epar67027.rtf that it is so, it is well known that the courts are willing to go to great
בס"דlengths to avoid any appearance or possibility of a "forced" divorce.
PARASHAT HASHAVUA The criticism gained in strength recently after the committee for
appointing dayanim (which has a majority of Chareidi members) met and
chose 15 new judges, of which 12 belong to the Chareidi sector – based
PARASHA :Shimini on a prearranged slate of candidates, created under the influence of "the
greatest scholars in the generation." The process by which the
Date : 26 Nissan 5767, 14/4/2007 committee, headed by the Minister of Justice, made its decision, and the
“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list fact that its considerations were influenced by outside forces, have been
subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for brought to the Supreme Court of Israel by Tzohar, an organization of
members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (Editor: Arieh Yarden) rabbis, and by Emunah, the women's organization.
Dedicated to the loving memory of Avi Mori We will see how close we are to fulfilling the hopes of these
Moshe Reuven ben Yaakov z”l organizations, which I support and to whom I wish all possible success.
Please respect the Holiness of these pages But as far as I can see there will not be any quick success to the
These pages are also sent out weekly via the internet in MS Word resolution of refused divorce even if a dozen new judges will be
format. Anyone who is interested in receiving them, can subscribe via appointed who are graduates of religious Zionist yeshivot. Such new
the Parasha web site: http://parasha.sde.org.il/eparasha - Arieh. judges would be dispersed as minorities in all the existing monolithic
rabbinical courts, and it can be assumed that some of them will even be
1 - SHABBAT B’SHABBATO (Tzomet)
Extract from SHABBAT-B'SHABBATO, published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel;
willing to go along with existing policies, as so often happens in such
http://www.moreshet.co.il/zomet/index-e.html It is Good That There are No Courts for Shabbat and Kashrut
STARTING POINT Two Types of Prohibited Foods The word "monolithic" in the above paragraph means that there is a
- by Rabbi Amnon Bazak, Yeshivat Har Etzion single opinion about anything, carved in stone. This is a good
A familiar question is why the Torah forbids us to eat certain types of approximation of the situation today, when all (?) of the judges follow the
animals, as described at length in this week's Torah portion (Vayikra, lead of two rabbis (who in fact act as one), among the most prominent of
Chapter 11). On one hand, the words of the sages are well known: "No the rabbis ("gedolei hador"). And all the judges accept these rulings.
man should say, I am disgusted by wearing shaatnez (mixed types of While in general one is forbidden to teach halacha in front of his mentor,
cloth) or by eating the flesh of a pig... Rather, I would like to do it, but as quoted above with respect to the sin of Nadav and Avihu, the opposite
what can I do now that My Father in Heaven has forbid it to me?" [Sifra, is true in a court, according to Torah law, where the rule is that the least
Kedoshim 10]. This implies that the prohibitions are not based on a prominent judges are the first ones to speak (see above). This is done so
rational reason, and they should be viewed as an expression of a Divine that they will not be influenced by the greater rabbis! My heart goes out
decree. Thus, observing the prohibitions is a way of accepting the yoke to those judges who I am sure are hidden among the crowds, whose
of G-d. On the other hand, early commentators did give reasons for "independent" halachic outlook does not lead them to a stringent
these laws, and as time went on many people have expanded the approach that makes the women more and more miserable, but who do
original concepts in various ways. Some give reasons based on physical not dare to voice their opinions. May G-d have pity on them...
factors, such as the Rashbam in this week's Torah portion: "According to And this leads to my main point: There are many strong
the simple reading of the passage and the replies we give to apostates, disagreements with respect to halacha, in all walks of life. It is
all the cattle, animals, birds, fish, and vermin that G-d has forbidden Bnei unacceptable that a monolithic approach, developed by judges who are
Yisrael to eat are repulsive, and they cause harm to the body. And that is not deeply involved in Israeli society, has taken control of an area of
the reason that they are called impure. And even prominent physicians decision making, and leaves no room for variations in the rulings. Just
affirm this, as is reiterated in the Talmud: 'Gentiles who eat vermin imagine if the existing approach of the dayanim had taken control of
develop heat in their bodies' [Avoda Zara 31b]." [Rashbam, Vayikra other aspects of our lives, such as Shabbat. We would not use electricity
11:3]. Others put the emphasis on spiritual elements, such as the well on Shabbat, we would not accept an "eiruv" to allow us to carry outside
known words of the Ramban: "Behold, the reason for the prohibition of of our homes, we would not be allowed to open a refrigerator, and we
the birds is because of the cruelty of their children, and for animals the could not use an elevator. The same is true about kashrut, family purity,
reason might be that those who chew their cuds do not attack other and even attendance in yeshiva high schools. G-d has been kind to us in
animals, while those who do not chew their cud prey on others." [ 11:13 ]. that such matters are not under the control of the rabbinical court judges.
A deeper look into Chapter 11 of the portion might lead us to As an aside, I will note that the lack of faith in the judges has become
conclude that the two main approaches outlined above are relevant for so entrenched that some interests from the heart of the Chareidi sector
two different kinds of prohibition. With respect to most of the prohibitions, prefer to go to the secular courts and not to turn to Torah law. A deep
the Torah uses the term "sheketz" – abomination. This is true for fish, controversy between the Yeshiva of Ponovitz which was brought before
"They are abominable for you, do not eat their flesh and stay away from a number of rabbinical courts for arbitration, was finally settled in a
their dead bodies" [ 11:11 ]. It is also true for birds, "Keep these as secular court. There are also some segments of the Vizhnitz Chassidic
abominations from among the birds" [11:13 ]. And it is also true for dynasty which prefer to turn for judgment to the civil courts. This
vermin, "All vermin that crawl on the earth are abominable, do not eat development is truly amazing!
them" [ 11:41]. This term denotes something that is despicable and An Alternative is On the Way
disgusting, stemming from a basic feeling that can be expected to occur Is the dedication to one-dimensional halacha with respect to divorce
in all mankind, for the reasons noted above, among others, all based on an unbreakable and Divine force? Our experience with conversion can
a reasonable human reaction. However, while this root – shin, kuf, tzadit show that this does not have to be! The issue of conversions was
– is often repeated in this chapter (eleven times!), it does not appear in removed from the authority of the rabbinical courts for just such a reason.
the discussion of wild animals at the beginning of the passage. This And look around you – the sky has not fallen! Tens of thousands of new
implies that there is a different reason for the prohibition of eating the converts have joined the Jews in the last decade, and (almost) all of the
animals. They were not forbidden because they are disgusting but as a rabbis of Yisrael recognize their conversions and are willing to perform
way of showing our respect for Divine commands – as quoted above marriages for them.
from the Sifra: I would like to eat their flesh, but Our Father in Heaven And now it is my turn to give a warning and at the same time to let
commanded us not to do so. some information out of the bag. If the rabbinical court judges do not
This also explains the double ending of the passage. First is a begin to adopt varied halachic approaches, they are liable to find
reference to the forbidden disgusting foods. "Do not make your souls themselves wallowing in their large offices and with their existing super-
despicable with the vermin that crawls... for I am your G-d, and you shall generous work conditions, but without anybody coming to them for
sanctify yourselves, and you will be holy" [ 11:43 -44]. Next is a reference judgment. I can reveal a well known secret that there is an attempt to
to prohibitions whose purpose is to accept the Divine commands. "For I establish alternative courts. (Zomet Institute is also involved in these
am G-d, who took you up out of Egypt, to be your G-d... To distinguish efforts. We are in need of generous donations by individuals and/or a
between the pure and the impure, and between the animal which can be charity fund. Please contact email@example.com.) These bodies will
eaten and the animal which may not be eaten" 11:45 -47]. That is, the never actually write a "get," so that reform Jews will not be able to copy
main point is the act of separation, even if the animal itself does not have their activities. Rather, they will serve as legal negotiators for such
any despicable characteristics. matters as child support and dividing up joint property, based on a
settlement either agreed to as part of the separation or on a prenuptial
POINT OF VIEW Mistrust of the Rabbinical Courts agreement. It can be assumed that courts will also be established that
- by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, Director of Zomet Institute will write a "get" if necessary. And the end (of the rabbinical court
"And a flame came out – Rabbi Eliezer says, the reason that system) can be seen on the wall: In this realm, as in others, the courts
Aharon's sons died was that they taught the law in front of their teacher will undergo a process of privatization, and they will no longer provide an
Moshe" [Rashi, Vayikra 10:2, following Eiruvin 63]. opportunity for apportioning out juicy jobs.
"The discussion in capital cases starts 'on the side' (that is, the least
prominent judges are the ones who speak first), as is written, 'Do not RESPONSA FOR OUR TIMES "Pesach Sheini" –
argue against the greater rabbi' [Shemot 23:2]" [Sanhedrin 36a]. Will it Take Place this Year?
Fireproof Judges - by Rabbi Re'eim Hacohen, Rosh Yeshiva and Chief Rabbi, Otniel
The rabbinical courts in Israel have been under fire for some time, Question: If the Altar will be built between the dates of the Pesach
and I must admit that I have done my part in fanning the flames. From sacrifice and Pesach Sheini – the alternate date when the Pesach can be
every corner, women who are being refused a divorce are crying out brought by those who missed the first opportunity – will we be obligated
against the obstinate refusal of the judges of the rabbinical courts – to bring a Pesach sacrifice at the later date?
"dayanim" - to force men to give a "get" even in cases where the need for Answer: The source for Pesach Sheini appears in the Torah portion
a divorce is clear for all to see. On the other hand, the dayanim allow of Beha'alotecha, when people who were ritually impure asked Moshe
husbands to extort their wives, forcing them to give up financial privileges what to do: "We are impure because of contact with the dead, why
in order to receive a "get," out of fear that otherwise the "get" will be should we be lacking and not bring the Pesach sacrifice at the proper
invalid because it was "forced" on the husband. We have not heard any time among Bnei Yisrael?" [Bamidbar 9:7]. If we look at the details of
denials of these claims, but even if the silence does not provide evidence their request, we can see that it stems from their lack of participation with
the rest of the community in bringing the original sacrifice.
If the entire nation had not brought a sacrifice, there would be no reason redemption feel a frustrating duality. Their hearts are pulled to both sides
for their request, since once the proper time for the sacrifice had passed, at once, and they cannot feel satisfaction with any partial and torn reality.
it is no longer required. That is, the only thing that makes their request The solution to this problem lies in a meeting between sanctity and
reasonable is the fact that they did not participate along with the rest of the exalted truth. And this is revealed in Eretz Yisrael. This holiness does
the nation. On the other hand, it is not clearly stated in the passage that not oppress nature and life, rather it gives them greater strength and
the mitzva of Pesach Sheini is linked to the actions of the rest of the reveals that in the depths of the demands on them lies an experience of
nation (see 9:10 -11). purity and a demand for the highest level of sanctity. The collapse of the
In a Baraita in the Talmud (Pesachim 93a), the rabbis disagreed partial approaches will lead to a great meal, where it will be revealed that
about the liability for a punishment of Karet if one does not bring a the act of eating can be holy and exalted, since it shows the desire of the
Pesach sacrifice at both the first and the second opportunity. Rebbe feels Almighty to do good for His creatures.
that in principle such a person should be punished twice, while Rabbi The passage of the forbidden food reflects this concept, for the
Natan feels that he is liable for punishment only for the first sacrifice that sages have taught us, "for everything that the Almighty has forbidden to
he missed. And then the Talmud quotes another Baraita: "One who us, He has also given us permission to eat a similar thing. Blood is
converted between the two dates of Pesach, and also a minor who forbidden, but we are allowed to eat liver..." [Chulin 109b]. The purpose
became mature between the two dates, is required to bring a Pesach of the prohibitions of the Torah is not to limit the force of life but rather to
Sheini, according to Rebbe. Rabbi Natan says, everybody who was give them life and to add spice to them.
required to bring the first sacrifice is required to bring the second one, but The mission of educators in our generation is to hear the cries of the
anybody who was not required to bring the first one is not required to youth – the pain of nature that is being pressed and is choking under
bring the second one." The Talmud explains that according to Rebbe, partial holiness and the suffering of the sanctity that is struck by life – and
Pesach Sheini is "a holiday in its own right" while Rabbi Natan feels that to reveal the highest level of holiness, which enriches life and gives it
the second date is a replacement for the first one. The Rambam accepts strength. In this way, they will be able to guide the youth to achieve their
Rabbe's approach, that Pesach Sheini is a holiday in its own right complete and pure goal.
(Hilchot Korban Pesach 5:1). At first glance, it would seem that if Activity Beyond the Sermon: Midreshet Ami'ad
between the two dates the situation changes and it becomes possible to The goal of the Midrasha is to strengthen the values of Judaism. It
bring the sacrifice, the law for the entire community of Yisrael would be was established by Gesher in the year 5743 (1983), in a desire to
the same as a convert or one who has just become mature, and provide a foundation for the values of Judaism among religious youth, by
everybody would be required to bring the Pesach Sheini. In fact, a organizing seminars and study days in religious educational institutions
prominent Chassidic rabbi of the last generation ruled that this is so. throughout the country.
However, as far as I can tell, this reasoning is not really relevant to In its early years, Ami'ad was active in high schools catering to large
the entire nation. According to the Talmud, the punishment of Karet geographic areas, a sector of education that often suffered from a lack of
applies only to a person who purposefully refrains from bringing the first proper investment in informal education. This helped Ami'ad delve
sacrifice and not to one who could not bring it for legitimate reasons, like deeply into the experience, while specializing in creating new methods
being impure or far away from Jerusalem . That is, even according to and teaching aids. It led to the development of such methodological tools
Rebbe the two dates are related. Thus in the case of the entire nation of as: a mobile coffee house, movie workshops, creativity packages, and
Yisrael we would conclude that if the nation did not bring the sacrifice dozens of other techniques which can stimulate the students into deep
due to circumstances that prevented them they are not obligated to bring discussion of philosophical questions and issues of importance to the
the sacrifice at the second opportunity. It is clear from other sources in maturing religious boy or girl.
the Rambam that he does see a link between the two Pesach sacrifices. As the years went by, Ami'ad expanded to include other target
For example, in his commentary on the Mishna (Pesachim 9:1) and in his communities, and it now works with all sectors of religious Zionism – high
book of halacha (Hilchot Korban Pesach 5:5) he rules that one who was schools, yeshiva high schools, and Ulpanot throughout the country –
impure or far away from Jerusalem is not punished by Karet even if he through activities that are in depth, original, and provide a memorable
purposely refrains from bringing the Pesach Sheini, and that only if a experience. Last year, more than 35,000 students participated in the
person was not able to bring the first sacrifice is he punished with Karet if activities of the Midrasha!
he refrains from bringing the second one. The same conclusion is also Midresheat Ami'ad has a diversified education department, which
implied by the Rambam when he writes that one who purposefully creates and produces educational programs and presents them, with a
refrains from bringing the Pesach on the first opportunity is released from staff of about 180 counselors, young men and women. The counselors
the punishment of Karet if he brings it at the time of Pesach Sheini (5:2). are taught by Ami'ad to lead seminars and study sessions, and
(This is contrary to what the Rambam writes in the Sefer Hamitzvot, educational tours of Jerusalem , in all the different areas in which the
Positive Mitzva 57). Thus, even if Pesach Sheini has a status of "a Midrasha has developed expertise. In all cases, the goal is to encourage
holiday in its own right" it is still related to the first date of Pesach. deep, meaningful, and frank discussions between the counselors and the
A definitive proof of the above reasoning can be seen from the law participants.
that when the entire community is ritually impure the impurity is ignored Some of the unique programs of Ami'ad include the following: Things
and the Pesach sacrifice is brought. According to the halacha, the only in the heart – contact between boys and girls as a preparation for family
type of impurity which is ignored in this way is what is related to touching life; Outings – hiking tours in Jerusalem; Study in the teacher's room –
the dead, and not other types of impurity. The Rambam rules in extended education for teachers, including theoretical lectures and
accordance with the opinion of Rav in the Talmud (Pesachim 80b), "If workshops, in order to provide the teachers with educational methods
most of the community were lepers or impure because of bodily flows or and tools.
contact with impure women and a minority were impure because of We hope that we will do our work in a reliable way, for the good of
contact with the dead, these latter do not bring the sacrifice on the first our students, and for the benefit of the entire nation of Yisrael.
date, because they are a minority. And they do not bring the sacrifice on TOURING THE LAND In the Footstep of the Heroes
the second date, because Pesach Sheini is only brought if the majority of of Gush Etzion
the community brought the sacrifice on the first date." [Hilchot Korban - by the Kefar Etzion Field School
Pesach 7:4]. That is, there is an obligation to bring Pesach Sheini only if As Memorial Day approaches, with its memories of Yom Haatzmaut,
the entire nation of Yisrael was required to bring the sacrifice on the first
date. our tour this week will take us in the path of one of the most fascinating
and important stories in the history of our fight for independence – the
In summary: It seems clear to me that if G-d causes the Altar to be battles in 5708 (1948) for Gush Etzion.
built between the two dates, we will not be able to offer the sacrifice of
Pesach Sheini. Let us pray to G-d, "Let us eat there from the sacrifices On the eve of the establishment of the State of Israel, there were four
kibbutzim in the heart of Mount Chevron : Kefar Etzion, Massuot
and the Pesach sacrifices whose blood will be sprinkled on the walls of Yitzchak, Ein Tzurim, and Revadim. This was the Etzion Bloc of
your Altar, to your satisfaction..."
settlements. The Arabs in the surrounding area did not accept the
GUESTS FOR SHABBAT The Last World War existence of Gush Etzion, and time and again they tried to injure the
- by Chazi Raz, Principal of Midreshet Ami'ad, Jerusalem settlers and those who defended the area.
