Torah Weekly

For the week ending 29 March 2008 / 22 Adar II 5768

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.


Please Read Before Using!

“...And they brought before G-d a strange fire that He had not commanded them...” (10:1)

The Torah is the instruction manual of the world written by the Maker of world.

No one knows better how to operate a machine than its maker. Imagine someone buying a new car. The salesman says to the proud new owner “Oh yes sir. One more thing — your instruction manual...” The driver says, “Oh I don’t need that, I instinctively feel what the tire pressures should be, and I have a sixth sense when the car needs a major service. I know intuitively what octane fuel the car needs...”

Few people when faced with operating something as precise and unforgiving as a car would leave these sorts of decisions to instinct and feeling. Life is no less demanding or complex than a car — rather more so!

And yet many people are happy to coast along blithely assuming that they are not putting water in their spiritual gas tank.

The purpose of life is to become close to the Creator of the world, and only the Creator of the world knows how the world can be utilized to become close to Him.

We live in an era where people are more interested in feeling spiritual that being spiritual. We are a TV generation taught to expect endless effortless instant gratification, where this-week’s-guru, or mail-order instant-kabbala try to replace the hard work of real spiritual growth.

That is what the Torah is warning us against in the story of Nadav and Avihu. The “strange fire” may feel spiritual, but it cannot connect with the source. And the reason it cannot connect is the seemingly redundant phrase "which He had not commanded them". If it was a strange fire, then by definition it was not commanded by G-d. Rather, the reason it was strange is because it was not commanded.

Our connection with G-d is through doing His will, because the will of person and himself are indivisible. The self expresses itself as the will. Only when we do G-d’s will do we bring ourselves close to Him. The mitzvot are the will of G-d expressed in concrete form.

Any other form of worship is merely feeling spiritual. It's not being spiritual. And for people on the level of Nadav and Avihu that was a failing of a very fundamental kind.

Kosher Style

“Every (animal) that has a split hoof, which is completely separated into double hooves, and that brings up its cud — that one you may eat.” (11:3)

These two aspects of a kosher land animal are not a means of identifying them as being kosher. Rather, they are the cause of them being kosher.

In other words, having split hooves and regurgitating its cud are what makes the animal kosher.

The Torah specifically tells us that one of these aspects without the other renders the animal as unkosher as if it had neither.

The split hoof represents the outward behavior of man towards his fellow, and the chewing of the cud, the inward relationship between man and G‑d. If a person behaves in a kosher way only with his fellow or only with G-d, he is, nevertheless, treif.

  • Source: Kosher Style: Rabbi Avraham Pam

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