Parshat Shemini 5776: Recognizing the Wisdom of Torah, vs Change Rendering Judaism as Indistinguishable from the Nations

Shalom Friends;

Our Parshat Sh’mini is being sponsored jointly by Rabbi Mordechai and Gila Bernstein and Jonathon and Sara Wachtel, both from Ramat Beit Shemesh and dedicated for continued refuah shlaima for Yishaya Shalom ben Malka Gittel. To the Bernstein and Wachtel families, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Shemini 5776: Recognizing the Wisdom of Torah, vs Change Rendering Judaism as Indistinguishable from the Nations

by Moshe Burt

After learning in Parsha Tzav that for seven days, Moshe taught Aaron HaKohen and his sons the laws of their Avodah (the Kohanic Service, i.e. in the Tabernacle and later in the Beit HaMikdash — ” The Temple”) in the Mishkan, our Parsha Shemini begins by relating that on the eighth day, Aaron and his sons commenced their Avodah HaKodosh (Holy Service). It is interesting and ironic that our parsha is the other side of the term; “Tzav-Shemonah” which is the document or order issued by the Israel Defense Forces calling reservists to active duty in event of war. In a regular year, the two Parshiyot are sperated by Pesach, whereas this year, and in all years with two Adars, Parshiyot Tzav and Shemini occur on consecutive Shabbosim.

But the alignment of these two Parshiyot, one-after-the-other, seems to this author, to have deeper meaning, above and beyond mobilization and deployment in time of war. This deeper meaning seems to denote a constancy of service, of humility, modesty and selflessness, of guard over Am Yisrael and their connection to Hashem, to Torah and to their sanctity (consecration, purity, holiness). And with this constancy of vigilance of Am Yisrael’s sanctity, our Parsha also teaches us about Kashrut, and “abstain[ing] from impure, non-Kosher item[s].” (L’ilmode U’Lamed, by Rabbi Mordechai Katz, Parsha Shemini, page 108)

Our Parsha also relates the tragedy of the deaths of Aaron’s two oldest sons, Nadav and Avihu who died while performing an unauthorized Service, offering a “strange fire …, which he did not command them…” (Artscroll Chumash, Vayikra, Perek 10, posuk 1)

Our Parsha relates that:

“Hashem spoke to Aaron saying: Do not drink intoxicating wine, you and your sons …, when you come to the Ohel Mo’ed (the Tent of Meeting), that you not die — this is an eternal decree for your generations. In order to distinguish between the sacred and the profane …” (Artscroll Chumash, Vayikra, Perek 10, p’sukim 8-10).

In previous years, this author discussed the several aveirot (wrong-doings) of Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu, including their performance of the unauthorized Service, the offering of a “strange fire …”, uncommanded by Hashem. Also discussed in previous years’ Parshat Shemini, was how Nadav and Avihu sought to perform a unique service, apparently thought by each of them to be pleasing to Hashem, and how many others through our history have sought to alter, to change the traditional modes of service, more often than not, in ways and for reasons not L’Shem Shemayim (not honoring Hashem’s name) and perhaps, eventually rendering whatever service they attempted as unrecognizable in Shemayim, and actually an aveirah (a sin).

In this Parshat HaShevua, this author discusses the exchange between Aaron and Moshe about the status of Aaron and his remaining sons, Elazar and Ithamar, as mourners and as to whether or not Hashem would approve of their partaking of meal-offering.

Our Parshat relates:

“Moshe spoke to Aaron and to Elazar and Ithamar, his [Aaron’s] remaining sons; ‘Take the meal-offering that is left from the fire-offerings of Hashem, and eat it unleavened near the Mizbeiyach [Altar]; for it is the most holy.'” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 10, posuk 12)

“Moshe inquired insistently about the he-goat of the sin-offering, for behold, it had been burned! –and he was wrathful with Elazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s remaining sons, saying: ‘Why did you not eat the sin-offerings in a holy place; for it is most holy; and He gave it to you to gain forgiveness for the sin of the assembly and to atone for them before Hashem? Behold, its blood was not brought into the Sanctuary within; you should have eaten it in the Holy, as I had commanded!'” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 10, posukim 16-18)

“Aaron spoke to Moshe; ‘Was it they who this day offered their sin-offering and their elevation-offering before Hashem? Now that such things befell me — were I to eat this day’s sin-offering, would Hashem approve?’ Moshe heard and he approved. (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 10, posukim 19-20, translation rendered in the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, page 597)

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” cites S’forno (page 251) and comments regarding Moshe’s approval of Aaron’s understanding of the Halacha and his wisdom:

Moshe was under the impression that Aaron made a mistake and censured him for it Aaron then told Moshe the reason why his behavior was proper: “And Moshe heard and it was good in his eyes.” (Translation of Sefer Vayikra, Perek 10, posuk 20 rendered by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah”, page 251)

S’forno comments…: Moshe felt joy upon hearing the reasoning of Aaron. He had pleasure that Aaron was correct in his decision.

People who love wisdom will derive pleasure when they come up with an original idea or when they find that they are correct in some intellectual matter. But it is a rare quality to have such a love of wisdom that one derives pleasure when another person comes up with a good idea. What was special about Moshe’s joy was that he himself made an error and Aaron was right. Many people would feel upset that they made a mistake. But not Moshe Rabbeinu. He was joyful that his brother had an awareness of truth, even though this meant that he was wrong. Moshe’s love of wisdom should serve as our model to strive for.

There is a strong contrast between the application of wisdom, whether by Aaron HaKohen or by the great scholars of our day (irrespective of type of kipa), and the tendency through our history to alter, to change the traditional modes of service, more often than not, in ways and for reasons not L’Shem Shemayim (not honoring Hashem’s name). We see this tendency seemingly alive and well in medinat Yisrael today, for instance, when a Jewish military acts to alter security protocols regarding use of live fire in dealing with terrorists and acts of terrorism. We see this tendency regarding recent military edicts regarding bearded soldiers, when throughout our history, Jewish bearded soldiers fought gallantly in defeating their foes. Then we view this tendency in nascent political entities with kippoted leaders who take a benign view toward public transportation on Shabbos, if provided by “private companies” citing “separation between religion and state.” And these are but a tiny selection of such examples of today’s tendency by many in power to change Judaism with the aim seemingly to render Am Yehudi as indistinguishable from the nations.

Don’t we need to give long and hard thought, as did Aaron HaKohen, about such tendencies as to “would Hashem approve?” Would our brethren approve? Would the nations accept and love us, or hate and disdain us even more for our hypocrisy? Would we then forfeit, in the eyes of Shemayim and the world, our right to and sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael as whatever service attempted is deemed unrecognizable in Shemayim, and actually an aveirah (a sin)?

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of nearly 1 3/4 years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

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