Weekly Reading Insights: Shemini 5766

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Shmini

To be read on 24 Nissan 5766 (April 21-22)

Torah: Leviticus 9:1-11:47;
Haftorah: Samuel II 6:1-7:17 (Death of Uza, comparable to Aharon's sons)

Pirkei Avot: Chapter 1

Shmini 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:2666/Shemini)

Come and see, all happiness Above depends on that holy oil [the consciousness of chochma], for from there emanates joy and blessings to all the lights.

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:2666/Shemini)

The numerical value of the Hebrew word for "fowl" [in Hebrew, "oaf"] is equal to that of the word "Joseph" ["Yosef"]. Joseph personified the sefira of yesod. Therefore, birds fly, for they, too, manifest

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

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From Rabbi Moshe Alshich (O:2666/Shemini)

The staff of Aaron had been a dry stick of wood when it was placed inside the Tabernacle after the uprising of Korach. Yet when it emerged it was full of sap! This is the meaning of the verse "...This is what makes my heart tremble and jump from its place." (Job 37:1)

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



"Aaron lifted up his hands to the people and blessed them." (9:22)
Why did Aaron, not Moses, bless the Jewish people? The Divine Presence could only rest in the Tabernacle after the sin of the Golden Calf was atoned for. Aaron was the one who had to effect the atonement, as it was he who was ultimately responsible for the sin having been committed in the first place. Therefore, he was the one to bless the people.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

"Aaron raised his hands ("yadav") toward the people and blessed them." (9:22)
Although the word for hands, "yadav," is pronounced in the plural, it is written without an extra yud, as if in the singular ("yado"). This is an allusion to the importance of Jewish unity: When the Jewish people stand united, Aaron's "hands" are transformed into a single hand reaching up to Heaven, to bring down an abundance of G-dly blessing.
(Nefesh Yehonatan)


When a Jew eats matza and introduces it into his body, it sanctifies all his limbs and makes them holy. It is therefore appropriate that we prepare ourselves before performing this great mitzva and ensure that our mouths and bodies are worthy, as it states, "You shall eat matzot in a holy place."

(Tiferet Shlomo)


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

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org


"G-d said to Aharon: When you enter the Communion Tent, neither you or you descendants may drink wine or any other intoxicant." (Lev. 10:9)

The Torah prohibits a Kohen from entering the Bais HaMikdosh (Holy Temple) if he drinks too much wine. If he drinks a reviis (86 grams) of wine, he must wait about 24 minutes before he may enter the Bais HaMikdosh to serve G-d.

There is an opinion in the Gemara that even today, when we do not have the Bais HaMikdosh, a Kohen is still forbidden from drinking wine, because maybe the Bais HaMikdosh will suddenly be rebuilt . If that happened, and he had just drank wine, he wouldn't be allowed to enter the Bais HaMikdosh!

But if all he has to do is wait 24 minutes, what would be the problem anyway? From this we see that the entire Bais HaMikdosh could miraculously appear in less than 24 minutes!

[Adapted from Discover Moshiach in the Weekly Torah Portion (by Rabbi Berel Bell and the students of Bais Chaya Mushka Seminary of Montreal), as published on www.mashiach.org]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:2566/Tzav)

This Torah page is dedicated in memory of Devorah Gittel bas Baila, A"H.
May this essay be an elevation for her soul.

Parshat Shemini begins with the words: "And behold it was the eighth day, Moses called to Aaron and his sons and to the elders of Israel" (Lev. 1-4). The eighth day of what? Rashi explains that it was the eighth day of the installation of the Tabernacle, at the beginning of the month of Nissan in the second year in the desert, when Aaron and his sons were to be installed as the officiating priests. Rashi also says that because of this inauguration, the day "received 10 crowns" - meaning that ten special events happened on this day: it was the first day of service in the Tabernacle, the first time that fire came down from the heavens to consume an offering, the first time a prince brought an offering on behalf of each tribe and the first time that the Divine Presence would dwell on the Jewish people, etc…(all ten are listed in the medieval Jewish-history book, Seder Olam).

Yet, this week's portion begins with the word "Vayehi", which is always indicative of some sad event. What could be sad? The famous Chasidic rebbe, Rabbi Uri, the "Seraph" from Strelisk, said that the sadness was that modest and humble Aaron was being brought into the limelight by being appointed the high priest. There is a certain beauty and richness to being humble that was forever taken away from him. G-d's greatness, the Midrash explains, can be seen in His humility; He created an entire world where He cannot be seen. From this we learn the beauty in being humble, something we should all try to attain.

A few verses later , after a whole series of instructions, Moses says to Aaron, "Come close to the altar" (Lev. 9:7). The words seem redundant. Rashi explains that Aaron hesitated so much that Moses had to encourage him by saying, "Come closer, why are you hesitating, this is what you were created for!" Sometimes what appear to be the hardest tests in our lives are exactly what we are supposed to be doing. How can we know? The Baal Shem Tov instructed his students that when faced by a very difficult decision, they should first strip away all of their personal desires and then the correct decision will be clear.

Towards the end of the portion, after the description of which animals are kosher and which not, G-d says, "Sanctify yourselves and you shall become holy, for I [G-d] am holy" (Lev. 11:43). We sometimes see an interesting phenomenon: people get a flash and make a sudden effort to improve themselves in their relationship to G-d, and this continues for a while, but when they begin to slip, small negative actions slowly find their way back into their daily activities. This verse contains some pertinent advice on how not let this happen. Maimonides writes about this verse, that anyone who is careful to not eat unkosher food actually increases the holiness and purity in his soul and cleanses it for the Holy One Blessed be He. Notice the order of this phrase, first a greater holiness and only then the cleansing of the soul. Shouldn't it be the reverse, first a cleaning, which is the removal of filth, and only then holiness?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe answers as follows: when a person works on himself to get to a higher spiritual level, actions that were previously regarded as not so bad are now considered below him and inappropriate. With this, Maimonides hints that even after we have made ourselves holier and reach this "higher level", we still have to be on guard and constantly search ourselves for those little details that may seem insignificant (or "not so bad"). The purification process he refers to comes only after one reaches this "higher level". This is especially true after Pesach and during the Counting of the Omer, when we are all more spiritually refined than we were previously. It is not a time to slack off but to make a greater effort.

Shabbat Shalom and a Happy Last Days of Pesach

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

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