of Nisan, so why are their deaths mentioned in connection

with Yom Kippur? This is in order to teach that just as Yom Kippur atones, so too

the deaths of the righteous atones. From whence do we

know that Yom Kippur atones? Because it is said, For on

that day [He] will atone you to purify you (Vayikra 16). And from whence do

we know that the death of the righteous atones? Because it is written, And they buried Saul's bones and it

is written, After that, God responded to the plea of the land (II Samuel 21).

(Vayikra Rabbah 20)


Was the Holocaust a Preface and Condition for Redemption

and Independence?

In the past, stern statements were made with regard to 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 emigrate to the Land of Israel.

These are very grave words, which are difficult to tolerate.

(From Harav Yehudah Amital's "Af al Pi shemeitzar umeimar li", quoted

in M. Miyah's Olam Banuy, Hareiv, Uvanuy, pg. 64)


There is no accomplishment or blessing in this world that

can compensate for the burning of those multitudes of innocent 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


 (Harav Amital's lecture

on the Yom Kaddish HaKlali

– Ot Ve'EidPerek Iyyun Ve'Meida, quoted

in Miyah op cit pg. 64)


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