Torah Weekly - Parshat Shmini

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Parshat Shmini

For the week ending 25 Adar II 5760 / 31 March & 1 April 2000

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  • Haftorah Parshat Hachodesh
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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 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 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 Hashem.




    "Don't defile yourselves with any swarming thing that moves on the earth, because I am the L-rd who brought you up from the land of Egypt" (11:44-45).

    An advanced machine requires highly refined fuel, while a simpler machine can use a less refined energy supply. So too, the dietary laws were only incumbent on the Jewish People after they were transformed from abject slavery in Egypt to the elevated position of a kingdom of religious leaders and Hashem's holy nation.

    The Torah normally refers to the Exodus with the expression "to take out of Egypt." Yet here, the expression is "to bring up."

    This emphasizes that only the elevated state of the Jewish People -- after freedom from slavery and idol worship in Egypt -- made them sensitive to the spiritual damage from un-kosher food.

    • Rabbi Simcha Zissel m'Kelm

    Haftarah Parshat Hachodesh

    Yechezkel 45:16-46:18


    This haftarah, the haftarah of Parshat Hachodesh, prophetically narrates the consecration of the third and everlasting Beit Hamikdash. As this will occur on the first of Nissan, we thus read this haftarah on the Shabbat preceding the first of Nissan.

    The haftarah begins with the entire Jewish nation contributing towards the Temple's consecration, by raising the funds of the festive inaugural offerings conducted by the prince mashiach. This festivity will be celebrated on Passover. The haftarah ends with official regulations regarding the prince's authority in granting estates to his subjects, stating that he will not use his power to confiscate lands from their rightful owners as some of the corrupt kings had done.


    The haftarah refers to Rosh Chodesh as a festival (46:1-3). This festive nature is evident also from the obligation to bring a musaf offering on Rosh Chodesh (Num. 28:11).

    The Tur (Orach Chaim 417) states that Rosh Chodesh was in fact intended to be holy day like a Yom Tov, with a prohibition of creative activity, but unfortunately we lost this opportunity subsequent to the sin of the Golden Calf. We were commanded to observe the three regalim festivals -- Pesach, Shavout and Succot -- in the merit of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov; and the twelve Rosh Chodesh festivals were to have been observed in the merit of the twelve tribes. However, when the twelve tribes sinned, Rosh Chodesh lost an element of its holiness and became a day when toil is permitted. The custom for women to abstain from unnecessary work on Rosh Chodesh is because they did not participate in the sin of the Golden Calf. Thus, for them it retains an air of its original grandeur.

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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