(This column is sponsored by the Education Department of World On 25 Nissan 5708, Gush Etzion was attacked by a huge crowd of
Mizrachi: See www.mizrachi.org/chinuch) Arabs, together with the Arab Legion and the British Mandate forces who
The Midrash brings a wondrous description of the meal of the still remained in the land. Their objective was to remove our forces from
righteous people in the distant future. At the time, the Almighty causes a the outposts which commanded a view of the main Jerusalem-Chevron
great battle to take place between the Shor Habar and the Leviatan. The road, which enabled us to obstruct movement on the road.
Shor, a great wild ox, tears the Leviatan with its horns, and the Leviatan After a desperate battle, the attackers managed to capture the
in turn slaughters the ox by giving it a great blow with its fins, and both of Russian monastery, on a hill overlooking Kefar Etzion (today this is the
them fall down defeated. From their flesh, the Almighty then prepares a area base for the local IDF battalion). In the evening, the monastery was
feast for the righteous people in the world to come. All those who did not recaptured by our forces. Mosh (Moshe Zilbershmit) was the last
eat flesh that was not kosher in this world can participate in this feast. commander of Gush Etzion. He was well aware that attacking the Arab
What is the meaning of this great "War of the Animals?" Why is the transportation, as he had been commanded to do, might well result in a
final reward participation in a meal, in eating? And why is the ox battle that the forces of the Gush could not win. But he felt that "this
slaughtered in this strange way? The Shor Habar in the parables of the could be compared to the battle of Metzada, with our understanding that
Midrash represents powerful and strong physical forces (Yosef), while by holding out to the very end we are helping to save Jerusalem ."
the Leviatan is a symbol of deep and mystic forces of the spirit (Yehuda). On 3 Iyar the definitive battle for Gush Etzion began. Combined
In the distant future, near the time of redemption, a great battle will forces of the Arab Legion, gangs of Arabs, and Arab irregulars gathered
take place between the forces of holiness and those of nature. As Rabbi together at night to prepare an attack. At dawn on 4 Iyar, they attacked
Kook explained, this will be a battle between the holy forces which the outposts of all the settlements in Gush Etzion. After many attempts
appear to oppress nature and between nature, which seems to be were repulsed by the defenders, enemy armored vehicles managed to
strangled by the holiness. This tremendous battle can be seen in the break through the gate of Kefar Etzion. The last radio contact from Kefar
social life in the generation of redemption. People of "nature" feel that the Etzion to Jerusalem , "The Queen has fallen," brought the news that the
holy approach strangles every spark of life and pleasure, while the kibbutz had been captured.
people of restricted "holiness" feel that nature is the stark enemy of all After the fall of Kefar Etzion, its defenders were massacred. One
their desires. In the middle ground, the people of the generation of hundred and twenty seven warriors fell on that day, and
only four remained alive. On the next day, Friday the fifth of Iyar 5708, community. The community was actually established in 5654 (1854), but
the State of Israel was established. Eventually, the Knesset decided to fifty years later, in 5704, the Jews of Hungary were in peril (during the
observe a national memorial day for the fallen soldiers of the IDF on the Second World War). It was therefore impossible to act according to the
date that Gush Etzion fell. plan, gathering responsa from a number of rabbis on various subjects of
"If there is indeed a Jewish Jerusalem ... then the first thanks of current interest. When the plan could be put into effect, after the Nazi
Israeli history and of the entire nation for this fact must go to the fighters beasts had been defeated, most of the rabbis who had written for the
of Gush Etzion..." [David Ben Gurion]. book were no longer alive. Thus, gathering the responsa into a single
We will follow the path from the hill of the Russian monastery to volume was transformed from simply a way of answering the questions
Kibbutz Kefar Etzion – two important focal points of the battle for Gush into a book in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
Etzion. From the Etzion Junction, we go west towards Kefar Etzion, and One of the authors in the book is Rabbi Yissachar Moshe Teichtahl,
we turn left towards the battalion command base, where the trail begins. who is well known for his book, "Aim Habanim Semeicha," where he
We continue on the road for about 200 meters until we cross a gravel criticizes the objections of the Chareidi world to Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael.
path from the west. We walk on the path among the orchards, until we His article in the anthology Yerushat Pleitah is on the topic, "The Mitzvah
reach the gate of Kefar Etzion and enter the kibbutz. of Living in the Holy Land ." His signature in the book implies that he was
It is highly recommended to finish the tour with a visit to the audio- still alive when it was published, which is not true, but as indicated above
visual display at the museum in Kefar Etzion, giving testimony to the that is because the preparations for the book started before the
settlement and the battles in the area (for advance reservations: 02- Holocaust arrived in Hungary . Other questions in the book involve
9935160). issues that still occupy us today: Electric light and an electric oven on
Enjoy your trip, and have a happy Yom Haatzmaut! Shabbat; using a telephone on Shabbat and a holiday; the responsibility
(Written by: Gal Erlich) of factory owners for chametz found in their factories; a Kohen who flies
A LESSON FOR THE CHILDREN The Dark Room over a cemetery in an airplane; and whether to treat newspapers as holy
- by Rabbi Yikhat Rozen, Merkaz Neria, Kiryat Malachi printed material or not. Rabbi Teichtahl's article is not the only one
Have you ever heard about the Nazi plans to make an atom bomb? involving Eretz Yisrael, even though the book was written in Hungary .
Well, as it happens, I was forced to participate in this plan. In the middle Other articles include discussions of etrogim from Eretz Yisrael and
of the Second World War, the Nazis tried to develop an atom bomb. As donations to the fund of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness as they relate to
was their usual practice, they did this by using forced labor of many settlement of the land. One of the articles discusses whether one may sit
prisoners. Together with my friends, I was forced to dig deep into the in an office without his head being covered.
bowels of a mountain and to build an underground factory which was part Rabbi Teichtahl's reply about settling Eretz Yisrael is cut off at the
of their atomic bomb plan. Who knows what these evil people would end. It is immediately followed by a list of about 350 Hungarian rabbis
have been capable of doing if they had actually managed to make such a who died in the year 5704, with a note that "this list is certainly not
bomb? They could have destroyed half the world! However, thank G-d, complete, and there are some whose name does not appear, who are
the Allied armies discovered the site of the factory and began to bomb it worthy in their own right."
night and day. The plan was stopped and the Nazis did not succeed in HOLY AND SECULAR The Fire
building a bomb. - by Rabbi Amichai Gordin, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Shaalvim High
The Germans had no sympathy at all for us, the workers. The work School
was terrible. Every day we would ride a train to the site, work many long "The first floor is already on fire," the neighbor yelled to him. "Quickly,
hours, and return weary in both body and soul. We received very little make your escape!" The Jew of faith raised his eyes from the book of
food, we worked in freezing cold with only thin garments to wear. And Tehillim. "I do not have to escape," he said calmly to his neighbor. "I
anybody who showed any sign of weakness but did not die on his own have faith that G-d will help me." The neighbor shook his head in a
was immediately sent to be killed, to be replaced by other prisoners. gesture of disbelief and quickly ran away.
One night, we waited for the train that would take us to the work site. The fire continued to spread. Terrified and anxious people scurried
We stood in freezing cold, a temperature of minus ten degrees, for an away in all directions. Only the Jew with his faith sat peacefully, while his
entire night, and the train did not arrive (perhaps the engineer had fallen lips sweetly and calmly mouthed the words of the psalms written by King
asleep). Many of the workers froze to death or were severely harmed. I David. The calm of the Jew of faith was shattered by strong pounding on
also felt that I had fever, and that evidently I had caught a case of the window. When the Jew opened the window, he saw a fireman
pneumonia. Everybody knew that there was almost no chance of wearing a helmet. "Give me a hand and we can leave here," he shouted.
surviving the infirmary in our prison camp. The "doctors" did not really try "Quickly! The flames will reach here very soon!" But the Jew refused. He
to cure the patients, and they quite often took advantage of their position warmly thanked the fireman, but he looked upwards and said, "I am not
to make them suffer. Time and again when they saw that somebody was worried, He will help me."
very weak they would simply kill him. Smoke filled the entire house, the Jew could no longer continue
Somebody advised me that the best time to go to the infirmary was reading. He gently closed the book of Tehillim, kissed it, and put it on the
after midnight . Then the Nazi doctors would go to sleep, to be replaced table. And then, suddenly, there was a tremendous noise in the air. The
by Jewish doctors. I decided to take this advice. In the middle of the Jew looked out and saw a helicopter in the sky above. "Take hold of the
night, I approached the infirmary with faltering steps, practically burning rope," a voice shouted through a loudspeaker, "Take hold of the rope."
with fever. I was greeted by a friendly Jewish doctor, by the name of Dr. But the Jew waved the pilot of the helicopter away, pointing at the sky.
Adam Kish. He took my temperature, checked me, and immediately saw And the pilot said to himself, "He must be crazy. What does he want from
how seriously ill I was. the sky?" The pilot flew circles around the building for a few more
To my surprise, the doctor did not put me into one of the beds in the minutes, until he saw that the huge fire had destroyed the entire building.
sickrooms. He looked around, and when he saw that nobody was looking When the Jew of faith arrived in heaven he was very disappointed.
he opened a side door. Behind this door there was a completely dark "Why did you not help me?" he said to the Almighty. "I trusted you and
room. I do not know what it was meant to be – perhaps a storeroom or you abandoned me!" And the Almighty replied, "I did not abandon you. I
something like that. He pushed me inside and said, "You will find some sent your neighbor to rescue you and you refused him, I sent a fireman,
sort of bed to lie down here. Soon I will bring you a glass of tea and a pill whom you also refused, and you even refused the help of the helicopter
to reduce your fever. You cannot let anybody hear you in this place! Do that I sent. I did not abandon you, you abandoned yourself!"
you understand me?" I nodded my head, and he quietly closed the door ******
behind me. I searched inside the room until I found what seemed to be a The myth of the Jew of faith is a beautiful illustration of the need to
sort of bed, and I lay down on it. act and not to depend on miracles. There is a saying, "G-d helps those
I remained in this dark place for several days, and at night Dr. Kish who help themselves." However, there are times when as a result of our
would come and take care of me devotedly. It was completely amazing to own efforts we forget the power of prayer. Often, as a result of our great
find within the horrible conditions a wonderful man, who dedicated all of attempt to act and to make changes, we forget that "if G-d does not
his efforts to saving others, putting himself in grave danger. I literally saw participate in building a house, those who make the effort to build it have
him as an angel in the form of a human being. labored in vain." In a generation when physicians know how to implant a
One night, when I left the bed to relieve myself, I bumped into the mechanical heart and scientists know how to reach outer space, perhaps
figure of another man, lying down. We spoke a few words, and he told it is time to tell the opposite story – the story of the Jew who made his
me that he was also a Jew hidden in the room. He suggested that he own attempt.
could pray to G-d for me, and he asked me my name and my mother's ******
name. Afterwards, I found out that this was the Rabbi of Zans, who was "The first floor is already on fire," the neighbor yelled to him. The Jew
also a prisoner in the same camp. who attempted on his own quickly went to the stairs and started to
The prayers of the rabbi, in addition to the wonderful treatment by the descend. Heavy smoke surrounded him. The Jew who attempted on his
doctor, helped me to regain my strength, and a few days later I went own understood that if he kept going down he would be burned to death.
back to work. That is how I survived until the end of the war. It is to the He returned to his apartment and opened a window. "Come up higher!"
credit of these two men that I was eventually set free, and I continued on he yelled to the firemen down below. "We can't," one of the firemen
to Eretz Yisrael, where I established a wonderful family. yelled back, "the fire is too close." The Jew who attempted on his own
(With thanks to Mr. Yehuda Aryeh Indig, for sharing his personal stood at the window and began to slip off the windowsill.
story) Suddenly there was a huge explosion, and the shack underneath him
PEOPLE OF THE BOOK Responsa From Within the began to burn. The Jew who attempted on his own quickly took stock of
Horrors the situation and changed his tactics. He climbed higher, reaching the
- by Rabbi Uri Dasberg, Machon Zomet roof. Using his cellphone, he told the emergency center, "Ask for a
An anthology is a literary style – a collection of literature from helicopter." It took half an hour until the helicopter arrived. When it finally
did come the situation was desperate. The helicopter sent down a rope,
different authors. In the realm of Torah, this type of book is usually found but by this time the entire building was in flames.
only in periodicals, or memorial or honorary books, where articles or
responsa are collected on various subjects by different authors. Such an When the Jew reached heaven, he was very disappointed. "Why
didn't you help me?" the Jew who attempted on his own said to G-d. "I
anthology, by the name of "Yerushat Pleitah" – Heritage of those who tried and tried, but you abandoned me." And the Almighty answered,
remained – was published in 5706 (1946) by the Talmud Society of
Budapest, in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the "You never asked me for help, I thought you were getting along on your
****** according to the Ashkenazim it is enough that it has not completely
The Six Day War transformed us into Jews who attempt on our own. cooled down).
The exhilarating victory in the war led us into thinking that we have the In addition to the above conditions (the flame has been swept clean
power and the ability to handle any problems that may arise. We felt that and the food is completely cooked), the Talmud lists additional conditions
if we act in the proper way we can overcome any difficulty. The Second to permit returning the food (Shabbat 38): The pot was originally
Lebanese War brought us down to earth. In the war, we began to removed with the intention of returning it to the flame immediately, and it
understand how much we need G-d's help and how much we must is held in the person's hand and was not put on the ground (we will clarify
depend on him. Thus, the crisis of faith that developed during the war these rules in future articles). Rashi explains the need for these
has a positive side. After all, it served to remind us that we also need the conditions as follows: If the pot is placed on the ground, "the act of the
support of heaven. previous day of putting it on a flame has been cancelled, and this is the
A CHASSIDIC THREAD Holy Pride same as if it was put on the flame from the beginning." That is, the
- by Rabbi Shlomo Schock, teacher in Yeshivat Siach and Nokdim Prep- common reason behind the two conditions is that returning the pot onto
school the flame should be considered as a continuation of the original act of
Here we are, having just finished the comprehensive activities of placing it on the flame.
Pesach, and the Torah immediately reminds us at the end of this week's It is not clear from the Talmud if all the conditions must be met at the
Torah portion, "For I am G-d, who raises you up out of the Land of Egypt, same time or not. This will be discussed more fully in future articles.
in order to be your G-d, and you shall be holy..." [Vayikra 11:44].
Even if we have managed for a few days to forget the connection
between the pair of concepts "freedom" and "you shall be holy," concepts
2 - MACHON MEIR
MACHON MEIR http://www.machonmeir.org.il/english/main_id.asp?leng=English&len_id=2
which together will help us continue our lives, the Torah comes to remind FROM THE WORLD OF RABBI AVRAHAM KOOK
us as follows. When we sit down at the Pesach Seder and everything
seems to be fine, and as free people we are making our way towards the (First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael)
freedom for which we yearn, we must look at the great experience within “The rebirth of our people has to be complete. It has to encompass
just a few days and ask ourselves: Are we still continuing with our physical and spiritual rebirth, rebirth of the sacred and the secular.
longing for freedom, or have we once again become slaves, as we were Indeed, the whole purpose of the secular rebirth is to bring us to spiritual
at first? rebirth, to the rebirth of the holy.” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, p. 336)
Rabbi Shlomo Karlibach expands our possibility of looking at MESSAGE FOR TODAY: “G-D! MAY YOUR FAVOR
freedom, with a claim that it depends on the strength of our holiness, REST UPON US.”
basing his approach on the above verse. "And you shall be holy – Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Everybody should know that 'when I was born the Almighty gave me The moment of climax for which all the people were waiting after the
'holy pride' in order to act in the way that I know is correct. When I do Exodus and the receiving of the Torah was the moment when the Divine
something because of the reaction and the approach of other people, I Presence was supposed to reveal itself at the end of the Tabernacle’s
have harmed the holy pride, and the punishment is for me to be a slave erection and the sacrifices of the eighth day of Installation. The longed-
to other human beings. Rabbi Nachman presents this question in the for moment arrived, but the Divine Presence did not descend nor reveal
strongest possible terms: Do you serve the Almighty or other people? itself. The result was that Aaron was embarrassed and the Israelites
There is no middle ground... were mortified, frustrated and sad. As Rashi comments (Leviticus 9:23):
"Do not try to convince me that you serve other people because you “When Aaron saw that they had offered all the sacrifices, and all the
love them. Do not fool yourself! You listen to other people all the time rituals had been performed, and still the Divine Presence had not
because you cannot stand on your own two feet! And that is the truth. descended for Israel, he was pained, and thought, ‘I know that G-d is
But if you have holy pride which gives you the strength to stand up angry with me and it is because of me that the Divine Presence did not
against the rest of the world, you can really love the entire world. That is descend!’ He said to Moses: ‘Moses! Your efforts have resulted only in
because then you are not their slave. Have you ever seen a slave who my entering the Tabernacle and being embarrassed!’ Moses immediately
really and truly loves his master? entered with him, and they begged for mercy, and the Divine Presence
"Rabbi Nachman adds that the world itself really only loves one who descended for Israel.”
has the strength to be holy. If you are strong enough to stand on your And what was their blessing to the people (Leviticus 9:23)? They
own two feet, and nothing will shake your determination, then 'the world' said, “G-d! May your favor rest upon us!” (Psalm 90:17), and, “May it be
will really love you, and other people want to be close to you. Your will to cause Your Divine Presence to rest on our handiwork.”
"The Mashiach will achieve the highest possible level of not being Immediately, “G-d's glory was revealed to all the people. Fire came forth
enslaved to other people, of not listening to what others want him to do. from before G-d and consumed the burnt offering and the choice parts on
And he will therefore have the strength to take people out of exile. Why the altar. When the people saw this, they raised their voices in praise and
are we not at the level where we can take people out of exile? To our threw themselves on their faces” (Leviticus 9:23-24). In other words, the
great sorrow, we do not have the trait of 'holy pride,' that is all..." people mood was transformed 180 degrees, and they rejoiced and
HALACHIC REASONING Putting a Pot Back on a praised G-d.
