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Shemini Q & A

Shemini Q & A

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"ויהי ביום השמיני...ויאמר משה אל אהרן קרב אל המזבח"
“It was on the eighth day...And Moshe said to Aharon, ‘Come near to the altar.’ ” (9:1,7)

QUESTION: When the Mishkan was completed, Moshe acted as Kohen Gadol for seven days and trained Aharon. On the eighth day Aharon became the Kohen Gadol.

Why did Aharon replace Moshe as the Kohen Gadol on the eighth day?

ANSWER: For seven days Hashem pleaded with Moshe to be his emissary to deliver the message to Pharaoh to allow the Jews to leave Egypt. Moshe was reluctant to go, due to his speech impediment. Finally, Hashem said, “Since you do not want to go, Aharon, your brother the Levite, shall speak for you (Shemot 4:16). Moreover, be advised that originally I planned for him to remain a Levite and for you to be a Kohen. Now, because of your reluctance to fulfill the mission, the positions will be reversed: you will be the Levite and he the Kohen (Shemot 4:14 Rashi).

Hashem conducts Himself with the Jewish people midah keneged midah — measure for measure. Therefore, since after seven days of G‑d’s pleading with him, the position of Kohen was taken away from Moshe, now, on the eighth day, when the seven days of inauguration period came to a climax, Aharon was officially consecrated as Kohen Gadol.

(מדרש רבה י"א:ו' - בעה"ט ופני דוד)


"קחו שעיר עזים לחטאת ועגל וכבש בני שנה תמימם לעלה"
“Take a he-goat for a sin-offering and a calf and a lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt-offering.” (9:3)

QUESTION: The Sifra (Torat Kohanim) states that the he-goat was to atone for the selling of Yosef. (The brothers dipped Yosef’s shirt into the blood of a he-goat and sent it to Yaakov as proof that Yosef was devoured by wild beasts.) The calf was offered as forgiveness for the sin of the golden calf.

Considering Aharon’s involvement in the making of the calf, it is understood why he needed to seek forgiveness. However, why did the iniquity of the selling of Yosef surface precisely now?

ANSWER: According to the Midrash Rabbah (Bereishit 84:14), the brothers’ rationale for killing Yosef was that they foresaw that years later Yosef’s descendant Yeravam ben Nevat would lead the Jewish people astray by making two golden calves (I Kings 12:28). Consequently, they plotted to kill him so that he would not have any descendants.

This excuse could be applicable only until the time when the Jewish people worshipped the golden calf in the desert. Once they committed this transgression, they shared in a sin similar to that of Yeravam ben Nevat and they could no longer justify their intent to kill Yosef. Consequently, when Aharon made the golden calf, the crime the brothers endeavored to commit against Yosef became relevant again. Therefore, when Aharon sought forgiveness for the golden calf, he also sought atonement for the sale of Yosef.

(הגהות מהרי"ד על ת"כ)


"ויקרבו כל העדה ויעמדו לפני ה'"
“And all the congregation drew near and they stood before G‑d.” (9:5)

QUESTION: It could simply have said that they congregated before Hashem. Why does the pasuk use the separate expressions, “they drew near” and, “they stood”?

ANSWER: In the instructions before “Mah Tovu” in the Nusach Ari it is written, “It is proper to say before prayer: ‘I hereby take upon myself to fulfill the mitzvah of loving your fellow as yourself.’ Perhaps our pasuk is a remez (hint) for this custom.

The Gemara (Berachot 6b) says that the expression amidah — standing — can be a reference to tefillah — prayer — as it is stated, “And Pinchas stood up and prayed” (Psalms 106:30). The pasuk is telling us that first, “vayikrevu kol ha’eidah” — the entire community became closer to each other by showing ahavat Yisrael — and then “vaya’amdu” — they were ready to stand, that is, pray, “lifnei Hashem” — to Hashem.

(חסד לאברהם)


"ויאמר משה אל אהרן קרב אל המזבח"
“Moshe said to Aharon: come near to the altar.” (9:7)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that Aharon was diffident and reluctant to approach the altar. Moshe said to him: “Why are you fearful? — lekach nivcharta — You were chosen for this position.”

How was the fact that he was selected supposed to dispel his fear and diffidence?

