Weekly Reading Insights: Shmini 5764



Overview of the Weekly Reading: Shmini, Blessing of the New Month

To be read on 26 Nissan 5764 (April 17 )

Shmini is the 3rd Reading out of 10 in Leviticus and 26th overall, and 42nd out of 54 in overall length.
Leviticus 9:1-11:47;; Haftorah:
Samuel II 6:1-7:17 (Death of Uza, comparable to Aharon's sons)

Pirkei Avot: Chapter One

Shmini begins with a discussion of the service in the Tabernacle on the eighth day, the first day following the seven days of installation. Aharon's eldest sons, Nadav and Avihu, brought an unauthorized fire offering and were consumed by flame from the Holy of Holies. Aharon is instructed that the priests should never come to the Sanctuary in a state of drunkenness. Then the completion of the service is discussed. The balance of the portion is a discussion of the dietary laws, specifically which mammals, fish, birds and insects are spiritually pure or not, and which are appropriate to eat and which not.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:26-64/Shmini )

The secret of meditative prayer on the holy names as they appear in the different stages of the Standing Prayer is to "sweeten" the harsh reality of the physical world by combining mercy, the aspect of the name Havayah, with judgment, related to the name Ado-nai.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:26-64/Shmini )

While water is a mystical referent to the sefira of chesed, earth refers to the sefira of malchut, the lowest of the ten sefirot and the allegorical "floor" of the world it belongs to.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the Shelah, Shney Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (S:26-64/Shmini )

"I remain their G-d while dwelling amongst them in their impurity" (See Rashi on this verse).

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"They brought near before the L-rd a strange fire, which He had not commanded them." (10:1)
In truth, a Jew should perform every one of the Torah's mitzvot with such enthusiasm and self-sacrifice that it utilizes all of his energy and life-force. The mitzva, as a commandment of G-d, will then in turn infuse him with renewed vitality and life, as it states, "And you shall live by them." Nadav and Avihu, however, were not "reanimated" after bringing their "strange fire," for despite having the proper intentions, what they did was not a mitzva.
(Siftei Tzadik)

"You shall sanctify yourselves and you shall be holy, because I am holy." (11:44)
The rich man's son doesn't worry about livelihood because his father is always there to help him financially. So too is it with the Jewish people: Because our Father is holy, it doesn't take very much effort to be holy ourselves. All we need do is take a step in the right direction, and our Father helps us along.
(Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Barditchev)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:26-64/Shmini)

While preparing this essay, something interesting happened: I discovered a Jewish concept which has no secular parallel. The concept is that of "accepting the yoke of Heaven" (in Hebrew, "kabalat ol malchut shamayim"); it is a way of acting that derives from our obligation to G-d, rather than out of love or fear of Him.

The name of the parasha, Shmini - translated as "eighth", refers to the eighth day of erecting the Tabernacle (which turned out to be the first day of the actual service), when the Jewish people prostrated themselves upon seeing the Heavenly fire descend and consume offerings to G-d. This was a truly lofty moment as the Jews witnessed a tremendous G-dly revelation.

This event was shortly followed by the deaths of two of Aaron's sons, priests who were so drawn to G-d that they caused their souls to depart. Their passing was a further demonstration of the elevated spiritual state of the Jewish people at that time, to such a degree that the rest of the people had to prevent their souls from escaping their bodies in their great spiritual thirst.

After these events the Torah continues with Jewish dietary laws, including the one not to eat "creepy-crawlies". Only a Jew at an extremely lowly spiritual level might be capable of even eating these impure (and usually un-desirous) creatures. Therefore, it appears that this section includes two spiritual extremes: from extraordinary G-dly revelations and spiritual sensitivity to the basest culinary choices.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe discusses how the Torah's combining of these two extremes comes to teach us a key concept - one that I would like to again emphasize is foreign to the secular world.

Serving G-d is based on accepting the Heavenly yoke. This concept far outdoes common obedience or allegiance. Accepting the Heavenly yoke is our ability to perform mitzvot from a level that exceeds our understanding of G-dliness. It might be supposed that accepting the Heavenly yoke is the way to serve G-d when one is not so spiritually aware: A "do as I say whether you like/understand it or not" approach to performing mitzvot. This is far from the truth!

This is applicable even to a Jew who has attained spiritual heights, who has much G-dly understanding, and whose emotions are pure. Elevated emotions and intellect are not enough. Do I perform G-d's commandments only because I understand that they bring about great cosmic effects, bring reparation of my soul, unite opposing spiritual extremes, etc.? These reasons are good ones; nevertheless, above and beyond these motivating factors, a Jew must perform mitzvot because G-d commanded them.

When a person relies on his or her finite, fallible intellect and emotions for doing something, there is a certain danger of toppling from his or her spiritual heights to impure depths. On the other hand, when we make the acceptance of the yoke of Heaven our ultimate motivator for doing mitzvot, we connect ourselves to G-d's infinite Will. In a way, this is our spiritual insurance policy that prevents us from straying spiritually. Parashat Shmini comes to teach us that accepting the yoke of Heaven is mandatory for every Jew. Start today!


Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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