Hotplate From here we may derive that it is not enough to erect the
- by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Rabbi of Southern Alon Shevut and a Tabernacle and to bring offerings. Rather, we must seek G-d’s mercy for
teacher in Yeshivat Har Etzion His favor to rest upon us. This recalls the following story: “Rabbi
According to the Mishna (Shabbat, Chapter 3), the embers must be Yishmael ben Elisha entered the Holy of Holies to burn incense and he
removed from a flame and it must be swept clean before food can be put saw “the L-rd of hosts sitting on His exalted throne. G-d said to him,
on it on Shabbat. As we have seen in previous articles, the Talmud gives ‘Yishmael, my son! Bless me!’ He answered, ‘May it be Your will that
two ways to understand the Mishna (it might refer to putting food on the Your mercy should vanquish Your anger, and You should treat Your sons
flame before Shabbat, or alternatively to returning food to the flame mercifully and go beyond the letter of the law for them.’ G-d then nodded
during Shabbat). All the commentators agree that in order to return food in ascent.” This source serves to teach that “we should not take a
to a flame on Shabbat, the embers must have been removed and it must layman’s blessings lightly” (Berachot 7a).
be swept clean. This is clear from the Tosafot (Shabbat 36b), the Today, how fortunate we are and how good our lot that we have
Ramban, the Rashba, and others. merited to be part of a generation in which the Jewish People are rising
Why is it prohibited to put food back onto a flame that has not been up to rebirth after two thousands years of exile. We see with our own
swept clean? eyes the ingathering of the exiles and the flourishing of our country. The
The RAN writes that this is because putting food back on the flame Third Temple is being rebuilt before our very eyes. We are still at the
gives the appearance of cooking (15b). The same reason is given by the very height of a process at the end of which most certainly the Divine
Ritva (36b) and the Rashba (40b). However, Rabeinu Tam writes that Presence will descend and reveal itself to all Israel, just as it did at the
this prohibition is a rabbinical decree, out of fear that the person might Tabernacle’s erection on the eighth day of the Installment, and just as it
stir the embers (Sefer Hayashar 235). did with the building of the First Temple in King Solomon’s day.
In the PAMAG (318:24), it is written that the reason for the prohibition Until then we must recite the prayer of Moses, the man of G-d, “O G-
is that this gives the appearance of cooking, but while the Mishna Berura d, may Your favor rest upon us! Establish for us the work of our hands,
agrees (253:37), he writes in Shaar Tzion (36) that according to Rabeinu the work of our hands establish” (Psalm 90:17).
Tam the reason is a fear that one will stir the embers. May the work of our hands be complete. Let it not – G-d forbid –
If we remove the controls of the gas on a burner before Shabbat or cause mishap. And may the result be to have G-d’s favor upon us, G-d’s
cover them with tape, does this give the flame the status of having Presence and His consolation (see Rashi and Metzudat David, ibid.).
removed the embers and sweeping the fire clean? With blessings for a good summer for all of Israel,
We saw in previous articles with respect to placing food on a flame Looking forward to complete salvation,
before Shabbat that putting tape on the controls of the gas gives the Shabbat Shalom!
flame a status of having been swept clean. Is this also true with respect “MORONIC STUDENT”
to putting food back onto a flame? According to Rabeinu Tam we can Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
assume that this is permitted, because there is no longer any possibility “When I was a pupil in elementary school I failed my I.Q. tests
of "stirring the flame." However, according to the RAN and the Ritva, it miserably. I had a fear of tests, and seeing the psychologist come into
would seem to be prohibited, because it still gives the appearance of the classroom to have us do a group I.Q. test sent me into an acute
cooking. Since this reason was accepted by the PAMAG and the Mishna panic attack. By the time he announced, ‘Begin!’ I would already be
Berura, one should be stringent. That is, covering the controls with tape incapable of answering almost any of the questions. I can still remember
is not enough to permit returning food onto a flame, and it is necessary to being in the first questions and hearing other students turning over page
cover the flame itself or to use an electric hotplate. after page of the test. For me, the game was over before it began, and
We should note that food can be returned to a flame on Shabbat only the results were always the same: I was the loser. You failed the test and
if it has been completely cooked. Thus, all the possibilities that have lost the game, and the result was that you were branded a moron.”
been discussed in the past refer only to solid food that is completely “One doesn’t have to be a genius to understand the repercussions.
cooked (even if it is cold) and to liquid that is still hot (according to the No one has any expectations of a moron. In my first years of school, the
Sephardim, it must be hot enough that a hand will be scalded by it, and teachers did not expect me to achieve anything. Like many other
students, I, too, longed to please my teachers, so I fulfilled
their expectations. I was a terrible student during the first three years of only because they issued halachic rulings in the presence of their master
school. The teachers were not disappointed. They were pleased that I Moses.” Our sages add:
met their expectations. I was happy that they were happy. We were all “Aaron’s sons died for four reasons: for coming too close [i.e., into
happy. Yet I was the loser in the game of life… the holy of holies], for their offering [they brought an uncommanded
“Still, I was lucky, more than many other students. In fourth grade, at offering], for their unauthorized fire and for not talking it over with each
age nine, my teacher was Miss Alexa. While my previous teachers were other.”
older and entrenched in their views as far as tests, Miss Alexa had Others in that Midrash said:
finished school recently and was unacquainted with I.Q. tests, or perhaps “Aaron’s sons died for four reasons: because they were intoxicated,
uninterested in their results. She believed in my ability to achieve much they lacked the priestly vestments, they entered the Tabernacle without
more than I had been achieving, and she demanded it of me. She washing their hands and feet, and they were each childless.”
demanded even more than that – and she received it! Why? Because I Really there is no contradiction between the Torah text and the
really wanted to please her, even more than my previous teachers… Midrash. The “unauthorized fire” was the straw that broke the camel’s
“Miss Alexa wasn’t surprised at all, but I was astounded when my back, but other sins had preceded it.
achievements surpassed all the expectations of those previous teachers. The sin of Nadav and Avihu did not begin on the eighth day of the
I quickly became an excellent student, and that’s what I was from then Installation. Even beforehand, at the Sinai Revelation, they set their
on.” sights on attaining status they didn’t deserve, as the Talmud teaches
The writer is Professor Robert Sternberg, one of the most prominent (Sanhedrin 52): “Moses and Aaron were walking along, Nadav and Avihu
psychologists of our day, and chairman of the American Psychological were walking behind them, and all of Israel were behind them. Said
Association. (Quoted from his book, “Successful Intelligence”, 1997, Nadav to Avihu, ‘When will these two old men die so that you and I can
page 15. lead the generation?’” The Midrash brings a different ending: “… so that
He further writes, “In my second year at a community college, I we can exercise control over the public.” Truthfully, there is no
sought the advice of the Deacon of Yale University regarding my future contradiction between the two versions. The Talmud notes what they
plans. I told him I was interested in continuing my psychological studies. were saying for public consumption, whereas the Midrash reveals what
He hinted that such plans seemed too ambitious for me. He thought I they were thinking. It wasn’t leadership they wanted but control. Rashi
was a technician by nature, and that I should therefore choose a therefore wrote, “They died because they were seeking authority and
professional route suited to the intellectual abilities of a technician. I was control.” The reason for the sin of Nadav and Avihu can be understood
insulted, and my response was, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I continued my by way of the difference between them and between Moses and Aaron.
psychological studies… Miss Alexa was a turning point in my life. Had I Moses and Aaron were not looking for power. In fact, they sought not to
had another teacher in Fourth Grade, I would probably be cleaning the harm one another. As the Midrash teaches (Tanchuma Shemot 24):
offices of the university and not presiding over them.” (ibid., page 18). “You might think that Moses was afraid of taking on leadership, yet
*** “In Fourth Grade they discovered that I was dyslexic, and since he really only wished to show Aaron honor. Moses said, ‘Before my
then I thought that I was a moron and almost didn’t learn a thing until my emergence, Aaron was their prophet for eighty years in Egypt. Shall I
second year of post-high school yeshiva. Then I decided to learn now sadden him by trespassing on his domain?’ That is why Moses did
Masechet Berachot from start to finish and to make an outline of it. To not seek the position… G-d answered him, ‘Your brother Aaron won’t be
my surprise I was successful. It became clear to me that perhaps I wasn’t sad over this, but happy. See here, he’s coming to meet you’: ‘He is
so dumb. Since then I have enjoyed learning Torah” (name withheld). setting out to meet you, and when he sees you, his heart will be glad’
*** A candidate for officer training failed his preliminary testing. (Exodus 4:14). ‘He won’t just say he is happy. He’ll really be happy. In
Generally that precludes one’s continuing in the course, but he didn’t fact, he’ll be happier than he says.”
give up. He got himself recommendations and tried again, but he again Nadav and Avihu, by contast, offered a different model for
failed. Even so, he was stubborn. He took a breather, then he tried a leadership, in which selfish self-advancement was their main concern,
third time – and failed. Yet the fourth time he passed, and in the course even if it involved trampling anyone in their path. They could even walk
of time he became the I.D.F.’s “number 1 soldier” – the commander-in- behind their father and uncle and say, “When will these two old men die
chief of the Israel Defense Forces, Shaul Mofaz. so that you and I can lead the generation?” When they looked back and
*** Ascending in holiness… saw all of Israel walking behind them, they arrogantly deceived
“I lay in bed and my parents thought I had already gone to sleep, and themselves into thinking that the public was walking behind them
I heard my father tell my mother, ‘The teacher complained again that our because of them, to honor them. When they looked ahead and saw “the
son ran away from the Talmud Torah to play ball instead of learning. two old men” walking before them, it was clear to them that Moses and
There’ll be no choice but for me to take him with me to work. At least he’ll Aaron were simply impeding their advancement. They therefore were in
serve some purpose.’ I jumped out of bed and I said to my parents, ‘Shall a hurry to get rid of them. Yet whoever is unfaithful to his parents’
I remain an ignoramus my whole life? That cannot be! Mother! Father! I generation will ultimately betray his own brother as well, as it says,
want to learn Torah! I promise that starting today I will learn seriously. “‘Aaron’s son each took his firepan’ (Leviticusl 10:1): Each of his own
Give me one more chance! I’ll prove that I mean what I say!” (related accord. They didn’t talk it over with each other.” When the test came,
happily by the Netziv of Volozhin [Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin] at each separated from the other and looked out only for himself. A
the end of his commentary “Ha’amek Davar” on the She’eltot). leadership that thinks only about itself has no loyalty to its partners, and
*** The following is told about Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid, author of obviously will scorn its other commitments.
“When our master was about eighteen years old, he still didn’t know
a thing, and he would engage in juvenile pranks. Then one time his 3 - NCYI
NCYI Weekly Divrei Torah, From: http://www.youngisrael.org/
saintly father, Rabbenu Shmuel was teaching his students Halachah, and Rabbi Chaim Landau
our master, while throwing arrows, ran into his father’s house of study. Associate YICR, Ner Tamid Congregation, Baltimore, MD
The students became angry and asked their teacher, ‘You and your The results of arguing with G-d can be quite disastrous, as Moshe
father and all your ancestors were great Torah luminaries. How can you Rabbeinu was to find out at the beginning of this week’s parshah. The
raise your son to be wild man?’ Then Rabbenu Shmuel called his son dedication of the Mishkan forms the opening event of Shemini, and we
and said to him, ‘Yehuda, would you like to learn?’ and his son answered are told that on the eighth day Moshe summons his brother Aharon
yes.” (Story of Rabbenu Yehuda HaChassid, page 2, “Sefer together with his sons to prepare the latter for induction as Cohen Gadol.
HaChassidim”, Margoliyot Edition). We are left ignorant as to when this eighth day was on the calendar – in
In the end he became a great Torah luminary. fact, this is the subject of an argument that involves Tennaim and
“AN UNAUTHORIZED FIRE, NOT COMMANDED BY Rishonim, and the dates being argued are the 1st of Nissan and the 8th
G-D” of Nissan. Be that as it may, it is still on the eighth day that the ceremony
Rabbi Yaakov Halevy Filber- Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir climaxes with Aharon’s official induction.
When we set out to deal with the death of Aaron’s sons we must Why on the eighth day, and not on the first? And shouldn’t, if anyone
remember that we are not dealing with simple people but with saints. As become the Cohen Gadol, the appointment of Moshe Rabbeinu be the
the Jerusalem Talmud states (Yoma 1:1): more fitting candidate? This brings us to where we began. For many
“Why does the Torah mention the death of Aaron’s two sons on Yom chapters ago, in Parshat Shemot, G-d wishes to appoint Moshe to go to
Kippur? To teach you that just as Yom Kippur atones for Israel, so does Pharoah and argue for the release of the Jewish people from Egypt.
the death of the saintly atone for Israel.” Moshe avers, and wishes to turn down the Divine offer. G-d insists in His
Furthermore, regarding the verse, “It is there that I will commune with opinion, and Moshe insists on his. For seven days there is an argument
the Israelites, and it shall be sanctified through My glory” (Exodus 29:43), between the Divine and the one to become the greatest leader of the
they added, Jewish people as to whether that title would ever evolve based on
“This verse was said to Moses on Sinai, but remained unclear to him Moshe’s stubborn refusals. Finally G-d relents and informs Moshe that
until Nadav and Avihu died. Moses said to Aaron, ‘Aaron, my brother, G- Aharon will speak for him…..but that as a consequence, Moshe would
d told me that He would in the future commune with Israel and be lose the position of becoming the Kohen Gadol of the Jewish people.
sanctified through them in that sanctuary, by way of a great man. I Have you ever read in the newspapers the recipients of the latest
thought either you or I would be that vehicle. Now your two sons have draws of the Powerball and MegaMillions sweepstakes? One can only
turned out to be more holy than us.’ When Aaron heard this and feel happy for them, and hope they will not allow the money to destroy
understand how intimate his sons were with G-d, he remained silent, and their lives. But if someone were to say to you that you would have won
reaped a fine reward for his silence.” the lottery ticket, but for the fact that……Well, never having ever had that
Seemingly, the fire they offered was not a sin, for the Halachah money or the experience of being a winner does not make much of an
states that “Although fire descends from Heaven, it is still a mitzvah for impression to being told what you have lost, for never having had it, I
man to bring fire, as it says, ‘Aaron’s sons shall place fire on the altar’ don’t know what I lost. But had I been the recipient of the MegaMillion
(Leviticus 1:7)” (Yoma 21b). Indeed, according to the simple reading of lottery, received the stratospheric check, dreamt of all the things I was
the verse, their main sin was not their bringing fire, but their doing so now going to do with my prize, only to be told 8 days later that there was
without having been commanded: “an unauthorized fire, not commanded a terrible mistake, and I would have to return all the winnings………now I
by G-d” (Leviticus 10:1). Our sages in the Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 20) know what I am going to lose, for it was in my hand, I felt it, I experienced
reveal to us that beyond the sin explicit in the verse, there were it, I dreamt, and I planned, and now it’s all going to go!!
additional reasons for the death of Aaron’s sons: “Aaron’s sons died
That is the meaning of “Va-ye-hi ba-yom hash-mini”: The eighth day the Israelites made a Sacred Space – an improved world – in – miniature
of the inauguration of Aharon into his position is a reflection of the eight – in which G-d could dwell together with humanity: "They shall make for
days Moshe argued with G-d. But in order for Moshe to realize what he a Sanctuary so that I may dwell in their midst." (Exodus Trumah).
would be losing from not having been appointed with the position was to Fire is the human response to G-d's light. But fire is a double-edged
actually experience the position of Cohen Gadol, and this he did for the sword; it can strengthen and purify, or it can subvert and petrify; it can
first 7 days…and then on the 8th, he divested himself of the honor and bring light and warmth, or it can bring cannon fire and nuclear
transferred it now to his brother. For you only know what you have truly destruction. The blessing over fire, which attributes fire to its ultimate
lost when you’ve had it in the first place to experience, and embrace it as Divine source, must remind us that we must serve G-d in accordance
part of your life. with His Divine laws, that we dare not remove our creativity from its
And this is the meaning of the Midrash Shemuel, when we are told in Divine direction. To do so would be a repetition of Adam's original sin.
