Torah Weekly

For the week ending 6 April 2013 / 25 Nisan 5773

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.


The Right Man For The Job

“Moshe said to Aharon, ‘Come near to the Altar’...” (9:7)

Bungee-jumping, hang-gliding, free-fall parachuting, and riding over Niagara Fallsin a beer barrel all share one thing in common. You have to be absolutely meshuga to do them.

There’s a big difference between being fearless and being foolhardy.

However, there are times when even being afraid is an advantage. The Chafetz Chaim once decided that a particular talmid should take a vacant post as the Rabbi in distant community. The talmid was reluctant to go. He told the Chafetz Chaim he was afraid of the responsibility of being the only halachic authority for an entire community. The Chafetz Chaim replied to him, “Should I send someone who’s not afraid?

Sometimes being afraid doesn’t disqualify someone from being the right man or woman for the job. Sometimes it’s the essential quality.

Moshe had to tell Aharon to “Come near to the altar”. Rashi says that Aaron was embarrassed and afraid to approach the altar. Moshe told him not to be afraid, for it was precisely Aaron’s quality of awe which qualified him to be the Kohen Gadol.

When we want to become closer to G‑d and serve Him with more conviction and faithfulness, we could be embarrassed by our inadequacies. We might feel afraid, incapable of such a task. “Who am I to serve G-d?” we can think to ourselves. It is precisely that quality of self-effacement, of fear, which is the pre-requisite to be ‘the right man for the job”.

Seventh Heaven

“And it was on the eighth day...” (9:1)

When Moshe set up the Mishkan, he didn’t set it up just one time; he set it up eight times. Every day, for seven days, Moshe set up the Mishkan and then took it down again. On the eighth day he set it up and left it up. Why was it necessary for Moshe to set up the Mishkan for the first seven days?

Let’s answer one question with a bigger question. Why did G-d create this world?

G-d created this world so that the Shechina (Divine Presence) could dwell in the lower worlds. After G-d created this world the Divine Presence rested on His Creation. However, Man, through destructive spiritual actions, caused the Shechina to retreat bit by bit, until it ascended back to the Seventh Heaven. After the world had sunk to this spiritual nadir there came seven spiritual giants in seven generations who managed to bring the Divine Presence down again to this world. They were Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Levi, Kehat, Amram and Moshe.

With the giving of the Torah at Sinai, G-d finally ‘descended’ once again to this world, as it says: “And G-d came down to Mount Sinai.” However, in all too short a time, the Shechina retreated back up to the Seventh Heaven after the infidelity of the Jewish People with the Golden Calf.

The healing process of seven generations of tzaddikim and the concomitant return of the Shechina to this world was concretized in Moshe’s building the Mishkan for seven days. However, even after these seven days which represented the seven generations, the cure was not total. A golden calf was still possible. It was only on the eighth day, when Moshe set up the Mishkan for the eighth time, that the final cure to these spiritual maladies took effect. And thus, the Mishkan could remain standing.

This is one of the reasons that the Talmud says (Megilla 10) “On the day that the Mishkan was finally set up, G-d had the same happiness as the day on which the Heavens and the Earth were created.” For it was on that day that the purpose of this world — that G-d should have a ‘dwelling’ in these lower worlds — was finally achieved.

  • Sources:
    The Right Man For The Job - Degel Machane Ephraim, Rabbi Mordechai Perlman
    Seventh Heaven - Chesed L’Avraham in Iturei Torah

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