Weekly Reading Insights: 

Shemini 5765


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Shemini

To be read on 22 Adar II 5765 (April 2)

Torah:Lev.9:1-11:47;Maftir: Num. 19:1-22; Haftorah: Ezekiel 36:16-38 (Parah)

Shemini is the 3rd Reading out of 10 in Leviticus and 26th overall, and 42nd out of 54 in overall length.

Shemini 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:26-65/Shemini)

From this we learn that at a time when death is aroused in this world, a person should be particular not to do anything in order to not further arouse the aspect of judgment. An exception is if a person is awakened into the "action" of a mitzva, because this has the power to push off the immediate damage that the judgmental forces may cause, for when that force is aroused in the world, whoever meets it will be collected by it and depart from this world.

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:26-65/Shemini)

We note that animals are heavier in their movements than all other creatures. This is because they derive from those two [lower] states of gevura that were not sweetened [at first].

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:26-65/Shemini)

Man is the ultimate purpose of the universe. This is something that all our commentators have been at pains to prove. It is the reason we say in our prayers on Rosh Hashanah: "This day [the date on which Adam was created] is the beginning of Your works."

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


"But these you shall not eat...because it chews the cud (ma'aleih geira) but does not divide the hoof (u'farsa einenu mafris); it is unclean to you." (11:4)
A Jewish host must make sure that his guest is comfortable. He should cut several slices of bread from his loaf (the Hebrew word parsa means both hoof and a slice of bread) in case the guest is too embarrassed to do so, and must himself partake of enough food to encourage the guest to eat without self-consciousness. This is alluded to in the Torah: The camel, which "chews the cud but doesn't divide the hoof," is not a kosher animal, as it eats enough but doesn't share his parsa (bread). Likewise, the pig, "which divides the hoof (i.e., shares his bread with others)...but doesn't chew its cud (i.e., does not eat enough to encourage guests) - it is unclean to you." Only a host who fulfills both requirements is "kosher."
(Reb Meir of Premishlan)


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

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

MOSHIACH THIS WEEK (M:26-65/Shemini)

Both the "red heifer" and the Messianic redemption effect purification. The ashes of the "red heifer" are used for removing a legal state of impurity. The redemption will purify the entire people of Israel (including those who halachically are pure) from any trace of deficiency in the bond with our Father in Heaven. One of the Messianic prophecies (Ezekiel 36:25) thus says of that time, in terms analogous to the "waters of purification" of the "red heifer": "I shall sprinkle pure waters upon you that you be purified. I will purify you from all your impurities and from all your idols!"

[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:26-65/Shemini)

After seven days of hard work installing the Tabernacle, on the eighth day the Jewish people merited that G-d's presence was revealed there. What can we learn from this that will improve our relationship with G-d?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that the number 7 corresponds to the world in its fullest sense, comparable to the repeating order of the seven days of the week. Consequently, the number 8, one more than 7, relates to the transcendent - higher than the order of nature.

Taking another step, 7 also relates to G-d limiting His revelation in this world so that physicality can exist. (If G-d did not do so, the natural reality would be overwhelmed with such a great spiritual inundation, and therefore be utterly nullified before it.)

On the other hand, 8 is seen as G-dly revelation unlimited by natural laws, as when miracles occur. But just as there can be no value of 8 without the preceding 7, so too, the level of 8 is, in fact, connected to reality.

This is similar to our own relationship to G-d. Even though our efforts are limited by our natural strengths, nevertheless, when we invest ourselves completely in our effort (related to the concept of "seven"), we will cause to shine down on us a level of holiness without limitation and higher than nature (related to "eight"). This is apparent with the Tabernacle in the desert; the efforts made during the seven days of construction were the required preparation for the revelation on the eighth day.

What is the bottom line? We have to know that our effort in this dark exile is actually the preparation for the coming redemption. It is only through our effort now, that the divine light will be able to shine then.

In a similar way, "Shabbat Shemini" hints at two levels in G-dly service. Shabbat is the seventh day and completion of the creation process. However, despite being the pinnacle, Shabbat is still part of this natural process. "Shemini", from the Hebrew word meaning "eight", hints at a level superceding nature and creation. Eight is unbounded by the reality of the world. Shabbat Shemini is thus a combination of these two levels.

The lesson for us is that even after serving G-d through all natural means (a feat in itself), one must strive to serve G-d above the natural reality, not letting the world's limitations affect us.

The Shelah reminds us of the famous Talmudic axiom based on a verse in this week's portion, "Make yourselves holy and you will be holy" (Lev. 11:44). The Talmud (Yoma 39a) writes that a person who tries to sanctify him or herself below, even a little, is helped to be sanctified very much more from Above - both in this world and the world to come. "Sanctify a little from below", refers to the relatively insignificant activities of the body. "Sanctify much more" from Above refers to the gift of eternity to the soul.

The Jewish people have an ancient tradition from the time of Moses, to start studying and preparing for a holiday 30 days before it commences. Once Purim has past, our Jewish headset is supposed to be intoned into Pesach.

Once on the first night of Pesach, Rebbe Yechiel Michel entered his home to begin the Seder and was confronted with his family's abject poverty. He turned to G-d and said "Master of the Universe, it appears to me that there is not one family - even the poorest - whom You have not graced with some new thing, some bit of clothing to help celebrate the holiday. But to me you have given nothing to clothe my family! Therefore, Master of the Universe, I ask of You that in exchange for this, You should at least give me the merit of some new spiritual idea!"

I do not suggest waiting till the last minute like Reb Michel. Though G-d will certainly bless each household with new clothes, if you want some new ideas for the Seder night - start now!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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