For the week ending 26 March 2022 / 23 Adar Bet 5782

Parashat 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. Hashem 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 Hashem. A fire comes from before Hashem, consuming them and stressing the need to perform the commandments only as Moshe directs. Moshe consoles Aharon, who grieves in silence. Moshe directs the kohanim regarding 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. The Jewish People are commanded to be separate and holy — like Hashem.


Putin Is War

“Then Moses inquired about the goat of sin-offering, and it had already been burned! He was angry with Elazar and Itamar, Aharon’s remaining sons, and said, ‘Why did you not eat the sin-offering in the sacred area?’ And Aharon spoke to Moses, ‘Was it not this day they brought their sin-offering and their burnt-offering before Hashem? Now that such things have befallen me (the death of Nadav and Avihu), had I eaten sin offering today, would Hashem approve?’ Moshe heard and he approved.” (10:20)

In 2015, Boris Nemstov started an investigation into the 2014 Russian intervention in Crimea. The report includes testimonials of Russian soldiers taken prisoner in Ukraine and photos of Russian military personnel who died in the hostilities. In the report, Nemstov wrote, "Putin is war. The cowardly and despicable war unleashed by Putin will cost the country a lot. We will be paying for this adventure with the lives of our soldiers, economic crisis and political isolation. We will pay with enmity from our long-time allies. No people are closer and more like kin to the Russians than the Ukrainians. These are our brothers —without any pathos — and the war between Russians and Ukrainians in Donbas is impossible to characterize in any other way except as fratricide.”

Nemstov was assassinated on the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge in central Moscow on February, 27, 2015. In Russia, fourteen printing companies refused to publish the report, and PayPal blocked an account raising funds for the report.

A country gets the leaders it deserves. The lust for Empire produces leaders with super-sized egos. I remember several years ago sharing a sauna in Cyprus with a bunch of Russians. The conversation turned to their leader, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. I mentioned that Putin was suspected of being instrumental in the murder of Boris Nemtsov. They chuckled and proudly said that Putin knew how to look after himself. Their cold-bloodedness chilled even the roasting heat of the schvitz we were sitting in.

If you look at a Sefer Torah, you will see that the first word of the book of Vayikra is written in an unusual fashion. The last letter of vayikra, the alef, is written much smaller than the rest of the word. Why is the alef small? When Hashem told Moshe to write the word vayikra, meaning “He called,” Moshe did not want to write that alef. It seemed to Moshe that it gave him too much importance. How could he write that Hashem called to him? Who was he, after all? A mere man. Moshe would have preferred to write vay-ikar, “He (Hashem) happened [upon him].” In other words, Hashem just came across Moshe and did not “go out of His way” to appear to him, so to speak. In spite of Moshe’s protestations, Hashem told him to write vayikra, “He called.” Moshe put the alef at the end of the word as Hashem had commanded him, but he wrote it small.

What’s in a small alef?

The alef is the letter that represents the will, the ego. It is the first letter of the word for “I” — ani. When a person sees himself as the Big A, the Big Alef, Number One, he is usurping the crown of He who is One.

But when a person sees himself as no more than a small alef, he makes room for the Divine Presence to dwell in him. His head is not swollen with the cotton candy of self-regard.

Moshe Rabbeinu was the humblest of all men. Moshe made himself so little that he was barely in this world at all. He did not even want to be a small alef. He, as no man before or since, saw that there is only one Alef in creation, only one Number One: Hashem.

Moshe made his own alef — his ego — so small that he merited that the Torah was given through him.

When Moshe finished writing the Torah, some ink was left in his pen. As he passed the pen across his forehead, the drops of ink became beams of light shining from his visage.

That extra ink that was left in Moshe’s pen was the ink that should have gone to writing the Big Alef. Instead, it became a corona of shining light to adorn the humblest of men.

“Moshe heard and he approved.”

As soon as Moshe heard Aharon’s reasoning, the he was an onen, a mourner who has not yet buried his close family member, he agreed the Aharon could not have eaten the sin-offering. Rather than try and defend his opinion, Moshe was humble enough to back down immediately.

Would it be that our world-leaders had all have a tiny fraction of the humility of the Leader of Israel.

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