ANSWER: A Chassidic Rebbe once encouraged a chasid to become a Rabbi of a community. The chasid was reluctant and said: “I am very much afraid to accept the position; I doubt that I am suitable.” The Rebbe responded: “Who, then, should I make a Rabbi, someone who is not afraid? The fact that you are afraid makes you most suitable because you will always be careful in whatever you do.”

When Moshe saw Aharon’s reluctance and noticed his fear, he said to him: “Come near to the altar. You are indeed the most suitable for the position. ‘Lekach nivcharta’ — Because of your fear of Hashem you were selected to be the Kohen Gadol.”

(דגל מחנה אפרים בשם הבעש"ט)

* * *

Alternatively, when Hashem revealed Himself to Moshe in the thorn bush, He pleaded with him to be His emissary to Pharaoh and to redeem the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage. Moshe was reluctant and when he told Hashem to find someone else for the mission, Hashem told him, “I originally had planned for you to be the Kohen Gadol. Now the mantle of Kehunah — priesthood — will go to your brother Aharon.”

Later, observing Aharon’s reluctance to approach the altar, Moshe recalled his dialogue with Hashem and the punishment he received. Therefore, he urged his brother not to repeat his error: “Do it immediately without hesitation because ‘lekach nivcharta’ — you were selected instead of me because of my hesitation.”

(לקוטי בתר לקוטי)


"ויאמר משה אל אהרן קרב אל המזבח ועשה את חטאתך ואת עלתך וכפר בעדך ובעד העם"
“Moshe said to Aharon, ‘Come near to the altar and perform the service of your sin-offering and your burnt-offering and atone for yourself and for the people.’ ” (9:7)

QUESTION: These sacrifices were to atone for the golden calf. When sacrifices are brought to atone for idolatry, the burnt-offering precedes the sin-offering (Horiyot 13a), why did Moshe mention the sin-offering first?

ANSWER: A deliberate transgression requires the transgressor to think (machashavah), about doing it, and then he actually does it (ma’aseh). Consequently, the burnt-offering whose purpose is to atone for evil thoughts, is offered first.

In the case of the making of the golden calf, while it was wrong for Aharon to make it, his intentions were good. He hoped that by telling the people to bring gold he would gain time and, in the interim, Moshe would return. Consequently, he only needed atonement for his actions and for this he brought a sin-offering. The burnt-offering was a gift which is customary for one to give when one is pardoned (see Zevachim 7b).

(שם אפרים)


"ויקרב את המנחה...מלבד עלת הבקר"
“And he brought the meal-offering...besides the burnt-offering of the morning.” (9:17)

QUESTION: Why does it say “milevad” — literally “from besides” — instead of simply “levad” — “besides”?

ANSWER: Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, known as the “Tzemach Tzedek,” was a grandson of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, known as the Alter Rebbe.” After his grandfather left this earthly world, he would appear frequently in visions to his grandson and convey to him Torah teachings and answers to difficulties he encountered in his study.

Once, he had a yearning to see his grandfather, but he did not appear for a long period of time. One morning, as he was going to shul in the city of Lubavitch, a resident named Pinchas approached him and asked for a loan of three rubles to do business in the market so he could earn money for his Shabbat expenses. The Tzemach Tzedek told him to come to his home after davening and he would gladly give him a loan.

While the Tzemach Tzedek was in the middle of putting on his tallit, he reminded himself of Reb Pinchas’ request and suddenly it dawned on him that Reb Pinchas needed the money for the market, which had already opened. He immediately put down his tallit, went home, took some money and searched for RebPinchas in the market and gave him the money he needed to do his business.

Upon returning to shul and standing by the sink to wash his hands, he suddenly beheld the image of the Alter Rebbe standing with a radiant holy countenance, who then solved all the problems that he had in his Torah study.

The word “milevad” (מלבד) can be the acronym for מלוה לעני בשעת דחקו — “one who extends a loan to a poor person who is experiencing difficulty.” The Gemara (Berachot 26b) says that the daily prayers were instituted by the Men of the Great Assembly to correspond to the tamid — daily offering. Thus, shacharit — the morning prayer — corresponds to the morning offering mentioned in the pasuk. With the word ‘milevad,” the Torah is emphasizing that prayer is especially lofty and accepted above when accompanied by acts of kindness.