Pirkei Avot that certain sins, “motai-in et ha-adam min ha-aolam.” The G-d sent down His Divine light and fire as a sign that He accepted our
world from which one is being extracted here is the world to come. But Sanctuary, the work of human hands – which carried out to perfection the
what’s the person doing in olam ha-boh in the first place if he has Divine architectural directions. Then Nadav and Avihu came along with
committed these terrible sins? Answers the Midrash that the sinner can "a strange fire, which they had not been commanded to bring…." Yes,
only realize what he has lost when he goes into olam ha-boh and we must use our creativity in the service of G-d to perfect ourselves and
experiences it. Now that he knows what it is all about, he is then taken our world – but only in accordance with His will, in accordance with the
out of it and will remember for an eternity what could have been his, if limits He has placed on Divine Service, so that we never fall into the trap
only….. of bringing the strange fires of Moloch (Deut 18:10) and the immoral
And that is the meaning of “Va-ye-hi bayom hash-mini”….for, if only wars of Jihad. Human hands created fire – but human hands must use
Moshe Rabbeinu hadn’t argued so much and so long with G-d and had that fire to recreate and not to destroy. And so we look at our fingers as
accepted the role as offered, then the position of Kohen Gadol would we make the blessing over fire every Saturday night, the beginning of our
have been his for life. For the punishment of refusing, he gets to taste the weekly "eighth day." We are telling ourselves that everything – the entire
role, feel what it’s like, and just as you are about to fall in love with it, future of our lives and our world – lies in our own hands!
then divest yourself from it and give it to the next chosen. For the
greatest punishment is not what you never experience in life – but what
you have experienced, enjoyed…only to have it taken away from you. 7 - HAR ETZION (VBM)
Virtual Beit Midrash, Alon Shevut, Gush Etzion 90433 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
Home Page: http://www.vbm-torah.org/
4 – RAV RISKIN
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin http://www.ohrtorahstone.org.il/
A) INTRODUCTION TO PARSHAT HASHEVUAH
ECHOES OF TRAGEDY
Efrat, Israel – One of the most moving ritual experiences of the Jewish By Rav Michael Hattin
week is the havdallah (lit. separation) ceremony, when we intone the INTRODUCTION
sweet –sad melody chanting. "Behold, the Lord of my salvation in Whom Parashat Shemini begins with the completion of the Mishkan’s
I trust and thus I do not fear," as we bid a sorrowful and faithful farewell dedication. After the building elements had been carefully assembled
to the warm comfort of the fleeting Shabbat amidst wine, spice and fire. It according to exacting specifications, after all of the precious vessels had
is as if the good feeling which emerges from within us as we divide the been constructed and placed in their correct locations, after Aharon and
wine and the sweet smelling fragrance of the spices are necessary his sons had been enrobed in their regal and highly ornamented
refreshment and re-invigoration of our spirits as we are sensing the vestments, a seven-day period of inauguration followed. During each of
leave-taking of the Sabbath Queen. And as we intone the blessing over those seven days, Aharon and his sons ministered before God,
the fire – our Sages teach us that fire was created by Adam on that first, presenting sacrifices consisting of a sin offering, a burnt offering and a
primordial Saturday night – we customarily look at our fingernails. Why peace offering, as well as special loaves associated with the latter. The
our fingernails? fragrant anointing oil and the sacrificial blood both figured prominently in
The most rational explanation is that we can see in the reflection of the service, with the vessels as well as Aharon and his sons receiving
the light on one side of our fingers and not on the other the actual power ritual sprinklings of both.
of light to provide enhanced vision. The early commentary (Rishon) On the eighth day, Moshe summoned Aharon and his sons, as well
Rabbi Menahem Meiri (citing the Gaonim) suggests that when Adam was as the elders of Israel. He said to Aharon: take for yourself an
first created, his entire body was covered by nails as a kind of protective unblemished calf as a sin offering as well as an unblemished ram as
coat; as a result of his having eaten of the forbidden fruit of knowledge of a burnt offering, and bring them before God. Speak to the people of
good and evil, this protective coat was removed – with only the finger- Israel and say to them: take a goat as a sin offering as well as an
nails remaining as a reminder of his earlier more protected and invincible unblemished calf and unblemished year-old lamb as burnt offerings.
state. Since we are soon to intone the prayer for the speedy arrival of Also, an ox and a ram as peace offerings, to sacrifice before God,
Elijah the Prophet, herald of redemption , we are in effect requesting a with a grain offering mixed with oil, for today God will appear to you!
return to the more exalted and guarded human estate in Eden. (VaYikra 9:1-4).
I would like to expand on this interpretation, and at the same time Aharon and his sons dutifully do so, and soon the last sacrifices of
attempt to understand the incomprehensible account of the tragic death the service are completed. Thus it is that the lengthy and arduous
of Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aaron, the High Priest. Our Biblical process that had humbly began some six months earlier with the call to
portion of Shemini opens, "And it happened on the eighth day…," with the people to contribute precious materials for the construction of God’s
Rashi commenting, "the eight day of the consecration ceremonies of the house, is now concluded joyously and without mishap. Fittingly, no
Sanctuary, the first day of the month of Nissan, the very day on which the doubt filled with a mixture of both pride as well as relief, Moshe and
Sanctuary was erected…" And it was on this very eighth day – in the Aharon bless the entire congregation and God’s consuming fire then
midst of the exultant celebration following the descent of a Divinely – descends:
sent fire which consumed the offering on the altar as a sign of heavenly A fire went forth from before God, it consumed the sacrifices upon
acceptance – that Nadav and Avihu were also consumed by a Divine fire! the altar – the burnt offering and the fats – and when the people saw
What occasioned such Divine wrath, and what is the significance of the it they cried out, and prostrated themselves upon their faces…(9:24).
eighth day, which gives the Biblical portion its very name? The "eight But the joy of the people and their leaders on a job well done, their
day" is indeed fraught with significance. Let us return to the initial seven euphoria at the awesome sight of the Divine glory filling the silent spaces
days of creation, when the Almighty created the heavens and the earth, and infusing them with His presence, is terribly short lived. Scarcely had
and all of their hosts. On the sixth day He created the human being and the fire descended from on high to consume the last of the inaugural
placed him – Adam together with his wife Eve – in the Garden of Eden. sacrifices when tragedy strikes, unexpectedly and ironically ushered in
The first couple sinned by plucking the fruit of Knowledge of good and by the over enthusiasm of the ministering priests themselves:
evil from off the tree and eating it, by severing good and evil from its The two sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, each took their firepans,
Divine source, thereby subjectivizing morality. The good and the evil, placed within them fire and upon that incense, and they offered
what is good and what is evil, became no longer rooted in G-d and Divine before God an unfamiliar fire that He had not commanded them (to
objective morality; good and evil became what the individual human present). A fire went forth from before God and consumed them, and
being would think is good for him/her, and or evil for him/her. That is why they died before God (VaYikra 10:1-2).
our mystical literature refers to Adam's sin as his having "severed the TAKING NOTE OF BIBLICAL PARALLELS
plantings" (Kitzetz banetiyot), removed the seed from its source. And so In the past, we have considered the transgression of the sons of
Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. Then came the Aharon from the point of view of the Rabbinic sources, noting along the
first Sabbath Day, the period when each individual can find refuge and way that the ancient Rabbis, as well as their medieval counterparts who
comfort under the wings of the Divine Presence, the day when the much later reconsidered the narratives, achieved no unanimity on the
Almighty especially extends his arms to embrace the penitent. Indeed the matter. Some of them assumed the worst, connecting the indiscretion of
Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah) teaches us that Adam recited the Psalm for Nadav and Avihu with the Torah’s prohibition on intoxicating drink that
the Sabbath Day for the first time, genuinely uplifted by the immediately follows the section (9:8-11), while others saw in their act a
understanding that there truly existed a road back to Eden and that it was brazen attempt to undermine the authority of Moshe. Some related their
paved with stones of repentance and repair. And then came the first fall to the specifics of the fiery incense offering that often carries with it
Saturday night, the beginning of the first eighth day "This was the first special perils, while others perceived the downfall of Nadav and Avihu to
time that darkness began to descend upon the world…. And the Almighty be a function of their unbridled but misplaced spiritual spontaneity that
prepared for Adam two flint stones; Adam rubbed them together and refused to recognize Divinely enjoined constraints on the service of God.
there emerged fire…." (Bereishit Rabbah 11,2). Hence the first eighth is This week, we will consider the matter through the lens of the
parallel to the very first day: on the first day G-d created light (ohr) for the Tanakh itself, by comparing and contrasting our section with another
world, and on the eighth day Adam created light and warmth (eish) for haunting account preserved in the second book of Samuel. The linkage
the world. But it is much deeper than that. On the seven days of between the two passages is already very ancient, for the designated
creation, G-d created a world for the human being to live in; on the eighth haftara reading for our Parasha is none other than the story of the Ark’s
day, Adam descended – through fire – how he could repair that world, relocation to the city of David recounted in Second Samuel, Chapter 6:1-
improve that world, re-create that world as a true picture of the Divine. 19. Readers may want to peruse that section now in order to familiarize
And if on the primordial seven days of creation, G-d made a world for themselves with the narrative. The broader context of the account
humanity, on the eighth day of the consecration of the Sanctuary properly begins with the first chapter of the second book of
Samuel. It is of course the story of David’s ascent to the throne of Israel At this point of our investigation a general comment is in order. We
after the untimely demise of Shaul, Israel’s first king and David’s have noted on more than one occasion during the course of our studies
nemesis, on the slopes of Mount Gilbo’a in battle against the Philistines the overlapping nature of Biblical narratives, such that one passage in
(end of first book of Samuel). one book is sometimes closely echoed by another passage in another
David’s rise to majesty is by no means straightforward, with the book that is frequently far removed from the first in terms of chronology
lengthy transition marked by serious political instability and lethal or content. It may be tempting to ascribe such similarities to literary
intertribal conflict. In the end, David prevails, and in one of his first acts conventions that are purely stylistic, as if certain events must always be
as king over all of Israel, he conquers Jerusalem and its citadel from the described in accordance with specific predetermined standard
hands of its Canaanite/Yevusite defenders and designates it as his new techniques. It is the assumption of this author, however, that such
capital (Second Shemuel Chapter 5). In so doing, he stresses the need parallels are deliberate invitations for cross interpretation, as if the later
for national reconciliation, for the ancient city straddles the borders of text comes not only to provide us with its own particular and pertinent
Yehuda to the south and Binyamin to the north, the tribal representatives message, but to shed light on the earlier text as well.
of the rival houses of Leah and Rachel respectively. At the same time, Methodologically, then, the technique of utilizing what is sometimes
David returns to an ancient site of Israelite pilgrimage and encounter with termed Biblical intertextuality involves at least two discrete steps. The
God, for at Jerusalem God had called upon Avraham to sacrifice his first of these is to note the parallels in the first place, which is often a
beloved son Yitzchak, and the aged father was prepared to hearken to direct function of a close literary reading. These parallels may be
His word (see Breisheet 22:2, 14; Divrei HaYamim 2:3:1). syntactical (relating to grammatical structure), lexicographical (relating to
In a similar vein, one might say that the background to our narrative, specific word forms), or thematic (relating to larger ideas or messages).
the account of the people of Israel contributing their precious materials But taking note of them is not enough. We must then ponder the
for the undertaking of the Mishkan, is also an early story of the attempt to significance of these reverberations and seek to understand how they
overcome tribal divisions by engaging in an enterprise that is decidedly assist us in addressing the overarching questions that the primary text
national in character. At the same time, the objective of the undertaking often raises but rarely answers in a direct way.
is the construction of a shrine that will serve as the locus for the To address our specific example, the account of the death of ‘Uza is
encounter with God, much as David’s choice of Jerusalem will ultimately not simply another tragic tale that literarily attempts to heighten the
play itself out with the building of the Temple on one of its prominent pathos of the event by consciously evoking the death of the sons of
peaks by his son Shelomo. Aharon. It is much more. It constitutes the earliest INTERPRETATION
Having conquered Jerusalem and designated it as his capital, David of the death of Aharon’s sons, providing us with a response to what
now relocates the Ark of the Covenant from Kiryat Ye’arim in the Judean otherwise would remain our Parasha’s most perplexing mystery: why is it
foothills, where it had uneventfully resided since the destruction of the that Nadav and Avihu perish at all? What is the nature of their
Mishkan at Shilo by the Philistines quite some time before (see the indiscretion and of the “strange fire’ that they present? Why is God’s
opening chapters of the first book of Samuel). The similarities between wrath kindled against them at just such a time, when all of Israel
the general contours of both stories is thus even more pronounced, for celebrates the dedication of the building that is at the very core of the
the description of the dedication of the Mishkan that is the subject of our God-man encounter?
Parasha may also be primarily regarded as the process of providing Next time, we will continue our investigation by considering the
shelter for the Ark of the Covenant that is its most precious vessel, for account of ‘Uza’s death more closely. This will necessarily involve
the golden keruvs that protectively and provocatively hover upon it serve raising some of the points of contrast to our Parasha and not only the
as the locus for God’s communication to Moshe and to the people of similarities that we have noted. We will then return to our Parasha and
Israel (see Shemot 25:22). ascertain whether reading it anew through the lens of the account of
THE TRAGIC DEATH OF ‘UZA ‘Uza’s death is able to shed light on the matter of Nadav and Avihu and
And just as our story of the Mishkan’s joyous inauguration is their own tragic end.
unexpectedly marked by the tragic death of Aharon’s two sons, so too TO BE CONTINUED
David’s festive relocation of the Ark is punctuated by disaster: Shabbat Shalom
David gathered the choicest men in Israel, thirty thousand of them. Note: our essay on Parashat VaYakhel-Pekudei constituted the first
David and all of the people that were with him from Ba’ale Yehuda part of an investigation into the genealogy of Bezalel the son of Uri and
arose in order to bring up from there the Ark of the Lord, upon which the grandson of Chur, who was the chief artisan of the Mishkan. While I
was called the name of the God of Israel who dwells upon the had hoped to complete that investigation last week, the Pesach holiday
cherubs. They caused the Ark of the Lord to ride upon a new wagon intervened. We will therefore return to the topic of Chur during the week
and they brought it up from the house of Avinadav upon the hill. ‘Uza of Parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim.
and Achyo the sons of Avinadav were driving the new wagon. They B) INDEPTH PARSHAT SHEVUAH
brought it up from the house of Avinadav that was upon the hill with EACH MAN HIS FIRE PAN:
the Ark of the Lord, and Achyo walked before the Ark. David and all ON THE DEATHS OF NADAV AND AVIHU
of the people of Israel were playing before God with all manner of By Rav Chanoch Waxman
instruments of cypress wood, with lyres and harps, with drums, with I
tambourines and with cymbals. The deaths of Nadav and Avihu constitute one of the more
They reached the threshing floor of Nachon, and ‘Uza mysterious events of Sefer Vayikra. The Torah presents the story in
reached out for the Ark of the Lord and grasped it, for the oxen had no more than two short verses:
slipped. God’s wrath was kindled against ‘Uza and the Lord smote him And Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu, each took his fire pan, put
there for the indiscretion, so that he died there with the Ark of the Lord. fire in it, and laid incense on it; and offered before the Lord a
David was upset about God’s outburst (“PaRaTZ”) against ‘Uza, and he strange fire, which He had not commanded them. And a fire went
therefore called that place Peretz ‘Uza, until this very day. David feared out from the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the
God on that day, and he said “how shall the Ark of God come to me?” Lord. (10:1-2)
David did not want to relocate the Ark of God to him to the city of David, Although the Torah does refer to the offering of "a strange fire that
and David instead diverted it to the house of ‘Oved Edom the Gittite. The had not been commanded," the underlying reason for the deaths of
Ark of God remained at the house of ‘Oved Edom the Gittite for three Nadav and Avihu, the cause of the violent punishment they suffer,
months, and God blessed ‘Oved Edom and his entire household. It was remains obscure, hidden behind the veil of the Torah's brief account.
told to David that God had blessed ‘Oved Edom and all that was his In contrast to the opacity of the Torah's brief presentation,
because of the Ark of the Lord, so that David went and joyously brought Midrash Vayikra Rabba (20:6) elaborates no less than twelve distinct
up the Ark of the Lord from the house of ‘Oved Edom to the city of explanations for the deaths of Nadav and Avihu. The possibilities
David…(Shemuel II, 6:1-12). include their having entered the holy of holies without being
Thus far, we have a series of striking similarities. In both narratives, commanded, having been drunk at the time of their offering, or having
the broader context concerns the challenge of forging disparate tribes delivered a halakhic ruling in front of their master Moshe.
into a unified nation. In both stories, the centrality of the Ark of the This just sharpens the problem of the text's brevity. The plethora
Covenant and its relocation is highlighted, and in both accounts a of midrashic explanations merely highlights the lack of clear
national celebration of dedication is unexpectedly clouded by a explanation in the text of the Torah. If so, what exactly constitutes the
catastrophe that is magnified in the eyes of the reader by its seeming sin of Nadav and Avihu, the "real cause" of their deaths?
inexplicability. Drawing more specific parallels, we note that both II
tragedies revolve around brothers (Nadav and Avihu vs. ‘Uza and Achyo) Let us begin by taking a look at the aftermath of the deaths of
who are integral to the process of the inauguration and who perish while Nadav and Avihu. Immediately after reporting the deaths of Nadav
the eyes of all of Israel are upon them. Their respective fathers, namely and Avihu, the Torah presents a strange "conversation" between
Aharon in our Parasha and Avinadav in the book of Shemuel, remain Moshe and Aharon:
outside of the relevant narrative, peripheral to the account of their Then Moshe said to Aharon, This is what the Lord said: "I will be
children’s untimely death and detached or mute in their response. sanctified in those that come near to Me (bi-kerovai ekadeish),
It is of course this same Avinadav the father of ‘Uza and Achyo who and before all the people I will be glorified (ekaveid)." And Aharon
provides us with the most tantalizing literary link between the accounts, was silent. (10:3)
for it is patently obvious that his name is a simple composite of NADAV In fact, this "conversation" is not a conversation at all. Aharon
and AVIhu the sons of Aharon! The author of the account in Second responds with silence. Apparently, Moshe's claim that the deaths of
Shemuel, by providing us with what otherwise would have been an Nadav and Avihu somehow conform with God's statement that He will
extraneous piece of genealogy, thus alerts us to the intrinsic connection be sanctified and glorified with that which "comes near to Him"
between the two narratives and invites us to explore the implications silences Aharon. Somehow, Moshe's statement "explains" the deaths
further. We may surmise that this is also the reason why the narrative of Nadav and Avihu and perhaps even consoles Aharon. Hence his
elsewhere relates, in the story of the Ark’s arrival at Kiryat Ye’arim silence.
preserved in the first book of Shemuel chapter 7:1, that it was “El’azar But this seems completely obscure. When did God say this? For
the son of Avinadav” who was initially designated to guard the Ark. This that matter, what is the connection between God's sanctification and
name El’azar is of course synonymous with Aharon’s third son! glory through "kerovai" (translated as either "those who are close to
METHODOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS Me," "that which comes near Me," or even "offerings") and the deaths
of Nadav and Avihu?
