פ’ שמיני – תשע”ה
Volume 8, Issue 5
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
This Parsha is called Shmini since it begins with the description of the eighth day of installation when the Kohanim assumed their new role. This day fell on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, when the Mishkan was erected, in the second year after the Exodus from Egypt. From then on, the Divine Presence rested in the camp of the Jewish people. Our Sages (Megillah 6) tell us that on that day, Hashem’s joy was as great as the day He created Heaven and Earth. (Torah Gems)
On the 25th day of Kislev, the construction of the Mishkan was complete. But Hashem instructed Moshe to delay the inauguration until the 1st day of Nissan. However, prior to the 1st of Nissan, Hashem commanded Moshe to practice for 7 days, culminating in the eighth day being Opening Day for the Mishkan. Even though it would be the 1st day of the Mishkan, the Torah nevertheless refers to it as “Yom HaShmini”, the eighth day.
In America, when the baseball season begins, first spring training commences to be followed by Opening Day. On Broadway, the previews are shown first to be followed by the premier. In football, the exhibition games that prepare the players for the regular season are not included in the statistics for the season. So why in the Mishkan does G-d refer to Opening Day as the eighth day? It is suggested that this is so because G-d and only G-d gives credit to people for the preparation that is a pre-requisite for holy service. G-d’s judgment can be contrasted with our society’s approach to judgment in that Hashem rewards effort and will, just like He does results. How fortunate are we to have such a judge?! (ימ”צ)
ויאמר אל אהרן קח לך עגל בן בקר
“He said to Aharon, take yourself a young bull…” (9:2)
Until the sin of the Egel HaZahav there was no need for a center of holiness,since every Jew was to be worthy of Hashem’s presence. After the destructive public undoing, it would become necessary to build a Mishkan as a resting place for the Shechina. Mixed with the joy of dedicating the Mishkan, there was a sad realization that the people had forfeited their opportunity for an even greater level of holiness. The words עגל בן בקר are numerically equal to לכפר חטא העגל, to atone for the sin of the calf. (Ba’al HaTurim)
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 verse 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. (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 like one, he blessed the people. (Siftei Kohen)
“And Aharon held his peace…” (10:3)
In the entire Torah there are only two instances where the word וידם is used: In this parsha as noted above and in Sefer Yehoshua where it narrates the war of Yehoshua between the Kings of Canaan, וידם השמש, the sun stood still (Yehoshua 10:13). The implication alludes to the fact that to reach the level of וידם אהרן, is an extraordinary feat, just as וידם השמש, stopping the sun, is totally alien to nature. (Ba’al HaTurim)
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 therefore 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 turbulent waters and cannot repel the abundance of moisture in their native habitat. Hence, the cold fluid in the area in which they swim, cleaves to them and can cause death to the ones who consume them.
“And the stork…” (11:19)
The Gemara (Chullin 63) remarks on this verse, Rabbi Yehudah says, “The Stork, chassidah, is identical with the bird named white dayah. Why then is it called chassidah? Because it does favors (chessed) for its friends.”
Since the stork is such a benevolent bird, why is it unclean? The answer can be found in the fact that “it does favors for its friends,” implying “only for its friends, but not for others.” Benevolence must be extended to all creatures, without qualifications or restrictions. Limiting favors to only one’s friends is a manifestation of callousness, a mark of uncleanness. (Chidushei Harim)
אך מעין ובור מקוה מים יהיה טהור
“Only a spring or a cistern, a gathering of water, shall remain pure.” (11:36)
The power of water to purify can be seen in the word מעין, a spring. The same letters spell the word ינעם, to sweeten – for water alone has the power to sweeten something that has become contaminated and transform it to purity. What is it about water that imbues it with this power? The verse states: Ho, everyone who is thirsty, go to the water (Yeshayahu 55:1). Rashi teaches that the water in this verse is a euphemism for Torah. Thus, the verse tells us that he who thirsts for spiritual growth should head to the water, i.e., the Torah, which has the power to foster that growth.
Torah and water are indeed similar. Water’s primary attraction is its ability to sustain life. It has no flavor and is not especially pleasing to the eye, yet without it life cannot continue. Such is the Torah. Its eternal value lies in its ability to sustain spiritual life. Though we cannot see or understand how, the Torah sweetens a person by driving from him his negative traits and strengthening his positive ones. What is required to clear away contamination is not something with beauty or other such superficial qualities; rather it is life-giving qualities that can be found only in the simplest of resources – water. Likewise, what is necessary for spiritual growth is not ceremonies or complicated procedures, it is Torah study – pure and simple. (Growth Through Torah)
כל הולך על גחון
“All that crawls on the stomach…” (11:42)
The Talmud (Kiddushin 30a) notes that the vav in the word גחון is the middle letter of the Torah. The Sfas Emes makes the following observation based on this statement. When a person has learned half of the Torah, he has a natural tendency to praise himself for his accomplishments. The Talmud therefore reminds him that the midpoint of the Torah is in the verse that refers to all that crawls on the stomach, emphasizing that man is to remain humble at all times, no matter how great his scholarship. (Torah Anthology)
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