(אמרי צדיקים - ספר השיחות קיץ הש"ת ע' 98)


"וישא אהרן את ידו אל העם ויברכם"
“Aharon lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them.” (9:22)

QUESTION: The plural for “hands” is spelled "ידיו" (with a second yud). Why in our pasuk is it spelled without a second yud?

ANSWER: When a Kohen recites the priestly blessing, he is required to raise both hands and put them together. Thus, the two hands look like one. The Kohen is also required to place the right hand a bit higher than the left. (See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 128:12.)

Without a second yud, the word “yadav” can be read “yado” — “his hand.” The Torah writes it this way to allude that Aharon raised his hand (the right hand) a bit higher, and keeping the two together as one, he blessed the people.

(ברית אברהם - שפתי כהן)


"ויקחו שני בני אהרן נדב ואביהו איש מחתתו ויתנו בהן אש וישימו עליה קטרת ויקריבו לפני ה'"
“The sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, each took his firepan; they put fire in them and placed incense upon it and they brought before G‑d an alien fire.” (10:1)

QUESTION: Each took a firepan; and put fire “bahen” — “in them.” Why does the pasuk conclude “vayasimu alehah ketoret” — “they put incense upon it” — in the singular? Should it not have said “aleihem” — “upon them”?

ANSWER: Nadav and Avihu, without consulting one another, each brought a firepan with fire and a quantity of incense into the Inner Sanctuary (Kodesh Hakadashim). Meeting inside, they were in a dilemma about what to do because it is improper for two to offer incense, and it seemed as if one of them was doomed to be guilty of entering in vain.

Therefore, they decided “vayasimu alehah ketoret” — to throw all the incense on one firepan. Hence, the incense each one brought in would be offered, and it would not be considered entering in vain. However, a problem remained: between the two of them there was still “eish zarah” — alien fire brought in needlessly — since one firepan was not used.

(מלא העומר)


"ייו ושכר אל תשת אתה ובניך אתך בבאכם אל אהל מועד"
“Do not drink intoxicating wine you and your sons with you when you come to the Tent of Meeting.” (10:9)

QUESTION: Why now, after the death of Nadav and Avihu, were the Kohanim instructed against intoxicants?

ANSWER: Batsheva, mother of King Shlomo, strongly rebuked her son about drinking wine, pronouncing it improper for a person of his stature, and said, “Give strong drink to him that is ready to perish, and wine to those of heavy hearts” (Proverbs 31:6). It used to be customary to give wine to mourners in order to relieve them of their grief.

Now that Aharon and his children were bereft of loved-ones and experiencing their first mourning as Kohanim, the Torah warns, “While others may rely on drinking wine in such times, it is forbidden for the Kohanim to do so.”

(זכרון ישראל)


"יין ושכר אל תשת | אתה | ובניך אתך בבאכם אל אהל מועד ולא תמתו חקת עולם לדרתיכם"


QUESTION: Why in all the printed chumashim is there a vertical line (indicating a pause) before and after the word “atah”?

ANSWER: When people gather at a joyous occasion, it is customary to have some alcoholic beverages and toast lechaim — “to life.” The word “chaim” (חַיִים) in "לחיים" contains the same nekudot — vowels — as the word “mayim” (מַיִם) — water — yet it is spelled with two “yudden” while “mayim” is spelled with only one yud. This teaches that it is proper for an individual “yud” (Jew) to drink water whenever he wishes to quench his thirst. However, liquor should be consumed only when two “Yudden” (Jews) get together to celebrate an occasion.

The vertical lines in the pasuk indicate that the Torah is not in favor of consuming intoxicants when “atah” — you are doing it alone. However, “u’banecha itach” — if you are celebrating a simchah together with your sons, such as their Bar-Mitzvah or wedding, or “bevo’achem el ohel mo’eid” — you have moved into a new home and are making a chanukat habayit — dedication of a new home — or“velo tamutu” — you are making a seudat hoda’ah — a festive meal to thank Hashem for saving you from a life-threatening situation, or “chukat olam ledoroteichem” — you are at a celebration of a circumcision [of which the Torah says “ledoroteichem lebrit olam” — “throughout your generations as an everlasting covenant” (Bereishit 17:7)], then it is proper to drink a lechaim in honor of the occasion.