As Rashi (10:3) points out, Moshe's statement probably refers to Four A code of priestly behavior, 10:9-11
a key passage located at the end of Chapter Twenty-nine of Shemot. including rules for entering the
After delineating the procedure of the miluim, the seven-day sanctuary and general priestly
installation of the priests and dedication of the Mishkan, and outlining responsibilities
the rules for daily sacrifices, the Torah states: Five The "resumption of the eighth 10:12-20
This shall be a continuous burnt offering throughout your day" - the dialogue referring to the
generations at the door of the Tent of Meeting before the Lord… "remaining sons" of Aharon and
And I will meet there with the Children of Israel, and it shall be Aharon's tragedy
sanctified by My glory (ve-nikdash bi-kevodi)… And I will dwell Summarizing the chapter in this way leaves us with the
among the Children of Israel… (Shemot 29:42-45) expectation of some sort of essential connection between its various
At the culmination of the miluim process and through the initiation parts. While events do unfold in chronological order, something more
of daily sacrifices, God's glory, i.e. presence, will descend to the than mere chronology seems to unite the chapter. We expect to find a
Mishkan and dwell there. This will sanctify and glorify the Mishkan thematic connection between the deaths, on the one hand, and the
and God in the eyes of the Children of Israel. latter sections, such as the "code of priestly behavior" and the
This prediction comes to fruition right before the deaths of Nadav "resumption of the eighth day," on the other. If so, what constitutes
and Avihu. Vayikra 9:23-24 details how after the bringing of the final the guiding concept and organizational principle of the chapter?
offerings of the eighth day, God's glory appeared to the eyes of all of At first glance, we may be inclined to make use of the concepts
Israel in order to sanctify and dwell in the Mishkan. developed above. Until now, we have explained the deaths of Nadav
… and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. And a fire and Avihu as deriving from unwitting trespass upon the presence of
came out from before the Lord and consumed upon the altar the God. In other words, they commit a fateful error in "hilkhot kodshim,"
burnt offering… and when the people saw, they cried out and fell the laws of sanctity. Not fully cognizant of the sacred status of the
upon their faces. (9:23:24) area they enter and the proper conditions for the act of incense
To put this all together, when Moshe tells Aharon that God had offering, they are inevitably consumed.
said "bi-kerovai ekadeish," when he uses the key terms of Likewise, the remainder of the chapter can be viewed as
"offering/coming close," "glory," and "sanctification," he reminds connected to the issue of the status of "sanctity" and the proper mode
Aharon that God's presence is now located in the Mishkan. If so, then of relation to sanctified entities, areas and objects. Sections two and
when Nadav and Avihu offered in the Mishkan a non-mandated, three, the removal of the bodies from the sanctuary by others than the
strange and alien offering of incense, they entered into the very priests, and the prohibition of mourning by the priests, close with the
presence of God. explanatory phrase, "for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you"
By no accident, the Torah utilizes the phrase "va-yakrivu lifnei (10:7). The priests cannot defile themselves by contact with the
Hashem" to describe the process of their incense offering. Whether bodies, participate in public rituals of mourning, or even leaving the
we interpret the phrase as referring to no more that the fact that they door of the tent of meeting (10:7), because they are priests. They are
offered incense to the Lord, or like the Midrash, as referring to the fact sanctified entities and must be wary of their status.
that they themselves ventured into the holy of holies, makes not a So too, section five, the "resumption of the eighth day," can be
whit of difference. Either way, they have improperly entered the viewed as revolving around the very same issue of relation to
presence and compound of the Lord. Consequently, they are sanctity. In section five, the dialogue with Aharon and his "remaining
consumed. sons," Moshe delivers instructions on how to deal with the offerings
By no accident, they are consumed by fire, the visual image of the made that day and where and how the priests should consume them
glory of God seen by Israel at Sinai. Just as the Israelites saw the (10:12-15). His anger at the "remaining sons" stems from their
glory of God as a "consuming fire" atop the mountain (Shemot 24:17), apparent disregard of the details of the laws of "most holy" objects
so too Nadav and Avihu are "consumed" by "fire" (Vayikra 10:2). and their careless burning, as opposed to eating, of the sin offering
Finally, by no accident, the text utilizes the same phrase for God's (10:16-18). As Nadav and Avihu disregarded the details of permitted
"consumption" of the offering upon the altar and the devouring of and forbidden, commanded and not commanded, so too the
Nadav and Avihu. In the case of the offering, we are told, "And a fire "remaining sons" now disregard the laws of sanctity.
came out from in front of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering" Finally, section four, the "priestly code," also appears to fit this
(9:24). So too in the case of Nadav and Avihu, the text states: "And a theme. The opening law of the conduct code consists of the rule of
fire came out from in front of the Lord and consumed them" (10:2). sobriety for entering the sanctuary and the accompanying possibility
On this interpretation, we need not locate a particular moral failing of death (10:9). After the deaths of Nadav and Avihu upon entering
on the part of Nadav and Avihu. In a certain sense they need not the sanctuary and the assignment of entering the sanctuary to
have "sinned." Their very act of unwarranted trespass, of non- remove the bodies to non-priests (10:4), the Torah continues to
commanded entry and offering, is the cause of their death. We may discourse upon the theme of the proper relation between priests and
even claim that their deaths contain an element or "spark" of holiness. the act of entering the sanctuary. One may enter the sacred place
They die "before the Lord" (10:2) and are mourned by all of Israel only under certain conditions.
(10:6). Nevertheless, this is not enough. The full text of the mini-parasha
The Netziv (10:1) famously maintains that the "strange fire" (10:1) detailing the code of priestly conduct runs as follows:
represented an excess of love of God in their hearts, an overly bold And the Lord spoke to Aharon, saying, Do not drink wine or
desire to approach God. Although it may be extreme, this strong drink, you nor your sons when you enter the Tent of
interpretation allows us to view Moshe's claim to Aharon of "bi-kerovai Meeting, that you may not die; it is a everlasting law throughout
ekadeish" and the parallel between the consumption of the offering the generations. And you shall distinguish between the holy and
upon the altar and the consumption of Nadav and Avihu as rendering unholy and between unclean and clean. And you shall teach the
Nadav and Avhihu themselves as "offerings" to God. They have Children of Israel all of the laws which the Lord has spoken to
unwittingly transformed themselves into actual offerings and been them through Moses. (10:9-11)
consumed by his presence. While the motif of sanctity and relation to sanctity may be enough to
III explain just about everything connected to the deaths of Nadav and
The mechanistic or unwitting-offering interpretation approach Avihu and the structure of Chapter Ten, it does not explain the
outlined above should go a long way towards explaining the deaths of inclusion of all of the priest's code. While the function of distinguishing
Nadav and Avihu. Nevertheless, identifying the cause of their deaths between holy and unholy and perhaps clean and unclean requires
is but one of the challenges in reading the Torah's presentation of the little explanation, the focus on the general Torah teaching function of
tragedy. the priest seems surprising. What is the connection between the "laws
As mentioned previously, the text devotes a mere two verses to of sanctity" and the role of the priests as teachers of Israel and
reporting the core action (10:1-2). Nevertheless, the entire corpus of teachers of the law?
Chapter Ten revolves around the deaths and their aftermath. To cite IV
an example already discussed, in the very next verse Moshe Rather than reach for the obvious and elaborate upon the status
"explains" the death of Nadav and Avihu to Aharon. Likewise, the of law as sacred object, the priests as custodians of the sacred, and
chapter includes sections detailing the removal of Nadav and Avihu's so on, I would like to return to the "strange fire" of Nadav and Avihu
bodies from the sanctuary (10:4-5), forbidding Aharon and his sons and focus on a hitherto neglected aspect of the story.
from active mourning (10:6-7), and outlining rules for proper priestly The tragedy of Nadav and Avihu's deaths did not occur in a
conduct (10:9-11). vacuum. Rather, the Torah carefully links the story of their death with
Finally, the chapter concludes with a dialogue between Moshe, the events reported in Chapter Nine, the story of the eighth day.
Aharon and the "remaining sons" of Aharon (10:12-20). The On the simplest level, reading Parashat Shemini leaves the
conversation includes Moshe's commands regarding the proper impression that they died almost immediately after the crescendo of
disposition of the offerings made that day (10:12-15), his demand for the events of the eighth day, the appearance of God's presence and
a "missing" sin offering which had been burnt rather than eaten by the the consumption of the Children of Israel's offering by the divine fire
priests, his anger at the "remaining sons" for mishandling the offering (9:23-10:2). Moreover, as pointed out above, the Torah parallels the
(10:16-18), and Aharon's reference to the tragedy that had befallen consumption of the offering and the consumption of Nadav and Avihu
him that day (10:19). All of this can be mapped as follows: by utilizing the exact same language to describe the two events. In
Sec. Topic and link to death Verses both cases, a fire goes out from before the Lord and consumes (9:24,
One The offering, death and 10:1-3 10:2). Perhaps based upon this parallel, Rashbam maintains that the
explanation to Aharon two events happened simultaneously.
Two The removal of the bodies from 10:4-5 But this is not all. Throughout Chapter Nine, which recounts the
the sanctuary events of the eight day, the Torah makes extensive use of the term
Three The prohibition of active mourning 10:6-7 "come close/approach/offer," based upon the verb stem k-r-v, and the
by the priests, i.e. Aharon and his term "command" (tz-v-h). For example, consider the following verses:
sons And Moshe said: This is the thing which the Lord COMMANDED
(tziva) you to do, and the glory of God shall appear to you. And
Moshe said to Aharon: APPROACH (kerav) the
altar and perform your sin offering and burnt offering and make of the Children of Israel but rather on behalf of themselves, in
atonement for yourself and for the people, and make the offering accordance with their own priorities, interpretation of priesthood and
(korban) of the people and atone for them as the Lord spiritual agenda. He accuses them of the error of Nadav and Avihu, of
COMMANDED (tziva). And Aharon APPROACHED (va-yikrav) to serving themselves rather than God and Israel.
the altar… (9:6-8) This brings us back to the inclusion of the code of priestly conduct
Altogether, the term "command" appears five times throughout and its connection to the deaths of Nadav and Avihu. We no longer
the chapter (9:5, 6, 7, 10, 21). Not including the variation of "korban," need wonder about the inclusion of a code of priestly conduct,
the term "approach/offer" appears eight times (9:2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16, consisting of a demand for sobriety, strict concern for the
17). The chapter seems to build up a complex of concepts to technicalities, distinctions and minutiae of the law, and the teaching of
foreshadow the deaths of Nadav and Avihu. In what might be thought Torah to the people of Israel. After all, priesthood is not about an
of as a "reversing parallel," the Torah utilizes the exact same terms to ecstatic approach to God. It is not about the individual experience nor
describe the fateful act of Nadav and Avihu. the spiritual and psychic elevation of the priest. Nor is priesthood
… and they offered/approached/brought close (va-yakrivu) before about the self, the spiritual priorities, desires and needs of the priest.
the Lord a strange fire, which He had NOT commanded (tziva) As the story of Nadav and Avihu aptly demonstrates, it is about
them. (10:1) careful adherence to the law, about serving the law and the people of
The essence of Nadav and Avihu's error lies in not apprehending Israel. Only through his service of the law and the people of Israel
this connection between "command" and "approach." The does the priest merit to come before God.
appearance of God's presence, atonement, coming close to God and FOR FURTHER STUDY
the like depends on carrying out the precise commands of God. Only 1. As mentioned above, Vayikra Rabba 20:6 cites twelve distinct
by virtue of fulfillment of the exact command can one achieve opinions regarding the sin of Nadav and Avihu. i) See Rashi
"closeness" with God. 10:2. Try to explain why Rashi chooses to cite these two
It is precisely their creativity, their substitution of self and their opinions. Alternatively, try to base these two opinions on the text
own version of worship in place of the mechanical motions of God's utilizing the material in the shiur. ii) One of the midrashic
commands that constitutes their error and the cause of their deaths. opinions mentioned in shiur maintains that Nadav and Avihu
In other words, their death results from far more than an unwitting entered the holy of holies. See 10:1-2, 16:1-5, 12-13. Do these
straying into the precincts of the Lord and the automatic result of verses prove this position? iii) See Ramban 10:2 and Shemot
encounter with the presence of God. Their death results from a 29:30. What is the function of incense according to Ramban?
fundamental misconception of what priesthood is about and what it Does Ramban assume the midrash mentioned above? Try to
means to serve God. deduce exactly what opinion Ramban maintains regarding the
While this may seem rather striking, the larger context of the sin of Nadav and Avihu.
overall "miluim" narrative may support this interpretation. 2. Reread 10:3. See Rashbam, Rashi, Ibn Ezra and Ramban 10:3. i)
As of the beginning of the execution of the miluim instructions, How does Rashbam's position differ fundamentally from the
Aharon and his sons appear to possess near equal status. Chapter other commentaries? Explain how Rashbam's interpretation
Eight of Sefer Vayikra, the story of the seven days of miluim, opens creates thematic unity in 10:3-7. Compare this view to the
with the command to "take Aharon and his sons with him" (8:2). Just structural claims in the shiur. ii) What constitutes the
as Moshe brings Aharon to the door of the Tent of Meeting to wash fundamental point(s) of difference between Rashi and Ramban?
and dress him, so too he brings the sons of Aharon to the door of the iii) How do all of these commentaries differ fundamentally from
Tent of Meeting to wash and dress them (8:6-13). The sons of Aharon the interpretation of "bi-kerovai ekadeish" proposed in the shiur?
also place their hands on the heads of the various offerings (8:14, 18, (Define the referent of "bi-kerovai.")
22), have blood placed upon them (8:23-24), participate in the wave 3. Read 9:1-3. See Rashi 9:2. Compare Shemot 32:8 and Vayikra
offering (8:27), and consume the bread and meat of the miluim 10:2. Think about the relationship between the sin of the golden
offerings (8:31). In fact, every mention of Aharon carries with it either calf and the sin of Nadav and Avihu. Are they conceptually
a modifier of "and his sons" or a parallel process performed on or by parallel in some crucial way? Try to differentiate between
his sons (see 8:2, 6, 13-14, 18, 22, 24, 27, 30-31, 36). Aharon's role in the two stories.
But on the eighth day (at the beginning of Parashat Shemini), a 4. Scan 11:1-47. Read 11:44-47 carefully. Reread 10:8-11. Explain
radical shift ensues. Although the eighth day opens with Moshe's why the parasha is located at this point. See Rashi, Ibn Ezra and
calling to "Aharon, his sons and the elders of Israel" (9:1), the Ramban 11:1. Why is the parasha addressed also to Aharon?
instructions for the procedures of the eighth day are addressed to C) SICHAT ROSH YESHIVA
either Aharon or the Children of Israel (9:2-4). It is Aharon, and
Aharon alone, who is told to take various animals and "approach/offer
before the Lord" (9:2, 7-8). It is Aharon alone who performs the
central rites and offerings of the day (see 9:12, 14-18, 21), and he, 8 BAR ILAN UNIVERSITY
A project of Bar-Ilan University's Faculty of Jewish Studies, Paul and Helene hulman Basic Jewish Studies Center,
along with Moshe, who blesses the people (9:22-23). While Aharon and the Office of the Campus Rabbi. Sponsored by Dr. Ruth Borchard of the Shoresh Charitable Fund (SCF).
plays the key role in causing the descent of the divine presence to the Published with assistance of the President's Fund for Torah and Science.Web Site:
Mishkan, his sons are reduced to no more than drawers of blood and
choppers of meat. They perform no acts of divine service and merely THE SIN OF AARON’S SONS
Menahem Ben-Yashar Ashkelon College
assist Aharon in handling the materials (9:9, 12-13, 18). The main Now Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his fire pan, put fire in
action seems to take place between Aharon, the divine presence, and
Israel. it, and laid incense on it; and they offered before the Lord alien fire,
which He had not enjoined upon them. And fire came forth from the Lord
All this should shed new light on the subsequent acts of Nadav and consumed them; thus they died before the Lord. (Lev. 10:1-2)
and Avihu, explicitly identified as "the sons of Aharon," and their
taking of "ish machtato," each man HIS firepan. Their offering "before Ostensibly Scriptures describe precisely the sin committed by Nadab
and Abihu and the severe punishment that they received, but in truth the
the Lord" (10:1) constitutes a radical reassertion of the role and detailed facts are anything but clear to us, and many different views have
significance of the "the sons of Aharon." They too are capable of
serving before the Lord. They too are priests, the spiritual elite chosen been presented in the works of the Sages and biblical commentators.
Here we shall take a close look at the text to find details that might help
by God to draw down His presence amongst the Children of Israel. us understand the actions and motives of Aaron’s sons.
They choose incense, with its obvious symbolism linking the cloud
and the divine presence, and seek to come close to God. Once again, 1. The family relationship of the sinners – “Aaron’s sons” – is given
before their names.
the story turns out to be about the self, the spiritual voice and the 2. Scriptures specify both that they put fire in their pans and laid
revolutionary religion of the sons of Aharon.
V incense on it.
3. When it says that they offered “before the Lord,” does this
To close the circle, all of this should help provide new perspective description of where the action took place refer to the entire Tabernacle,
on the structure of Chapter Ten, on the conceptual connection
between the death of Nadav and Avihu on the one hand and Moshe's or to a specific part of it?
4. What is “alien fire”? Does this mean the incense or the fire itself?
critique of the "remaining sons" and the "code of priestly conduct" on And in what way was it alien?
As mentioned previously, the core of section five, the "dialogue of 5. What purpose is served by addition of the words, “which He had not
enjoined upon them”?
the remaining sons" or "the resumption of the eighth day," involves 6. What is signified by Moses saying in the name of the Lord, “Through
Moshe's search for the "missing" sin offering.
And Moshe sought out the goat of the sin offering and behold, it those near to Me I show Myself holy” (Lev. 10:3)?
Regarding the fire, we find no prohibition in the Torah against “alien
was burnt, and he was angry with Elazar and Itamar, Aharon's fire.” Although the priest who offers the incense is supposed to take the
remaining sons, and said: Why did you not eat the sin offering in
the sacred area? For it is most holy, and He has given it to you fire from the altar of burnt offerings, there is no reason to assume that
Aaron’s sons did otherwise, not taking the fire for their incense from the
bear the guilt of the community to make atonement for them altar for burnt offerings, since even before the fire came down from
before the Lord. (10:16-17)
Moshe accuses the remaining priests not just of violating the heaven Aaron had offered portions of sacrifice on the altar (Lev.
