Torah Weekly - Parshat Shemini

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Parshat Shemini

For the week ending 28 Nissan 5761 / April 20 & 21, 2001

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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 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. Bnei Yisrael are commanded to be separate and holy -- like Hashem.




    "Speak to the Children of Israel, saying 'These are the creatures that you may eat..." (11:1)

    There aren't a lot of similarities between working in a sound recording studio and re-fueling an aircraft. In a studio you get a chance to meet a lot of very ordinary people whom fame has made the contents of their breakfast cereal the subject of serious and considered media analysis. In an airport you get a chance to meet a lot of large metal airplanes.

    However, they do have one thing in common. Eventually they both cause you to lose your hearing acuity. It's usually a slow process but it's also inevitable. The advantage of working at an airfield, however, is that you can wear sound-excluders. In a studio, the band would be most insulted to find their producer and engineer working on their latest masterpiece with large yellow mufflers. (Much as their masterpiece probably deserves mufflers -- and the larger the better.)

    There's an old adage in the music biz: If you can't play well -- play loud.

    Eventually, after years sitting in front of giant monitor loudspeakers listening to electric guitars with enough "top" on them to part your hair at six feet, you'll start to lose the sensitivity to those high frequencies. Then others lower down the scale. And so on.... The interesting thing is that you won't notice that you have lost your sensitivity to these frequencies. In a sense that's the saddest kind of loss -- a loss that you don't even know about.

    It's not true that "what you don't know can't hurt you." When you lose something and you know you have lost it, it provokes feelings of introspection: Why have I lost this thing? It provokes a consideration of what we have lost -- and we re-value that which remains ours. But a loss of which we have no consciousness has no positive aspects at all.

    "Speak to the Children of Israel, saying 'These are the creatures that you may eat..."

    Eating treif (non-Kosher) food is the spiritual equivalent of losing our hearing. It cuts us off from life's "higher frequencies." It deadens our spiritual "ears" and denies us the holiness that is the potential of ever Jew.

    And the greatest tragedy is that we don't even notice.


    Samuel II 6:1 - 7:17


    Parshat Shemini describes the dedication ceremony of the Mishkan. The haftara continues this theme by describing the arrival of the Ark in Jerusalem. In the Parsha, two of Aharon's sons die on the first day of the Mishkan's inauguration. This will be a permanent warning that good intentions can never replace strict obedience in our service of Hashem.

    Similarly, in the haftara, Uzah died by Hashem's hand when he tried to protect the Ark from falling. In a moment of thoughtlessness he forgot that Hashem Himself transports the Ark, and Hashem would never let it fall.

    Although Uzah's intentions were good, he forgot the awe which is due to the One whose word lay in the Ark.

    When King David finally brought the Ark to Jerusalem, he dances in front of it with all his might. From this we see that he was a true servant of the Torah. King David saw kingship as a responsibility rather than a privilege. This is exactly what displeased his wife, Michal. She thought David had debased himself by dancing like a commoner before the Ark.

    However, David's dancing was the stamp of a true Jewish King. Because of his loyalty, David was rewarded that the Temple to be built by his son would carry his name.

    Rabbi S. R. Hirsch

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

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