Torah Weekly

For the week ending 18 April 2020 / 24 Nisan 5780

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.


With Courage and Bravery

“’I will be sanctified through those who are nearest Me.’” (10:3)

Once upon a time you could actually watch some movies. Sir Michael Balcon, the son of Jewish refugees from Latvia, was famous for giving Alfred Hitchcock his first directing opportunity and for making Ealing Studios the vanguard of the golden era of British Films in the 1950s. The “Ealing Comedies” were distinguished by the fact that they all had a moral: They were a kind of 90-minute black-and-white mussar shmuze.

I think my favorite was “A Last Holiday” starring Alec Guinness (Obi Wan Kenobi for you millennials). Guinness plays an unassuming and unmarried salesman. He goes to the doctor and he’s told that he has a rare disease and he has precisely six weeks to live. So what does he do? He takes his life savings out of the bank and scoots to the ritziest hotel on the coast, where the glitterati of commerce, politics and entertainment hang out. Because he feels he has nothing to lose, he is completely candid and honest with everyone he meets. Everyone is drawn to him like a magnet. Nothing is as attractive as honesty. His advice is taken by politicians and moguls of industry. At the end of the film he finds out that his x-ray photos had been mistakenly swapped — and that he was never ill in the first place.

Ask yourself: If you knew that you had six weeks to live, how would you live your life? The way you’re living it now? Would you waste your time arguing with your wife or your neighbors? I don’t think so. Would you agonize over where you’re going to take the kids on vacation or what color you should paint the living room?

I’m writing this towards the end of Adar, and right now no one has any idea what the next six weeks will bring. (Hashem should have mercy!) But our lives have come into focus in a way that they never were before. The only thing that is certain in life is death. And the only thing that matters is the way we leave this life. Will we leave trying to enjoy the last morsel of this world on our lips — or will we leave the world in self-sacrifice, with courage and bravery? That’s really all that matters. May Hashem give us the courage to rise to the occasion and live our lives as though we only had six more weeks.

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