(ר' נפתלי זצ"ל מרופשיץ)


"ואת שעיר החטאת דרש דרש משה"
“Regarding the goat of sin-offering Moshe questioned and queried.” (10:16)

QUESTION: In many Chumashim, in between the words "דרש" and "דרש" it is written: “Half of the words of the Torah.”

What is the significance of the half-way point in words?

ANSWER: The ways of Hashem are far above human comprehension. Often we question and try to fathom His actions. It is perfectly all right to seek explanations, but we must always remember that even if we do not find a reason or rationale for an event, we should never conclude that Hashem is, G‑d forbid, wrong.

In this parshah we learn that Moshe, too, had questions and was seeking answers. The Torah’s half-way point is marked in the middle of his questioning to hint that he had realized he had only reached the middle and there was much more ahead which he had not yet learnt. Hopefully, as his Torah knowledge increased, his questions would be answered.


"וידבר ה' אל משה ואל אהרן לאמר אלהם: דברו אל בני ישראל לאמר זאת החיה אשר תאכלו"
“And G‑d spoke to Moshe and to Aharon, saying to them, ‘Speak to the Children of Israel, saying: These are the animals which you shall eat.’” (11:1-2)

QUESTION: Do not the words “leimor aleihem” — “saying to them” — seem extra, since the pasuk continues “dabru el B’nei Yisrael leimor?”

ANSWER: When Batyah, the daughter of Pharaoh found Moshe in the waters, she at first tried to have him nursed by Egyptian women. Moshe refused to cooperate because years later he would be a prophet and speak to Hashem, and it was therefore unthinkable to ingest anything impure and thus render his body unfit (Sotah 12b).

In the time of Mashiach, Hashem will infuse His spirit into all the people, “venibu beneichem uvenoteichem” — “and your sons and daughters shall prophesy” (Joel 3:1). Therefore, the pasuk tells us that Hashem said to Moshe and Aharon, “leimor aleihem” — because of the fact that “I will also speak to them” (which means that ultimately each and every Jew will become a prophet) — “tell the Children of Israel that they should refrain from eating things that are unclean.” (Thus, “leimor aleihem” is not a command, but a reason.)

(קדושת לוי)


"את הגמל כי מעלה גרה הוא ופרסה איננו מפריס...ואת השפן...ופרסה לא יפריס...ואת הארנבת...ופרסה לא הפריסה טמאה היא לכם"
“The camel for it brings up its cud but its hoof is not split...the hyrax because it will not divide its hoof...the hare...it did not divide its hoof, they are unclean to you.” (11:4-6)

QUESTION: Why does the Torah use present tense (“mafris”), future tense (“yafris”), and past tense (“hifrisah”)?

ANSWER: Although this parshah of the Torah discusses laws pertaining to animals, we can also learn an important lesson which applies to man: Before declaring a person to be tamei (rejecting and ostracizing him), it is necessary to carefully analyze his present, past, and future. When we can be convinced that the past and present are not good and there is absolutely no possibility for betterment in the future, only then may we declare a person unfit.

(ר' ישראל ז"ל סאלאנטער)


"ואת החזיר כי מפריס פרסה הוא ושסע שסע פרסה והוא גרה לא יגר טמא הוא לכם"
“And the swine because his hooves are split, and cloven-footed, but does not chew his cud, he is unclean to you.” (11:7)

QUESTION: The name “chazir” (חזיר) — “swine” — means that, “yachzir liheyot mutar” — eventually in the days of Mashiach it will be permissible to eat it (Rabbeinu Bachya). How does this correspond with what is said in the Thirteen Principles of Faith “I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be changed and G‑d will not give another Torah”?

ANSWER: Kosher animals have split hooves and chew their cud. The swine has split hooves, but it does not chew its cud, and it is therefore not kosher. The signs the Torah gives for a kosher animal will not change, but in the days of Mashiach, the nature of the swine itself will change and in addition to having split hooves, it will chew its cud and thus be permissible.

This opinion can be supported from a difference of terminology used in describing the swine as opposed to the other non-kosher animals. Only regarding the swine does it say, “vehu geirah lo yigar” — “and he does not chew its cud.” The word “vehu” — “and he” — seems superfluous. It would have been sufficient to say “vegeirah lo yigar” with the pronoun implied by the verb. From this we can deduce that the prohibition applies only as long as “vehu”“and he” — does not chew his cud: However, once he does begin chewing his cud, then he will no longer be forbidden.

