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Home » Shmini

Shemini: Food for Thought for your Dinner Table

Submitted by on March 26, 2008 – 2:42 amNo Comment | 2,406 views

Sunday: A Transcending Number

Why was the first day of service in the Tabernacle referred to as the eighth? It was preceded by seven days of training, but it was still just the first day of actual service. The number eight represents transcendence. Seven is the number of days in the week – the order of creation whereas eight represents the Creator, who towers above His creation. The Tabernacle was a dwelling place for G-d. In fact the sacrifices of the first day were intended to usher the Divine presence into the Tabernacle. Hence it was fitting that this day be designated the eighth. Kli Yakar

Monday: Checkered History

Aaron offered the requisite sacrifices, but the Divine presence did not descend upon the Tabernacle. Worried that he was not yet forgiven for his part in the sin of Golden Calf, Aaron and his brother Moses joined in prayer. G-d granted their request and manifested His presence in the sanctuary. Why did G-d appoint Aaron to the High Priesthood if he was not worthy (at least in the beginning) of Divine revelation?

The Talmud states that a true leader must carry a sack of worms on his back. The Talmud could have said that a leader must carry worms, why a sack of worms? Some argue that the sack should not actually contain worms, but should be empty. Worms are a metaphor for sin; just as the Torah derides worms as disgusting to eat so are sins derided in G-d’s eyes. An empty sack of worms on the leader’s back implies that his past should be like a sack that was once filled with sin, but has since been emptied through repentance.

A leader, who understands temptation and repentance, can relate to those who follow him. Aaron was unworthy of Divine revelation, but he did not allow that to paralyse his spiritual progress; he prayed with a full heart and his repentance was accepted. This was an example that ordinary people could appreciate and follow.  Derash Moshe

Tuesday: A Foreign Flame

Nadav and Abihu entered the Holy of Holies and perished. The Torah tells us that they offered a foreign flame to G-d. What is the meaning of a foreign flame?

The soul is born with an innate yearning for G-d. This yearning is not immediately discernable to us, but it is our mandate to fan its flame and bring it to the fore. Yet, once we are aglow with passion and yearning it is incumbent upon us to temper our yearning and channel its sublime energy into the observance of Mitzvot. This is the tension inherent in every soul: the yearning to expire and coalesce with G-d versus the discipline to obey His commandments.

Nadav and Abihu excelled at the yearning; so well did they fan their soul’s deepest desires that they were incapable of restraining themselves. They rushed headlong into the Holy of Holies with a powerful desire to see G-d. This desire was their inner spiritual flame, but it was a foreign flame; it was not conducted in the manner prescribed by G-d.  Sefer Mamarim 5649

Wednesday: Condolence

After Nadav and Abihu’s passing G-d addressed Aaron directly and offered a number of instructions. G-d usually directed his instructions though Moses; it was rare for Aaron to merit a private prophecy.

Our sages explained that Aaron was thus rewarded for accepting the righteousness of G-d’s judgement upon his sons’ passing. Rabbeinu Bachye suggested that this unique revelation was actually a Divine condolence visit. G-d could have sent a message of condolence through Moses, but he came himself to teach us that during times of mourning we must exhibit the greatest degree of compassion and sensitivity. It is not sufficient to send a card of consolation; it is important to attend in person.

It is a Mitzvah to emulate the Divine. Just as G-d visited with Abraham, when he was sick, so too should we visit the sick. Just as G-d visited with Aaron, when he was in mourning, so too should we console those who are in mourning.  R. Bachye

Thursday: Moses’ Anger

After Nadab and Abihu passed on Moses grew angry with Aaron’s remaining sons for burning the sin offering rather than eating it. Aaron defended his remaining sons and Moses accepted Aaron’s argument. Why didn’t Moses allow his nephews to explain themselves?

One of the sins of which Nadab and Abihu were guilty was formulating halachic decisions in the presence of Moses, their master. Their death demonstrated the severity of this sin and Moses hoped his students would infer the appropriate lessons. When he saw that Aaron’s remaining sons took halachic initiative without consulting him he was enraged out of concern and love for them. At that moment he was not concerned with the accuracy of their analysis; he was concerned for their lives. Chassam Sofer

Friday: Split Hooves

One of the signs of a kosher animal is the split hoof. The Kosher sings are not merely indicators of kashrut; they are symbolic in their own right. Every human has strengths and weaknesses. We are, by our natures, inclined to embrace those Mitzvot that complement our strengths and neglect the Mitzvot that we find particularly challenging. The split hoof reminds us that a Jew should not be one dimensional, but should serve G-d in whichever capacity G-d wants to be served. All Mitzvot represent the Divine Will; notwithstanding our personal inclinations we must embrace them all equally. Likutei Sichos

Shabbat: The Insects Uplift

Our sages proclaimed that the greatest Mitzvah is the prohibition against eating insects. The Talmud asked why this Mitzvah carries more merit than all others and replied that it is because most people are repulsed by the thought of eating insects.

The Mitzvah is to avoid the insect because it is forbidden rather than because of our revulsion. Overcoming our revulsion to the insect and reaching a point where we would be prepared to eat it if were permissible requires the sublimation of our very desires and inclinations. This is a spectacular achievement and a most difficult task; no wonder it carries great merit. Ketav Sofer