9:10,13), and also during the preceding seven days of consecration
technicalities of the laws of sanctified objects, but of a fundamental sacrifices had been offered and burned on the altar (Lev. 8:14-28). Also,
dereliction of duty. If the priests do not consume the sin offering in the
appropriate matter, it does not achieve atonement for the people of since “a perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, not to go out”
(Lev. 6:6), one may presume that there was sacred fire burning on the
Israel. sacrificial altar at that time.
In fact, the text only mentions a sin offering of a goat at one other
point in the narrative. The Children of Israel are commanded to bring We must bear in mind that the fire that descended from heaven on
the eighth day was not for dedication of the altar (as in the account of the
as their first joint offering, a "goat for a sin offering," as preface to dedication of the altar by heavenly fire, found in II Chronicles 7:1-3);
atonement and the descent of the divine presence (9:3-4). In other
words, in accusing the priests of mishandling the sin offering, Moshe the altar had already been dedicated by Moses, when he offered up a
burnt offering and a meal offering on the day the Tabernacle was erected
accuses the brothers of Nadav and Avihu of acting not on behalf (Ex. 40:29). Thus the fire that descended from heaven on
the eighth day was to consume the offerings that had already begun to essential, since without it the story of Korah raises grave questions:
be burned by the earthly fire that was used when they had been offered Dathan and Abiram, who were swallowed up by the earth (Num. 16:32-
on the altar, as if the Lord were giving His blessing to the deeds of 33), had been warned beforehand regarding the punishment that awaited
human beings. Therefore, since one cannot assume by the plain sense them (Num. 16:30), whereas Korah and his followers had been told
of the text that Aaron’s sons brought fire to their incense from the beforehand that only one of the persons with the incense pans would be
“cooking house,” i.e., non-sacred fire brought from people’s tents, we chosen to serve the Lord (Num. 16:5-7), but they had not been told how
can only say that their sin had not been in using alien and forbidden fire, those that would be rejected would be punished. How can one punish
and we must assume that the sin and alien nature lay in the incense. without first giving warning? We can only say that Nadab and Abihu
This understanding is supported by the language used here and by being burned was a precedent for Korah and his followers and was to
parallel situations: “They offered before the Lord alien fire” – the fire serve them as a warning: he who offers incense without having been
itself was not an offering, rather a means for giving an offering. chosen to do so, is doomed to die by being consumed by fire.
Alien Fire Just as the story of Korah needs the story of Aaron’s sons and
So why did Scripture use the expression “alien fire”? Two reasons deduces a message from it, so too the story of Korah is instructive in
can be given: one is linguistic and stylistic, the other substantive and understanding the story of Aaron’s sons, since both these episodes
halakhic. Linguistically, since the previous verse (Lev. 9:24) mentions involve a struggle for power. Perhaps – and this is mere surmise –
fire coming from the Lord to burn the portions of sacrifice on the altar, Aaron’s two younger sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, had finer qualities than
and the following verse has fire coming from the Lord to burn up the sons their older brothers, Nadab and Abihu, and the latter’s act was intended
of Aaron, the intermediate verse between them speaks of fire, so the as a sort of “coup” designed to seize the priesthood on the day that a
linguistic association stems from an internal connection: the divine fire routine pattern was first instituted for the priestly service in the Tent of
that descended to the altar brought on the act of fire by the sons of Meeting.
Aaron, and by divine fire they were punished. In other words, we have Midrash Kohanim (Aharei Mot 1.1) lists other transgressions in
human fire between two instances of divine fire: the former, fire of Nadab and Abihu’s act: that they neither consulted each other prior to
blessing; the latter, fire of curse; and the human fire between them being acting, nor did they ask the advice or instruction of Moses – behavior
what caused the reversal. which attests to their pride. The same goes for what Leviticus Rabbah
As for the substantive-halakhic explanation: in the laws concerning adds (20.10) – “they were haughty,” for they had not married since they
the incense altar (Ex. 30:1-10) it says: “You shall not offer alien incense deemed no woman worthy of them, so high was their status. That they
on it” (Ex. 30:9); whether the prohibition there is against incense given of were bachelors is proven by Scripture’s remark, “they left no sons” (Num.
freewill, not explicitly commanded, or whether the prohibition is against 3:4), since it is unlikely that they would both have been childless. The
incense which has not been properly prepared according to the midrash (loc. sit., 9) emphasizes that their being unmarried actually
commandment, it always concerns incense which is offered especially on made them ineligible for the high priesthood.
the incense altar. In contrast, in the story of Aaron’s sons, the incense In the final analysis, the view of Nadab and Abihu as presumptuously
was in fire pans; perhaps the expression, “alien incense,” used by the wishing to seize power does not contradict the interpretation that they put
above-mentioned law does not apply to what Aaron’s sons were doing, fire in their incense pans out of religious fervor and devotion; a person
and therefore here the expression “alien fire” was used. who has a high level of religiosity could believe that by doing this he
So wherein lay their sin? As the Sages said, in drawing close and would achieve a position of leadership, and even might aspire to such.
in sacrificing. The two can be joined together: they offered an For who can delve into the depths of a person’s soul?
unacceptable sacrifice and in so doing drew close to a place they were In view of all this, the explanation that Moses gave Aaron, “Through
not permitted to approach. Wherever Nadab and Abihu may have those near to Me I show Myself holy, and gain glory before all the
performed their act, it comes out the same. If their incense was made as people” (Lev. 10:3), should be understood in terms of the repeated use of
prescribed by the Torah, it was forbidden to burn it outside the the root k-r-v (=“be close,” also “sacrifice”) in the Torah’s narrative about
Tabernacle (loc. sit., 38), and if it was not as the Torah prescribed, surely Nadab and Abihu. “Through those near to Me,” those who draw near
it was forbidden to bring it into the Tabernacle. However, even incense to the Lord to serve Him in the innermost sanctum of the Temple,
that has been properly prepared, is forbidden to be offered in the through them the Lord wishes to be sanctified. How? by having this ritual
Tabernacle if it has not been explicitly commanded: we find no mention performed according to the exact specification of the commandments. In
in the laws of the Torah of any freewill offering of incense, as there are this way the Lord will “gain glory before all the people,” the Lord will be
freewill burnt offerings, sacrifices of well-being and freewill meal greatly respected by Israel.
offerings. Perhaps the underlying reason for this difference lies in the  See Mishnah Tamid 5.5. There are no grounds for assuming that it was ever otherwise. 
Maccabees II, 1:31-32, recounts similarly regarding dedication of the Second Temple.  According to
special expiatory function reserved for incense, and therefore in the sin Leviticus Rabbah 20.8.  16:1; Numbers 20:4, 26:61.  Torat Kohanim Aharei Mot 1.2; Leviticus Rabbah
of Aaron’s sons the emphasis is put on their having done something 20.8.  In a similar vein, cf. Tanhuma Buber ed., Korah 11; Tanhuma Korah 5; Numbers Rabbah 18.8.
 Preferring the younger son over the less worthy first-born is a well-known motif in Scripture. With
“which He had not enjoined upon them” (Lev. 10:1). respect to attempted coups, see II Sam. 3:7, ibid., 16:20-22. Perhaps also I Kings 2:14-22; Gen. 35:22. 
Mishnah Yoma 1.1  See note 4.
Yom Kippur and Nadav and Abihu
Where did Nadab and Abihu approach with their fire pans? We
cannot assume that they brought their fire pans into the sacred precinct 9- AISH HATORA
within the Tabernacle (paralleling the Heikhal or Sanctuary in the (C) 1999 Aish HaTorah International - All rights reserved. http://www.aish.com/
Temple), for that was where the incense altar stood and presumably A) MAYANOT (by Rabbi Noson Weisz)
Aaron had already burned incense there as part of the regular morning THE KOSHER SPIRIT
sacrifice (Lev. 9:16), so what would fire pans with incense have added There is no precept more fundamental to Judaism than the Kashrut laws,
there? Hence it appears that they must have entered the Holy of Holies the phenomenon we refer to as "keeping kosher." This week's Torah
with their fire pans, “and they offered before the Lord” (Lev. 10:1), as well portion is the Biblical source of the entire concept of Kashrut, and we
as “died before the Lord” (Lev. 10:2). Therefore the laws prescribing the shall therefore explore this most fundamental topic in this week's essay.
ritual of expiation on the Day of Atonement (Lev. Ch.16), which were After first enumerating the forbidden species of animals, fowl, fish,
given to Moses “after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when reptiles and insects, the Torah sums up the list:
they drew too close to the presence of the Lord,” begin with words of "This is the law of the animal and the bird, every living creature
warning: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come at will into the that swarms in the water, and for every creature that teems on the
Shrine behind the curtain [i.e., into the Holy of Holies], ... lest he die” ground, to distinguish between the tamey ('spiritually impure') and
(Lev. 16:2). Further on it says that only on a special day, and for a the tahor ('spiritually pure') and between the creatures that may be
special purpose, in a special manner and dressed in special garments, eaten and the creatures that may not be eaten." (Leviticus 11:46-47)
may the High Priest enter the Holy of Holies with incense on his fire pan. This same concept of tamey that is presented by the passage as the
From this, especially from the association of this passage with the death reason for the rejection of the species that are forbidden to eat, is a
of Aaron’s sons, we learn that their sin lay in the same matter: in recurring theme in the next few Torah portions. Yet it is far from clear
entering and bringing in with them to the Holy of Holy fire pans of what the concept means, and how a single idea can be simultaneously
incense, which they neither had been specifically commanded to do nor applied to such varying themes as species of living creatures,
had specially prepared. menstruating women and lepers, to mention just a few of the topics to
Now we can ask what led these two brothers to perform this ritual which the concept tamey is applied by the Torah.
act, which was lofty yet unacceptable? The Sages’ response has two The words tamey and tahor have no real parallels in English or
aspects to it. The positive aspect is explained in Torat Kohanim indeed, in any other secular language, and we have to delve more
(Shemini 1.32): “Aaron’s sons ... each took – they too, in their rejoicing, deeply into the Hebrew in order to even begin to comprehend how it can
having seen new fire, wished to add further devotion upon devotion.” be applied to the concept of Kashrut. The discussion that follows is
The negative aspect views the act of Nadab and Abihu, and their based on the work Derech Hashem, authored by Rabbi Moshe Chaim
punishment, as a continuation of what we were told in Exodus 24:1. Luzatto, better known as the "Ramchal," a famous medieval Kabbalist.
Aaron’s two older sons had become proud of heart because of ascending The word tamey originates in the Hebrew word atum, which means
Mount Sinai, close to the Divine Presence, with Moses and Aaron and "impermeable" or "sealed off." In the world of the immediate present it is
without Aaron’s younger two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, as explained in all too easy to present the flavor of what the word implies. Following the
Torat Kohanim (Shemini 1.21): “Having seen Moses and Aaron in the first Gulf War, a law was passed in Israel that requires all new
lead, and themselves following behind, and the rest of the Israelites after apartments to be constructed with a cheder atum, a "sealed room" that
them, Nadab said to Abihu: As soon as these two old men die, we shall can be made impermeable to poison gas by simply closing its doors and
be the leaders of the community.” In other words, these two brothers, windows. On the eve of the second Gulf War, as I am writing this essay,
Aaron’s sons, saw themselves as shortly inheriting the status of the two the concept has become all too familiar to Americans as well. When the
older men, the brothers Aaron and Moses; apparently it was clear Torah employs the concept of being sealed off it does so in a spiritual
already that Moses’ sons were not worthy of inheriting his status and sense; tamey refers to a person or creature or substance that is sealed
position. off from the spiritual; it is impermeable to Divine emanation or light.
Korah and Aaron’s Sons DIVINE LIGHT AND THE PROBLEM OF CREATION
If we tend to favor the view which sees the act of Aaron’s sons as When God created the world, He was faced with a problem. If He
primarily motivated by the negative desire to seize power, this comes created a universe completely open to His Divine light, such a universe
from a comparison with a similar event in the Torah, namely the uprising would be overwhelmed by the brightness of this light and would cling to
by Korah and his following. Indeed, drawing such a comparison is God, unable or unwilling to separate. On the other hand, if
creation was impermeable to Divine light it could not survive. A created The tamey portion of the universe was created to constantly struggle
universe has no inertia. It needs the constant input of the fresh energy to separate the entire universe from God, while the tahor portion was
that we describe as the Divine light in order to continue to exist. given the impulse to attempt to reattach the universe to its source. This is
Besides, not only were these extremes impractical, they also not due to good or evil intent as such, but is entirely attributable to the
defeated the purpose of creation. God wanted the universe to contain the fact that everything God created He also instilled with a blazingly intense
possibility of connecting to Him through a process of free choice. This instinct for survival.
required a built in possibility of separating from Him and still continuing to As survival requires fresh Divine input in a created universe, the
survive. Some restriction to the need for constant exposure to the tamey must struggle to obtain such input as intensively as the tahor. But
emanation of the Divine light had to be part of the universe's basic the tamey itself is quite impermeable to the Divine light; it must therefore
design. turn to the only source for obtaining the input it requires for its survival,
So God made a creation that is a mixture of tamey and tohar, of the tahor. By detaching the tohar from God and attaching it to itself, the
substances that are porous mixed with those that are impenetrable. The tamey can get hold of the input of Divine energy that it needs to survive.
part of creation that is permeable to His Light is known as tahor; but a The tohar is always loaded with such input.
portion was designed to exist in a state of spiritual darkness; the portion These basic facts are all that are needed to explain the dynamics of
we call tamey. Since both parts are combined into a single entity, the universe and account for the human condition. The soul or neshama
creation as an entirety can function without either being totally of man is entirely tahor. All it desires is to cling stubbornly to its source.
overwhelmed by God's emanations or in any way bereft of them. But the soul is connected to the body in a shotgun marriage and the body
The tamey portion of creation that is impermeable to the Divine light connects all too easily with the source of tamey that we call the evil
keeps the whole thing from fading back into the source, while the tohar inclination.
portion that is permeable can connect back to the source so that God is This turns man's body into the ultimate battleground. If the neshama
able to keep creation going. wins the battle, the body becomes tahor, forms a union with the neshama
Not only does this dichotomy solve the problem of maintaining the and attaches itself to God. If the evil inclination wins, the body becomes
universe in existence in a state of partial separation, it also offers the tamey, and maintains the neshama in a state of enforced captivity.
built in possibility of free choice. As anyone can connect to the tamey, a The interest of the evil inclination in keeping a grip on the neshama is
part of the universe that exists only in a state of separation from God, clear. Since the neshama can never be detached from its source, the
there is a built in existential alternative to clinging to the Divine Presence. tamey is able to draw Divine light from the neshama into itself through
Kashrut is an excellent way to bring this down to earth. We derive the the medium of the body, and thus gain the fresh input it requires for
energy for continued life from the things we eat. If we eat the tamey, we continued existence. Since the tamey lacks the ability to connect to God
are choosing to live in separation form God by definition; if we wish to directly by definition, subverting the tahor is the only means at the
connect we must eat the tohar. disposal of the tamey to ensure its continued survival.
We incorporate this concept into a blessing we recite every morning This puts man in the position of the ultimate arbitrator between the
as part of the Shacharit prayer, "Blessed are You ... Who forms light and tamey and the tahor.
creates darkness, makes peace and creates all." The text of this blessing THE DYNAMICS OF CHOICE
is taken verbatim from a verse in Isaiah (45:7), except that in the original When man surrenders to his evil inclination, he takes the Divine light
the concluding word is 'evil' instead of 'all.' The change of the word 'evil' of God that is constantly being transmitted to his neshama, passes it on
to the word 'all' is not a euphemism but the delineation of the place that to his body and delivers it to the tamey portion of the universe by
evil occupies in the universe; evil, the substance that is not permeable to investing the energy of his body into the performance of forbidden
God's light, was created not as a thing onto itself, but as part of the 'all.' actions. With this freshly obtained creative power, the evil inclination is
HUMANITY AND THE ABSENCE OF EVIL able to carve out and expand the tamey kingdom.