(אור החיים)

* * *

Alternatively, according to the Gemara (Chullin 109b), for whatever Hashem forbids us in the Torah, there is something similar that is permissible. For instance, though we are forbidden to eat pork, it is permissible to eat the brain of a fish called “shibota” (mullet), which tastes exactly like pork.

Rabbi Chanina bar Abbahu said, “There are 700 species of clean (kosher) fish and 800 types of clean grasshoppers, and an uncountable number of birds. They all went into exile with the Jewish people to Babylon; and when the people came back, they all returned except for the shibota fish” (Midrash Rabbah, Introduction to Lamentations 34).

Consequently, chazir — pork — will always be forbidden, but the Midrash is suggesting that the shibota fish, whose brain tastes like pork will return and be available when Mashiach comes.

(שו"ת תירוש ויצהר סי' קצ"ה)


"את זה תאכלו מכל אשר במים כל אשר לו סנפיר וקשקשת"
“This you may eat from everything that is in the water everything that has fins and scales.” (11:9)

QUESTION: Why are the fish with fins and scales kosher and the ones without them not?

ANSWER: Fish with fins and scales live in the higher and clearer waters. They are sustained by the air that enters there, and thanks to the fins and scales their bodies contain a certain amount of heat which counteracts the abundance of moistness of the waters. The fish which do not have fins and scales dwell in the lower waters where there is much turbidity and cannot repel the abundance of moistness in their native habitat. Hence, the cold fluid in the area in which they swim, cleaves to them and can cause death to people who consume them.

(רמב"ן)


"את זה תאכלו מכל אשר במים כל אשר לו סנפיר וקשקשת... תאכלו"
“This you may eat from everything that is in the water, everything that has fins and scales...those you may eat” (11:9).

QUESTION: TheGemara (Niddah 51b) says that a fish that has scales also has fins and there is no need to examine for them. However, there are fish that only have fins and they are tamei — unclean.

What lesson can we derive from the signs of the kosher and non-kosher fish?

ANSWER: Fish in their habitat — water — are analogous to scholars studying Torah. This is obvious from that which is related in Gemara (Berachot 61b) in connection to the Roman government’s decree against Torah study. When Pappas ben Yehudah saw Rabbi Akiva convening public assemblies to study Torah he asked him, “Akiva are you not afraid of the regime?” Rabbi Akiva replied, with a parable: “Once a fox was walking alongside the river bank and saw fish gathering from place to place, as they were fleeing something. When the fox inquired, ‘From what are you running away?’ They told him, ‘From the nets people set up to catch us.’ The fox said to them, ‘Come up to dry land and we will dwell together just as our ancestors dwelled together.’ The fish responded, ‘You are a fool, for if in our habitat where our life is sustained we are afraid, all the more so we should be afraid for our existence if we leave our habitat.’ Likewise, Rabbi Akiva said, “If now when we study Torah which is our lifesaver, our existence is threatened, how much are we in danger if we would absent ourselves from Torah.”

Scales serve as a protective garment to the fish and through the fins it flies (swims) from place to place (see Rashi). When one studies Torah it is expected of him to create chidushim — innovative thoughts and explanations. It is also imperative that one who studies Torah have yirat shamayim — fear of Heaven. The Gemara (Shabbat 31a) compares Torah study with yirat shamayim to wheat which is stored with chumton — a preservative consisting of earth with a high salt content. Just as the grain will spoil quickly without the preservative, likewise, one studying Torah without fear of Hashem, will easily forget, and his Torah study will be like a poisonous medicine for him.

Thus, the fins represent the power to accomplish and reach new heights through innovative contributions to Torah, and the scales represent the essential ingredient of yirat shamayim, through which one’s Torah study is preserved and becomes a source of sam chaim — medicine that adds life.

Consequently, if one possesses the quality of “scales,” he is on the right track with his Torah study and will eventually enhance himself and the Torah with his “fins” — innovative thoughts which will be compatible to Torah truth — אמיתתה של תורה. Such an individual is considered tahor — pure and clean. But one who studies Torah and does not have “scales” — fear of Heaven — is tameih — unclean and unfit. His Torah study and fins — innovations — are contrary to Hashem’s desire and it does not merit him the spiritual source of life which Torah gives to those who study it.

