Torah Weekly

For the week ending 22 April 2006 / 24 Nisan 5766

Parshat Shemini

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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On the eighth day of the dedication of the Mishkan, Aharon, his sons, and the entire nation bring various korbanot (offerings) as commanded by Moshe. Aharon and Moshe bless the nation. G-d allows the Jewish People to sense His Presence after they complete the Mishkan. Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu, innovate an offering not commanded by G-d. A fire comes from before G-d and consumes them, stressing the need to perform the commandments only as Moshe directs. Moshe consoles Aharon, who grieves in silence. Moshe directs the kohanim as to their behavior during the mourning period, and warns them that they must not drink intoxicating beverages before serving in the Mishkan. The Torah lists the two characteristics of a kosher animal: It has split hooves, and it chews, regurgitates, and re-chews its food. The Torah specifies by name those non-kosher animals which have only one of these two signs. A kosher fish has fins and easily removable scales. All birds not included in the list of forbidden families are permitted. The Torah forbids all types of insects except for four species of locusts. Details are given of the purification process after coming in contact with ritually-impure species. Bnei Yisrael are commanded to be separate and holy — like G-d.


Action and reaction

“And it was on the eighth day…”

Every relationship is founded on mutuality. Be it in the relationship between nations or individuals, the laws of action and reaction always operate. If you’re engaged to be married and you don’t call your fiancée for a week and half, don’t surprised if the relationship cools off considerably. If you take a loan from the bank and don’t meet your repayment schedule, don’t be taken aback if the next time you apply for a loan the bank manager’s secretary always seems to say, “he’ll get back to you…”

“And it was on the eighth day…”

For each of seven straight days, Moshe assembled and dismantled the Mishkan. Moshe obviously wasn’t putting in a little building practice, so what was the significance of this daily rebuilding?

G-d created the world in order that His Shechina (Presence) should have a dwelling place in the lower worlds. When the generations that preceded Avraham disobeyed G-d, the Shechina withdrew stage by stage, until It ascended to the Seventh Heaven.

Then there came seven generations that managed to bring the Shechina down gradually to this world again. These generations were: Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Levi, Kahat, Amram and Moshe.

“And Hashem descended onto Mount Sinai,” means that the Shechina finally returned to this lowest of worlds.

With the sin of the golden calf, however, G-d’s relationship with man reverted to its previous remoteness. To dispel this estrangement, Moshe set up and dismantled the Mishkan for seven consecutive days, thus completing the spiritual repair of the seven generations that started with Avraham.

On the eighth day, his work was complete. He set up the Mishkan without dismantling it. This is the understanding of the statement that “G-d’s happiness on that day was equivalent to the day on which the heavens and the earth were created. ” For on that day, G-d’s original purpose in the creation, that He should have a dwelling in this netherworld was finally actualized.

  • Based on Chessed L’Avraham

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