(רשימות כ"ק אדמו"ר חוברת ל"ט)


"את כל ערב למינו"
“Every raven according to its kind....” (11:15)

QUESTION: Why is the raven (oreiv) forbidden to be eaten while the dove (yonah) is kosher?

ANSWER: When the waters of the flood receded, Noach selected the raven to search for dry land. The raven accused Noach, “Your Master hates me and you hate me. Your Master hates me, for from the clean animals and birds he permitted seven to enter the ark and from the unclean, only two. You hate me because if I fail to return from my mission, my mate will be alone and our species will die out” (Sanhedrin 108b). Superficially, the raven was right. If so, why is it universally despised as the symbol of heartlessness and cruelty?

When the raven left the ark instead of carrying out the mission assigned to him, he began to search for flesh to satisfy his appetite. He detected a floating carcass and devoured it. While everyone in the ark was waiting anxiously for his report, the raven was busy stuffing himself with the flesh of flood victims (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 23). Since he forgot about his companions in the ark, and his eloquent statements about Hashem and Noach were obviously insincere, he is consequently identified with selfishness and betrayal.

Afterwards, Noach sent the dove, who consented without protest. She did not permit her personal interest and desires to interfere with her mission, and ultimately she returned with an olive leaf in her mouth, bringing good tidings to all those in the ark.

What we eat has an effect on our character; consequently, the selfish, heartless, and false raven is not kosher for our consumption, but the modest and compassionate dove is.

(הרב דוב ארי' ז"ל בערזאן)


"ואת בת היענה..."
“And the ostrich...” (11:16)

QUESTION: The expression “bat haya’anah” literally means “daughter of the ostrich.” Why does it specify “daughter” when all ostriches are forbidden?

ANSWER: Ostriches live on hard and sharp grass. When they do not find enough food, they eat bones, iron, and glass. The Midrash Rabbah (Bereishit 31:14) says that Noach took glass into the ark so that he would have food for the ostrich. The Ibn Ezra (Shemot 23:19) writes that since the ostrich eats such items, its meat becomes dry like wood and hard like steel, and even cooking does not soften it. However, the meat of a baby female ostrich is still soft and tender. Therefore, the Torah warns specifically against eating “bathaya’anah” (the baby female ostrich).

(חזקוני)


"ואת החסידה..."
“And the stork...” (11:19)

QUESTION: She is called “chasidah” — “kind” — because she shares her food with her friends — Rashi.

The animals and birds that are forbidden to the Jews to eat possess bad character traits. What man eats has an effect on him; therefore, Torah forbade animals that would badly influence our character (Ramban 11:13). Since the stork shares her food with her friends, it seems that she is good natured, so why should she be forbidden?

ANSWER: A person who is selective and helps only people that he likes, paying no attention to the needs of others, does not have a good character. Thus, the Torah forbids us to eat the stork so that we should not acquire her bad habits.

(חידושי הרי"ם)


"אשר לא כרעים ממעל לרגליו לנתר בהן על הארץ"
“That has jumping legs above its legs with which to spring upon the earth.” (11:21)

QUESTION: TheGemara (Sofrim 6:5) says that in addition to this pasuk, where the word “lo” is written with an alef and read with a vav,” the same thing occurs in the pasuk asher lo chomah” — “it does not have a wall” (25:30), which is read with a “vav” meaning, “it has a wall.” There is also a pasuk, “im lo yagid venasa avono” (5:1) where there are both an “alef” and a “vav” in the spelling of the word “lo” (לוא).

What is the significance of the word “lo” with the “vav” and with the “alef”?

ANSWER: TheGemara (Sanhedrin 98a) states that if the Jewish people will be meritorious, Hashem will hasten the coming of Mashiach. But even if they do not merit it, G‑d forbid, there definitely will be the ultimate redemption, but only in its designated time. These three pasukim convey this concept.

If "לא חומה" — the Jewish people will not build a wall between themselves and their evil inclination and if after sinning "לא יגיד" — they will not confess to Hashem, then לא כרעים ממעל לרגליו — Mashiach will not have jumping legs with which to spring speedily upon the earth.

However, if "לו חומה" — man will build a wall for himself, not permitting his evil inclination to enter and induce him to sin, and in the event that he sinned, then "לו יגיד" — he will confess to Him — to Hashem, then Hashem will forgive him and quickly send Mashiach, "אשר לו כרעים" — “who will have jumping legs with which to spring speedily upon the earth.”

(קול יהודה)


"וכי יתן מים על זרע ונפל מנבלתם עליו טמא הוא לכם"
“If water has been placed upon a seed, and then their carcass falls upon it, it shall be unclean for you.” (11:38)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Bava Metzia 22b) says that actually the written word is “yitein” (יִתֵּן) — “he [the owner] placed” — but it is read “yutan” (יוּתַּן) (with a "ו") — “has been placed.” From this it is derived that just as when the owner makes it wet he is aware of his actions and obviously wants it to be wet. Likewise, when it is made wet by something else (e.g. rain), it is susceptible to ritual impurityonly if the owner is pleased.

Why is the Gemara not satisfied to just interpret according to the way it is read, “yutan” (יוּתַּן), so that water is a conductor for tumah regardless of the owner’s knowledge?

ANSWER: The word mayim — water — is in the plural. Consequently, if “yutan” is simply to be interpreted as read, (that it refers to the water that has been placed) grammatically it should read “yutnu” (יוּתְּנוּ).

Therefore, the Gemara concludes that though we read it as “yutan” (יותן), since it is grammatically incorrect and lacking a ",ו" we cannot interpret the word according to the reading, but must also consider the actual spelling — “yitein” — which means that the the owner made it wet intentionally.

(שמעתי בשם זקני הרב צבי הכהן ז"ל קאפלאן)


"כל הולך על גחון"
“Everything that creeps on its belly.” (11:42)

QUESTION: In all printed chumashim there is a note that the "ו" in the word “gachon” is the half-way point of the letters of the Torah. On the words “darosh darash Moshe” — “Moshe diligently inquired” (10:16) there is a note that the half-way point of all the words in the Torah occurs between the words “darosh” and “darash.”. The pasuk, “vayachgor oto becheishev ha’efod vayepod lo bo” — “and he girded him with the belt of the efod and adorned him with it” (8:7), is followed by a note that it is the half-way point of the Torah in pesukim.

What message do we learn from these three “mid-points”?

ANSWER: All Jews must constantly study Torah. Our sages have emphasized many times that not only should one learn Torah, but one should toil in the study of Torah. It is common practice to gird oneself in order to lift a great weight. The pasuk, “He girded him with the belt of the efod” indicates that studying Torah is a formidable task and should not be approached light-heartedly. To study Torah properly, one should gird himself, that is, prepare himself appropriately, namely with yirat shamayim — fear of Heaven. Then, “vayepod lo bo” — Torah will adorn him and make him a beautiful Jew.

The words “darosh darash” — “diligently inquire” — emphasize that to succeed in Torah, diligent and assiduous study is a prerequisite. One must immerse oneself completely in Torah and ignore all distractions.

Rashi explains that the term “gachon” denotes “bending.” In the word “gachon” — “belly” — the "ו" is enlarged. The letter "ו" has the numerical value of six and alludes to the six orders of the Mishnah on which the entire Talmud is based, and for the sixty tractates of Gemara, in mispar katan (“single numerals,” i.e. disregarding the zero).

The message conveyed through these three mid-points is as follows: If “vayachgor” — one has properly girded himself to study Torah — and “darosh darash” — he studied diligently — and his perseverance has led to mastering the Mishnah and Gemara (an allusion of the larger vav in gachon), — he should exhibit the trait of “gachon” — “bending” — he should nevertheless not become conceited and walk with his head in the air, but “bend” and humbly acknowledge that he has only reached a half-way mark and that there is much more to study and know.

(שמעתי בשם זקני הרב צבי הכהן ז"ל קאפלאן)


"אל תשקצו את נפשתיכם בכל השרץ השרץ"
“Do not abominate your soul by eating any swarming thing.” (11:43)

QUESTION: In Parshat Shemini, we read about the inauguration of Aharon as Kohen Gadol, then about death of his children Nadav and Avihu, who were even holier than he and Moshe (see Rashi 10:3). Why, in this same parshah, are we also instructed about the prohibition of eating insects and creeping things?

ANSWER: When Hashem prohibited eating insects, He said: “For I am G‑d Who elevates you from the land of Egypt.” Rashi writes: "על מנת שתקבלו מצותי העליתי אתכם" — “On the condition that you accept My commandments I have redeemed you from Egyptian bondage” (11:45). Thus, by forbidding the eating of insects and creeping things, the Torah is stressing the importance of kabalat ol malchut Shamayim (absolute submission to Hashem).

The death of Nadav and Avihu was not an ordinary one for an act of rebellion or self indulgence. It signified the concept of “ratzo without shov” — “advancing without retreating.” When their souls sensed the all-encompassing greatness of G‑dliness they became aroused to a gripping desire of ratzo — running to step out of bodily limitations and become absorbed in Divinity. However, the Divine will and intent is for man to be here on earth to establish an abode for Hashem in the lower worlds. Therefore, the ratzo must be followed by shov — retreat and control of the spiritual desires. They died of kelot hanefesh — they experienced “ratzo without shov” and thus reached a point of expiring.

The sequence of events in Parshat Shemini teaches us that regardless of how lofty and holy an individual’s aspirations may be, if he lacks kabalat ol, it is conceivable that he may degenerate to the point of eating abominable things such as insects and creeping things.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"א - אור החיים)


"אל תשקצו את נפשתיכם בכל השרץ השרץ ולא תטמאו בהם ונטמתם בם"
“Do not abominate your soul by eating any swarming thing...You will be defiled thereby.” (11:43)

QUESTION: Why is the word “venitmeitem” — “you will be defiled” — written without an "א"?

ANSWER: According to the Yalkut Re’uveini, the missing "א" indicates that one who eats insects lacks common sense. The Chidah explains this in the following way: The prophet Eliyahu asked Rabbi Nehorai: “Since the insects do not serve any purpose, why were they created?” He answered that they were created for the benefit of the Jewish people. Whenever Jews sin, and Hashem considers annihilating them, G‑d forbid, He looks at these creatures and says: “If I permit these to exist though they serve no purpose, how much more should I save the Jews who have a purpose in this world?” (see Midrash Shochar Tov 18)

Consequently, by not eating insects, we confirm that they have no purpose and exist only as a means to evoke Hashem’s mercy for the Jewish people. On the other hand eating them demonstrates that they have value so that Hashem can no longer use them as a reason to display compassion. Thus, a person who eats insects lacks common sense because he denies Hashem a way to justify showing Divine mercy.

(פני דוד)


"להבדיל בין הטמא ובין הטהר ובין החיה הנאכלת ובין החיה אשר לא תאכל"
“To distinguish between the impure and the pure and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.” (11:47)

QUESTION: 1) The language in the pasuk appears inconsistent. Since it mentions first “tamei” — “impure” — and then “tahar” — “pure” — it should have said “between the animal which may not be eaten and the animal that may be eaten.” 2) According to halachah, the Torah reading should end with the mention of something positive (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 138). If the words were reversed, would it not have concluded with “the animal that may be eaten”?

ANSWER: The word “chayah” may also be a reference to a group of people — members of one nation — as stated in Scripture (II Samuel, 23:13), “vechayat Plishtim choneh be’eimek refa’im” — “the community (troops) of the Philistines pitched in the valley of Rephaim.”

Though the Jewish people have been oppressed by the nations of the world throughout history, they have outlived their oppressors. Ultimately, in the days of Mashiach, the wicked nations will be consumed and the Jews will be the dominant power.

The pasuk is telling us that through Torah there is a distinction, “bein hatamei uvein hatahor” — “between the contaminated food that may not be eaten and the pure food which can be eaten.” And also, thanks to our adherence to Torah, there will be a distinction between “hachayah hane’echelet” — “the wicked nations of the world which will be consumed and destroyed” — “uvein hachayah” — “the nation — i.e. the Jewish people” — “asher lo tocheil” — “which will not be consumed and remain in existence forever.” Thus, the pasuk is referring to two separate subjects: food and the people who eat it. The pasuk also concludes with something positive — the Jewish people.

(שמעתי בשם זקני הרב צבי הכהן ז"ל קאפלאן)

Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky has been a pulpit rabbi for over thirty years, and is author of more than ten highly acclaimed books on the Parshiot and holidays. His Parshah series, Vedibarta Bam, can be purchased here.
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