The combination of good and evil into a single composite 'all' applies But when the neshama is victorious in its war against the evil
not only to the universe in general, but to human beings specifically as inclination and manages to hold the body in its thrall, the body transfers
well. Man's body was created impermeable to the Divine light or part of no Divine energy to the tamey portion of the universe. Lacking the fresh
the tamey, while his soul was created to be utterly transparent to the input of creative force that all existence requires to keep going, the
same light, or entirely tahor. The secret of man's free will lies in this expression of the tamey in the universe weakens and begins to fade;
dichotomy; man has to define himself and decide which part of his nature physicality becomes ever more permeable to the Divine light; the flame
really represents him. He must choose between connecting his life force of the Shechinah - the manifestation of God in the physical world - glows
to the body or the tamey, or to his soul, the tohar. ever brighter until it actually becomes visible to the physical eye. A
We all have this same existential choice to make; nevertheless, there Temple is established to house its Presence.
is a great deal of difference between man as he was created and the way If on the other hand, the neshama loses a battle in the continuing war
that we are now. In his original pristine state, when man chose to against the evil inclination, and is trapped into supplying Divine energy to
connect his life force to his soul, his neshama had the ability to instantly the tamey, this process is reversed. The physical world becomes ever
transform his body and purify it so that the body also became permeable more impermeable to the Divine light, the Shechinah less and less
to the Divine light. This ability to instantly transform was only fair; when manifest. The Temple is withdrawn and evil and darkness spread over
he was created, his connection to the tamey was wired into him and not the world.
a matter of his own choosing. TRAPPED INTO EMPOWERING EVIL
But when Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, If we employ our imaginations to project the sort of feelings we would
he voluntarily formed a new connection to the tamey that was not part of have if we were a neshama who is trapped into supplying creative power
his original makeup. Having connected himself to the tamey in the to the tamey part of the universe, the image that pops into mind is
universe of his own free will, the tamey became an irremovable part of excruciating pain and overwhelming dismay. The implication is clear. The
his being. Man can no longer transform his body and make it tohar, or pleasure the body experiences in the commission of forbidden acts is
permeable to the Divine light during his lifetime on earth. He is doomed experienced by the neshama as the opposite of pleasure; pain.
to remain a creature divided for the duration of human history. His body On the other hand, the pain and frustration experienced by the body
is impermeable to the Divine light whereas his soul is the most from the refusal to indulge in forbidden pleasures is experienced by the
permeable substance in the universe. neshama as an intense surge of delight. The intensity of this pain-
THE IMPORTANCE OF PURIFYING THE BODY pleasure relationship follows an inverse proportionality rule. The greater
To appreciate the importance of the existential dichotomy between the forbidden physical pleasure, the more intense the spiritual pain. The
body and soul we must remember that man's mission in the world is to greater the frustration of self-denial the more intense the spiritual joy.
connect himself to God and thus gain everlasting life. In order to In this physical world we are almost entirely numb to spiritual
accomplish this intimate connection his soul must transform his body to sensations and it is almost beyond us to directly experience spiritual
the extent that it becomes capable of connecting to God as well, at least pleasure or pain. But as soon as we leave the confines of physicality we
indirectly, making use of the soul as a medium. will fully taste our spiritual experiences. Unlike physical feelings that fade
For as long as the body remains dark to the Divine emanation, man very quickly, spiritual experiences last for unlimited time. This allows us
as a whole, a creature composed of both body and soul, cannot fully some insight into the pain and pleasure that awaits us in the next world.
connect with God. Following Adam's sin, due to the fact that the soul lost It is within the context of this battle between the neshama and the
its ability to totally transform the body, it became necessary for man to evil inclination that the positive and negative commands of the Torah
die before his connection to God can be fully activated. must be understood. The Torah prohibits the sort of indulgence in
In death the soul separates from the body, and each of man's parts physical experience that translates into providing creative energy to the
goes its own way. The soul goes back to unite with God, and the body tamey, while the positive commandments encourage the activities that
returns to dust. This allows the body to be regenerated by God in time for have the capacity to transform the physical into spiritual and make it
the Resurrection, when each person will be re-equipped with the sort of permeable to the Divine light.
body that Adam was originally created with, the onthat was transformable EATING TO LIVE
by the soul. At this point man's soul, having been much strengthened by The Ba'al Hatanya, the first of the Chassidic Rabbis of the Chabad
the power of the good deeds he performed during his lifetime will indeed Lubavitch dynasty, offers the following comment, which is perfectly clear
transform his body and he will be ready to reap the fruit of his labors and in terms of the conceptual outline presented above. In Hebrew the
enjoy his connection to God throughout eternity. Hence God's warning to expression used for describing something as forbidden is assur, a word
Adam: that literally means "bound", or "tied up", while the expression for
"For on the day you eat of it, you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:17) describing something as permissible is mutar, a word that literally means
By now it should be becoming apparent that the universe actually "loose", or "untied." Forbidden substances are bound up with the tamey.
contains three sorts of phenomena. A part of the universe is tamey, The tamey has them all tied up; it is beyond our present capacity to
totally impermeable to the Divine light, another opposing part is tahor, loosen its grip on them. Let us now tie all this back to Kashrut in greater
and always totally permeable to this light, while there exists a third part in detail.
between that is up for grabs. We eat to provide ourselves with the energy to live. Eating forbidden
WAR ZONE substances generates life-energy that is firmly tied to the tamey, and has
If we analyze this startling conclusion, we realize that God planned the immediate effect of drawing the consumer of such substances under
the universe as a war zone between diametrically opposing forces. the influence of the tamey.
But even if this pull to the tamey is successfully resisted, and the eaten"). He must add the "if" because in fact they had not eaten of the
consumer of a forbidden substance attempts to channel the life-energy sin offering.
he obtained from digesting his forbidden meal into the performance of QUESTIONING RASHI
positive Torah commandments, he is wasting his time. The purpose of A Question: But why cannot this word "v'acahalti" mean "I will eat,"
such commandments is to transform the physical and make it more choice #2 above? It would make sense in the context. Aaron is defending
permeable to the Divine light. But the forbidden substance consumed his action of not eating the sin offering by saying "And if I will eat it, will it
was forbidden precisely for the reason that it is bound to the tamey and be good in Hashem's eyes?"
cannot be released from its grip at present. Using the life force taken Why doesn't Rashi choose that interpretation?
from the tamey to drive the tamey out of the world is a self-defeating UNDERSTANDING RASHI
process at best. An Answer: You have to see the musical accent on this word. Notice
On the other hand, when we eat permissible substances, we obtain it is placed under the letter "chaf" in the word "v'achalti." It is in the first
life-energy that is entirely free of the grip of the tamey. If we use the part of the word. This means the word is in the past tense. If the accent
energy thus obtained to fulfill the commandments, we purify part of the had been under the letter "taf" - at the end of the word - then it would be
world and make it tahor and permeable to God's light, and thus increase future tense. The same word, but different accent changes its meaning.
the presence of the Shechinah in the world. Rashi, of course, was aware of this. He based his short, incisive,
Rabbi Yishmael taught: "A transgression has the effect of stopping comment on this grammatical point.
up a person's heart [Rashi: closes it to receiving wisdom] as it is THE LESSON
written, 'Do not contaminate yourself through them you become Rashi has taught us, indirectly of course, the importance of paying
contaminated through them.' (Leviticus 11:43) The word tamey in the attention to the accent on words in the Torah. Not doing so can make a
verse is deliberately misspelled; it should be written with an aleph, lot of difference. For example, in the Shema, which we say daily, there
but the aleph is omitted so as to write the word that means 'stopped are several words where the accent makes all the difference. In the
up.'" (Talmud, Yuma, 39a) Shema we are told to wear Tefillin and to have Mezuzot on our
The passage establishes a special connection between being open doorposts.
and receptive to Torah wisdom and the avoidance of commission of Regarding Tefillin, it says (in Hebrew) "U'keshartam l'os al yadcha..."
transgressions. This connection turns out to be especially potent when it Regarding Mezuzot, it says "U'kesavtam al mezuzos baisecha..."
comes to transgressing against the laws of Kashrut. The words "U'keshartam" and "U'kesavtam" must be accented on the
To give us an idea of just how holy the great men of previous last syllable. This means "and you shall bind them" and "and you shall
generations were, the Talmud (Chullin 7a) tells a story concerning R' write them." If a person pronounced these words incorrectly with the
Pinchas ben Yair's donkey. The donkey was stolen, but the thieves accent on the first syllable ("U'keshartam" or "U'kesavtam") it would
returned him after a few days. It stubbornly refused to eat. When it was mean "and you bound them" or "and you wrote them." A very different
returned, R' Pinchas immediately fed it with grain that had been tithed; meaning and a very incorrect reading.
he explained that the donkey had refused to eat any grain that had not We must always pay close attention even to Rashi's slight additions.
been so tithed even though it is permissible to feed untithed grain to They always convey an important point.
animals. As he belonged to a great tzaddik, righteous man, R' Pinchas' C) FAMILY PARASHA
donkey chose to apply the strictest kashrut standards to what it would Even though it might seem like fun, it's not right to do things purposely
agree to eat. From this the Talmud derives a principle; if God preserves that are disgusting or gross. This week's Torah portion teaches us that
even the animals of the tzaddik from consuming forbidden substances, we should have enough self-respect to act in a respectable way.
imagine what He would do to preserve the tzaddik himself from STORY
consuming such substances? In our story, a kid learns that the way to get respect is to act
Tosefoth (ibid. 5b) explains that this concept does not apply to other respectably.
sorts of sin. The consumption of forbidden foods is especially pernicious NO RESPECT
because it 'stops up the heart' and closes it off from being able to Mike grinned widely as he watched the group of little kids run away,
appreciate the wisdom of Torah. Normally a sin that is committed screaming at the top of their lungs.
inadvertently does little spiritual harm. The special Divine protection "He doesn't really bite!" he called after them, as he dangled the
enjoyed by the tzaddik attaches especially to the consumption of snake he was holding by his tail. "I was only kidding about him being
forbidden foods because of the spiritual harm such consumption can poisonous! Why'd you get so upset?"
inflict even when the act of eating the food is inadvertent. Poison is Mike walked back to the classroom and put the snake back in his
poison no matter how it is ingested. cage where it belonged. He got a charge out of impressing people by
An illustration of just how far this can go is provided by the response doing things other people were too squeamish to do. After that bit of fun,
of the famous sage Rabbi Akiva Eiger to the query sent by a mother who he headed out to the playground to enjoy the rest of recess.
complained about her son's apparent inability to absorb the wisdom of On his way out, he saw a big spider climbing up the doorframe, and
Torah despite his brightness concerning worldly matters. In his response a good idea crossed his mind. He plucked the spider off the wall and
Rabbi Eiger wondered if the son had ever been placed in the care of a stuck him in his pocket."Who dares me to eat what I have in my pocket?"
non-Jewish nurse as a young child who might have fed him pork. He he asked, as he walked up to a group of his classmates.
explained that if this had been the case, his present lack of ability to "Whatcha got this time?" asked Tony. "I'm not parting with my hard-
study Torah in spite of his brightness was perfectly understandable. His earned money to watch you eat crackers, you know!"
heart and mind could still be stopped up to the wisdom of Torah years The other guys laughed. Mike looked a little offended.
later by what the forbidden food he had ingested as a baby. "What I have in my pocket, it takes guts to eat." He pulled out the
The laws of Kashrut are indeed fundamental to the practice of spider and watched the boys' eyes pop open in surprise.
Judaism. The food we put in our mouths is translated into the energy that "I'd pay 50 cents to see that," said Tony.
we burn in the service of God. Is it any wonder that God took the trouble "I'd even pay a buck!" said Steve.
to point out to us the things that will make us tamey? "It's worth much more than that!" said Mike. "Ten dollars is the lowest
B) WHAT'S BOTHERING RASHI (Avigdor Bonchek) I'll go."
BACKGROUND "Ahh, no way," the guys jeered. "I could already go to a professional
Aaron's sons, Nadav and Avihu, died while they were offering a self- freak show for that kind of money."
initiated offering on the altar during the opening day ceremonies in the "Freak show!" said Mike. "Are you calling me a freak?! Not one of
Tabernacle. Later, Moses looked for the sin offering which the Cohanim you would dare do it!"
were to have brought that day and part of which they were to have eaten. "Why should we?" laughed Tony.
Moses found that instead (because of the tragedy of the deaths) they "To show you have the guts. Like me!"
had burned it (10:1). Aaron defended this decision (10:19). We quote "Like you? You think eating a spider shows how much guts you
Aaron's words, with the first word in Hebrew. He said (10:19): have?" Tony started laughing hysterically. "It just shows how little brains
"'V'achalti' the sin offering this day. Would it have been good in you have! Spiders are totally gross!" (and prohibited to eat according to
Hashem's eyes?" the Torah -ed.)
On these words, Rashi makes a one-word comment. "Why you ... I oughta punch you out!" Mike clenched his fists and got
RASHI ready to swing, but stopped himself at the last minute. "What's the point
"V'achalti" - Rashi: And if I had eaten (Hebrew: "V'im achalti"). ... you guys really stink," he said instead, and walked away.
Rashi added the one word "V'im" which means "and if." This means At the far side of the playground, Mike sat with his head down. When
"And if I had eaten, would that have been good in Hashem's eyes?" he had closed his fists to punch Tony, he'd accidentally squashed the
Why has he done this? And what does he accomplish with this small spider in his hand, and he looked at it now, and felt kind of bad about it.
addition? The truth was, he liked little animals, and didn't really want to hurt them.
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI? As he was thinking about that, a kid walked over to him and sat down
Notice that the comment is short and Rashi weaves his word(s) in next to him.
between the Torah's words. This is what I call a Type II comment. Such "Hi," he said.
comments do not come to answer a difficulty in the text. Rather, they Mike grunted at him.
come to help us avoid a misunderstanding. "Don't grunt like that. It's not nice. But I'm really glad you didn't eat
Which misunderstanding? Can you pick up the subtle point here? that spider."
THE POSSIBLE MISUNDERSTANDING "But how else am I supposed to get some respect?" Mike felt
An Answer: The Hebrew word "V'achalti" can have one of two strangely comfortable talking with this smart boy two grades younger
translations: than him.
1. "And I ate" (the "vav" meaning "and") This is past tense. "I respect you."
2. "I will eat." Here the "vav" converts a past tense verb ("achalti" = "I "You? Why should you respect me? And what do I care anyway?"
ate") to a future tense ("I will eat"). "Don't say that. It's not nice. But you know why? Not because you
Rashi chooses #1 above, leaving the verb in the past tense. But it were going to eat the spider."
can't literally mean "I ate" because they hadn't eaten it. That is what the "No? Then why?"
argument between Moses and the Cohanim is all about - "Why did you "Because I saw how you walked away from Tony and didn't punch
not eat it?" So Rashi makes one slight addition "IF I ate" (or "If I had him in the nose like you wanted to. That took real strength.
Forget the spiders and gross-out things like that, Mike. You're too good Now we can begin to understand the story of Rabbi Yehudah
for that. Just respect yourself and you'll get all the respect you deserve." HaNasi's death, and the disagreement between his disciples and the
"You bet! Wanna see the baby mice we have in our classroom? I'm There are cases when it is proper to pray for the release of those
in charge. You can hold them, but you have to be real gentle, they're gravely ill - when they are suffering greatly and there is no hope for
really tiny." recovery [see Nedarim 40a]. But this does not hold true for a tzaddik.
"Yeah?! Okay. I'll be careful..." With regard to righteous Torah scholars, the very existence of their Torah
As he was playing with them, those kids from the playground walked in the world is a hidden asset outweighing considerations of physical pain
by. and suffering. For these special individuals, it is correct to pray even for
"Hey, Mike, kill one of those and I'll give you your ten bucks. Okay?" "chayei sha'ah", even for a limited extension of life. For this reason, the
Steve called out. scholars continued praying for Rebbi, even though his illness was
Mike was about to take him up on it, then thought of what the kid had terminal.
said. "Sorry, guys. I have too much respect for life to do that." And too Rebbi's maidservant also initially prayed for her master, but her
much respect for myself, he thought to himself. motivation was that Rebbi should be able to continue his dissemination
QUESTIONS of Torah. When she realized that his illness was so grave that he could
Ages 3-5 no longer have an active influence on the world, and that the only
Q. How did Mike feel at first about doing disgusting things? possible gain was a brief reprieve from death, she decided - mistakenly -
A. He felt it was cool and made people respect him. that Rebbi no longer served a purpose in this world. Since he could no
Q. How did he feel in the end? longer benefit this world, and was wanted in the next world, she prayed
A. He felt that people would respect him more if he showed how he that the angels and the righteous souls in Gan Eden would prevail.
respected himself by not doing these things. Bar Kappara, however, recognized Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi's lofty
Ages 6-9 inner quality and his hidden benefit to the world. Why did he refer to his
Q. What life lesson do you think someone could learn from this story? teacher as 'the Holy Ark'? Bar Kappara wanted the people to recognize
A. We all want to be liked and respected. Like Mike, we might think that that this inner segulah was in fact Rebbi's primary benefit to the world. In
by doing wild or outrageous things we'll get that. But the truth is that this way, a tzaddik is like the Holy Ark. The Ark contained the original
people deep-down only respect those who respect themselves, by acting luchot (Tablets) from Mount Sinai, and symbolized the Torah. Yet the Ark
respectably. was covered with a heavy plate of gold, so that it was impossible to
Q. What exactly is wrong with doing disgusting things? actually study from the luchot within. Thus the Holy Ark represented the
A. Each of us is a very special and unique soul, made and loved by God intrinsic holiness of Torah. It was located in the holiest inner sanctum of
and worthy of self-respect. Doing disgusting things lowers our esteem in the Temple, emanating sanctity to the nation and the entire world.
our eyes and others. No Public Mourning for Nadav and Avihu
Ages 10 and Up Now we can understand why Aaron and his family were not
Q. Our sages teach that people are made in God's image. What do you permitted to publicly mourn for Nadav and Avihu. The benefit of the inner
think that means and what might it have to do with acting respectably? segulah of tzaddikim is so great that it cannot be expressed in words.
A. The human being is the pinnacle of creation. We are the only beings External displays of mourning cannot do justice to the magnitude of this
God made, either physical or spiritual, to whom He gave free will. When loss. Rather, any outer signs of mourning only come to express our
we choose to use our free will to act respectably we bring more sadness at the cessation of their public activities.
Godliness into our lives and the world. Since the people could not truly value the hidden qualities of Nadav
Q. Acting outrageously may give a person a lot of attention, but do you and Avihu, it was appropriate for the nation to publicly mourn the loss of
think it also gives them respect? their outward contributions to society. But Aaron, who recognized the
A. Even if it seems people approve of the way he or she is acting, it is lofty nature of his sons, knew that he could not possibly convey this loss
likely only an external type of approval. People, deep down, have much in words. Thus, "Aaron was silent" [Lev. 10:3].
more respect for those who are in control and act with self-respect. Moses instructed Aaron not to eulogize his sons even for their public
activities, since this benefit is minor compared to the value of their inner
12 – RAV KOOK
Rav Kook on the Net: RavKook.n3.net
segulah. And since this quality cannot be expressed in words, it is
preferable to remain silent.
MOURNING FOR NADAV AND AVIHU Often we eulogize a great individual so that people will become
After the tragic deaths of Aaron's sons Nadav and Avihu, Moses aware of the magnitude of the loss to society. In this particular case,
instructed Aaron and his remaining sons not to display public signs of however, Moses explained that such public mourning was unnecessary.
mourning: Even without public eulogies, "The entire house of Israel will mourn the
"Do not let your hair grow untended, and do not rend your ones whom God has burned." The entire nation was aware of Nadav and
garments... And as far as your brothers are concerned, the entire house Avihu's greatness, and would surely lament their absence.
of Israel will mourn the ones whom God has burned." [Lev. 10:6] [adapted from Midbar Shur pp. 332-336,341-342]
Why were Aaron and his sons not permitted to publicly mourn the
death of Nadav and Avihu?
Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi's Final Day
13 COVENANT AND CONVERSATION
Covenant and Conversation, a unique new Torah commentary from the Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks
To better understand Moses' unusual instructions, we should FIRE – HOLY AND UNHOLY
examine the Talmudic account of the death of another great personality: The shock is immense. For several weeks and many chapters – the
Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi ('the Prince'), the redactor of the Mishnah. Rabbi longest prelude in the Torah – we have read of the preparations for the
Yehuda was the central religious and political figure during the second moment at which G-d would bring His presence to rest in the midst of the
century. His influence was so profound that all referred to him as simply people. Five sedras (Terumah, Tetzaveh, Ki Tissa, Vayakhel and
'Rebbi' ('my teacher'); and his passing was a traumatic event for the Pekudei) describe the instructions for building the sanctuary. Two
nation. Here is the description of his final hours, from Ketubot 104a: (Vayikra, Tzav) detail the sacrificial offerings to be brought there. All is
When Rebbi became deathly ill, the scholars declared a public fast now ready. For seven days the priests (Aaron and his sons) are
and prayed for him. consecrated into office. Now comes the eighth day when the service of
Rebbi's maidservant went up to the roof and prayed: "On high they the mishkan will begin. The entire people have played their part in
want Rebbi (to join them), and below they want Rebbi (to stay with them). constructing what will become the visible home of the Divine presence on
May it be Your will that those below should prevail." But when she saw earth. With a simple, moving verse the drama reaches its climax: “Moses
that Rebbi was suffering, she prayed, "May it be Your will that those and Aaron went into the Tent of Meeting and when they came out, they
above will prevail." blessed the people. G-d’s glory was then revealed to all the people.”
The sages, however, continued praying for mercy without a break; so Just as we think the narrative has reached closure, a terrifying scene
the maidservant took a jar and threw it down from the roof. The sudden takes place:
noise momentarily disrupted their prayers - and Rebbi's soul departed. Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, took their censers, put fire into them
The sages asked Bar Kappara to investigate. He went and found and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before G-d, which
Rebbi dead. Bar Kappara rent his garment, and reported back: He had not instructed them to offer. Fire came forth from before G-d, and
"Both the angels and the mortals held on to the Holy Ark; but the it consumed them so that they died before G-d. Moses then said to
angels overpowered the mortals, and the Holy Ark has been captured." Aaron: “This is what G-d spoke of when he said: Among those who
Why did the scholars and the maidservant disagree about whether approach Me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be
to pray for Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi to live? And why did Bar Kappara honoured.” 1 (10:1-3) Celebration turned to tragedy. The two eldest sons
refer to his illustrious teacher as 'the Holy Ark'? of Aaron die. The sages and commentators offer many explanations.
Two Benefits of Tzaddikim Nadav and Avihu died because: they entered the holy of holies 2 ; they
The key to this story is to understand that Torah scholars benefit the were not wearing the requisite clothes 3 ; they took fire from the kitchen,
world in two ways. The first benefit is apparent to all: the spread of Torah not the altar 4; they did not consult Moses and Aaron 5; nor did they
wisdom and the instruction of people in the proper path. consult one another 6. According to some they were guilty of hubris.
But besides their revealed activities, there is an intrinsic value, a They were impatient to assume leadership roles themselves 7; and they
segulah quality that is rooted in the Divine holiness of the Torah itself. did not marry, considering themselves above such things 8. Yet others
This hidden benefit exists even without any external activity, providing see their deaths as delayed punishment for an earlier sin, when, at
merit and protection for society, refining the nation and elevating the Mount Sinai they “ate and drank” in the presence of G-d (Ex. 24: 9-11). 9
world. These interpretations represent close readings of the four places in
Thus the Sages in Sanhedrin 99b taught that one who complains, the Torah which Nadav and Avihu’s death is mentioned (Lev. 10:2, 16:
"What do Torah scholars contribute? They only study for themselves" is 110, Num. 3: 4 11, 26: 6112), as well as the reference to their presence
to be considered a heretic. Even if we do not see their benefit to society, on Mount Sinai. Each is a profound meditation on the dangers of over-
the intrinsic holiness of Torah brings blessing and merit to all, as it says, enthusiasm in the religious life. However, the simplest explanation is the
"I will spare the entire area for their sake" [Gen. 18:26]. one explicit in the Torah itself. Nadav and Avihu died because they
Bar Kappara's Message offered unauthorized (literally “strange”) fire – meaning “that which was
not commanded.” To understand the significance of this we
must go back to first principles (Covenant and Conversation, Terumah) time, when religion and ethics are separated, they both suffer. There is a
and remind ourselves of the meaning of kadosh, “holy”, and thus of rare form of cerebral lesion in which the right and left hemispheres of the
mikdash as the home of the holy. brain are both intact, but the connection between them is damaged. The
The holy is that segment of time and space G-d has reserved for His result is dysfunction of the personality. That is what happens when the
presence. Creation involves concealment. The word olam, universe, is good and the holy lose their intimate connection. Without the constraints
semantically linked to the word neelam, “hidden”. To give mankind some of ethics, religion can become a force for evil as well as good. People
of His own creative powers – the use of language to think, communicate, have undertaken pogroms, persecutions, murders and holy wars in the
understand, imagine alternative futures and choose between them – G-d name of G-d. Contrariwise, without religion, in the long run ethics tends
must do more than create homo sapiens. He must efface Himself (what to lose touch with reverence, respect, responsibility and restraint. That is
the kabbalists called tzimtzum) to create space for human action. No not to say that individuals will not act nobly or courageously: they will.
single act more profoundly indicates the love and generosity implicit in Nor is it to say that the effect will be immediate: it will not. Cultures can
creation. G-d as we encounter Him in the Torah is like a parent who live for generations on the accumulated moral capital of earlier religious
knows He must hold back, let go, refrain from intervening, if his children habits. None the less, Tolstoy was not wrong when he said:
are to become responsible and mature. The instructions of a secular morality that is not based on religious
But there is a limit. To efface himself entirely would be equivalent to doctrines are exactly like what a person ignorant of music might do, if he
abandoning the world, deserting his own children. That, G-d may not and were made a conductor and started to wave his hands in front of
will not do. How then does G-d leave a trace of his presence on earth? musicians well-rehearsed in what they are performing. By virtue of its
The biblical answer is not philosophical. A philosophical answer (I am own momentum, and from what previous conductors had taught the
thinking here of the mainstream of Western philosophy, beginning in musicians, the music might continue for a while, but obviously the
antiquity with Plato, in modernity with Descartes) would be one that gesticulations made with a stick by a person who knows nothing about
applies universally – i.e. at all times, in all places. But there is no answer music would be useless and eventually confuse the musicians and throw
that applies to all times and places. That is why philosophy cannot and the orchestra off course. The call of the prophets was not, ‘Be religious’,
never will understand the apparent contradiction between divine creation nor was it, ‘Be ethical’. It was ‘Be religious by being ethical’. Hence
and human freewill, or between divine presence and the empirical world Jeremiah: ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, you who sit on
in which we reflect, choose and act. David's throne . . . This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right.
Jewish thought is counter-philosophical. It insists that truths are Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed.
embodied precisely in particular times and places. There are holy times Do no wrong or violence to the stranger, the fatherless or the widow, and
(the seventh day, seventh month, seventh year, and the end of seven do not shed innocent blood in this place’ (Jer. 22: 2-3).
septennial cycles, the jubilee). There are holy people (the children of This is Amos on religious worship without social responsibility:
Israel as a whole; within them, the Levi’im, and within them the Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of
Cohanim). And there is holy space (eventually, Israel; within that, your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, Righteousness like a
Jerusalem; within that the Temple; in the desert, they were the mishkan, never-failing stream! (Amos 5: 23-24) And, most passionately, Isaiah:
the holy, and the holy of holies). ‘The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to me?’ says the
The holy is that point of time and space in which the presence of G-d Lord . . . ‘When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes
is encountered by tzimtzum – self-renunciation – on the part of mankind. from you; Even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are
Just as G-d makes space for man by an act of self-limitation, so man full of blood. Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out
makes space for G-d by an act of self-limitation. The holy is where G-d is of my sight! Stop doing wrong. Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage
experienced as absolute presence. Not accidentally but essentially, this the oppressed, Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the
can only take place through the total renunciation of human will and widow . . .’ (Is. 1: 11-17) The prophetic works are full of such sentiments.
initiative. That is not because G-d does not value human will and Their message was that the holy must lead to the good, and the good
initiative. To the contrary: G-d has empowered mankind to use them to always lead back to the holy. There is nothing intrinsically religious about
become His “partners in the work of creation”. feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless or healing the sick.
However, to be true to G-d’s purposes, there must be times and Yet there is something inherently religious about the faith that gives
places at which humanity experiences the reality of the divine. Those these acts the particular coloration they have had in the West for the past
times and places require absolute obedience. The most fundamental two thousand years. Social responsibility as covenantal, peace, justice
mistake – the mistake of Nadav and Avihu – is to take the powers that and freedom as religious ideals and personal dignity as rooted in the
belong to man’s encounter with the world, and apply them to man’s image of G-d – these are not ideas that were born fully formed from the
encounter with the Divine. Had Nadav and Avihu used their own initiative matrix of human imagination. They have a history that began in ancient
to fight evil and injustice they would have been heroes. Because they Israel, and we who are moved by that vision are still charged with
used their own initiative in the arena of the holy, they erred. They realizing it, living the life, telling the story, observing the commands and
asserted their own presence in the absolute presence of G-d. That is a celebrating the festivals through which our most redemptive energies are
contradiction in terms. That is why they died. born and renewed.
We err if we think of G-d as capricious, jealous, angry – a myth The link between monotheism and the moral life is that a universe
spread by early Christianity in an attempt to define itself as the religion of seen as the home of many gods or none is an arena of conflicting forces
love, superseding the cruel/harsh/retributive G-d of the “Old Testament”. in which the strong prevail, the weak suffer, the manipulative exploit the
When the Torah itself uses such language it “speaks in the language of vulnerable, and might is sovereign over right. A world without a Judge is
humanity” 13– that is to say, in terms people will understand. one in which there is no reason to expect justice. The human condition
In truth, Tenakh is a love story through and through – the passionate becomes a tragic script in which ideals prove to be illusions, revolution a
love of the Creator for His creatures, that survives all the mere change of places in the seats of power, and the ship of hope
disappointments and betrayals of human history. G-d needs us to destined to be wrecked by the cold iceberg of reality.
encounter Him, not because He needs mankind but because we need The holy and the good are not the same but they are linked in a
Him. If civilization is to be guided by love, justice, and respect for the cyclical process of engagement and withdrawal. Our prayers, texts and
integrity of creation as such, there must be moments in which we leave rituals hold before us a vision of how the world might be. Our work,
the “I” behind and encounter the fullness of being in all its glory. That is service to the community and social life take us into the world as it is,
the function of the holy – the point at which “I am” is silent in the where we make a difference by mending some of its imperfections,
overwhelming presence of “There is”. That is what Nadav and Avihu righting wrongs, curing ills, healing wounds. The juxtaposition of the two
forgot – that to enter holy space or time requires ontological humility, the creates moral energy, and when they are disconnected, the energy fails.
total renunciation of human initiative and desire. The holy is where we enter the ideal; the good is how we make it real.
The significance of this fact cannot be over-estimated. When we Long ago, alone at night, Jacob dreamed a dream of a ladder connecting
confuse G-d’s will with our will, we turn the holy (the source of life) into heaven and earth, and of angels ascending and descending. Life is that
something unholy and a source of death. The classic example of this is ladder, for earth cannot be mended without a glimpse of heaven, nor
“holy war” – investing imperialism (the desire to rule over other people) heaven live for mankind without a home on earth.
with the cloak of sanctity as if conquest and forced conversion were G- (To Heal a Fractured World – Continuum 2005 – Chapter 12)
d’s will. The story of Nadav and Avihu reminds us yet again of the
warning first spelled out in the days of Cain and Abel. The first act of
worship led to the first murder. Like nuclear fission, worship generates 14 TORA MITZION
The Weekly Parshat Shavua Daf is a Newsletter which includes Divrei Torah on the Parsha, Halacha and
power, which can be benign but can also be profoundly dangerous. Educational columns, as well as for kids - all in a Zionistic approach. The "Torah MiTzion Kollel" program
The episode of Nadav and Avihu is written in three kinds of fire. First establishes centers for the study of Torah and promulgates the connection between Torah and Israel. Torah
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Fire came forth from before G-d and consumed the burnt offering . . . PARSHAT SHMINI
(9: 24) This was the fire of favour, consummating the service of the Rav Eliad Skuri, former Rosh Kollel, Kansas City
sanctuary. Then came the “unauthorized fire” offered by the two sons. When I was on Shlichut in the United States, I was a high school
Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu took their censers, put fire in them Judaic studies teacher. During Asseret Yimei Teshuva, my students
and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before G-d, which asked me to take them to "do kapparot" with chickens. We watched as
He had not instructed them to offer.(10:1) the birds arrived, were used for the kapparot, and then were shechted. In
Then there was the counter-fire from heaven: addition, we observed the mitzvah of covering the blood and saw the
Fire came forth from before G-d, and it consumed them so that they chickens being cleaned, checked and kashered according to the
died before G-d. (10:2) The message is simple and deadly serious: halachah. As is customary, the meat was subsequently given to the poor.
Religion is not what the European Enlightenment thought it would My students took pictures and videoed the entire process and later
become: mute, marginal and mild. It is fire – and like fire, it warms but it showed the movie in class. After class, a group of girls approached me,
also burns. And we are the guardians of the flame. appalled. How does Judaism permit such cruelty to animals, they wanted
THE HOLY AND THE GOOD to know. Why should animals be slaughtered simply to allow humans to
There can be religion without ethics, and ethics without religion. be granted atonement for their sins? The girls were specifically disturbed
There can be pious individuals who are cruel or insensitive, and atheists that such an act should occur precisely during Asseret Yimei Teshuva - a
who are environmentally conscious, socially committed, and vastly time of mercy and forgiveness. They felt that treating animals in this
generous with their money and time. Yet taken as a whole and over
manner contradicted the concepts of rectification and spiritual elevation. The first time that we learn of a Cohen's bracha is in our parasha
In order to respond to these questions, we must examine the Torah's when we see that Aharon raise his arms and deliver a blessing to Bnei
view of the relationship between man and animals. In my opinion, our Yisrael on the eighth day of the inauguration of the tabernacle.
parsha, Parshat Shmini, is the point of departure for such a study. Rashi and the Ramban argue whether that bracha is the very bracha
In the second half of the parsha, we find a lengthy discussion of the that we know to be as Birkat Cohanim, and although it seems more
kashrut of different types of animals: cattle, beasts, fowl and fish. Some, rational to accept the Ramban's view which claims that Aharon delivered
such as fish, are identified as kosher according to their characteristics; a different bracha at the time of the inauguration, we may want to keep in
others, such as birds, must appear on a specific list of names. mind Rashi's view.
Immediately following this discussion, the next parsha begins with laws On the one hand, it seems only reasonable that on the eighth day,
pertaining to people: after seven rough days of working in Ohel Moed, Aharon breaks out with
"A woman conceives and gives birth to a male." a spontaneous bracha to the nation. The joy that must have filled the air
This juxtaposition leads Rashi to cite R' Simlai from the Midrash: can barley be imagined as a home was finally created for Hashem's
"Just as man was created after all the cattle, beasts and birds, so too divine continues presence among our forefathers as they traveled the
his law is explained after the laws of the cattle, beasts and birds." Desert of Sinai.
Rashi's statement leads the Siftei Chachamim to wonder why man However, when reading Parashat Naso we may see that Birkat
was in fact created after the cattle, beasts and birds. The answer is found Cohanim was delivered right after the very occasion of completion of
in the Gemara (BT Sanhedrin 38a): building the Mishkan, and although it may be found only in the book of
"Why was man created on Erev Shabbat?... So that if [man's] mind Bamidbar, it relates to the very same period. Many commentators have
should become arrogant, he can be told: 'A mosquito preceded you found the two events in the two different parashot to be related. If that's
during Creation." the case, we can clearly understand where Rashi learned that the
Hence, man was created last, after all the animals. spontaneous bracha of our parasha is the same bracha that we know to
The Gemara's response is puzzling. What is the significance of be lacking of any responsibility of the Cohanim.
telling a proud and arrogant person that a mosquito preceded him? The Mishana in Megila (23a) relates to different tasks that require a
Moreover, what does it matter anyway that a mosquito was created first? quorum of ten men in order to perform them. One of them is Birkat
Right from the start, the Torah teaches us the Divine order of Cohanim, and the Aruch Hashulchan explains that it seems to need a
creation: what was created on each day. This order is highly significant, divine presence, which does not occur if a minyan is not present.
because each creation is designated as a preparation for the following The exact opposite opinion may be found in the Ran's words
creation. Each creation is meant to serve and to attend that which is (Tractate Megila 13a) who related to the aspect of the bracha being
created next. given to Bnei Yisrael, and since Bnei Yisrael are always more than ten,
Thus, the plants, which were created on the Fifth Day, rely on the the bracha requires a Minyan.
light of the sun - which was created on the Fourth Day - in order to grow. The Ran bases his opinion both on the psukim brining forth Birkat
Furthermore, animals, which were created on the Fifth and Sixth Days, Cohanim and the pasuk in our parasha. From the pasuk in our parasha
eat these plants and make use of the trees. This is the natural order that we can derive several new ideas relating to Birkat Cohanim. The first
prevails throughout the Divine creation. idea is that Birkat Cohanim should be performed as a bracha, something
Interestingly enough, the animals which, according to our parsha, are that is not clear from Parashat Naso. The second is with regard to the
forbidden to be eaten are precisely those that disturb this natural order time of the bracha, due to its timing which takes place immediately after
by devouring other animals. Similarly, the permitted animals are only offering the sacrifices in the Mikdash.
those who maintain this order and are plant-eaters. This distinction is We know of that Birkat Cohanim took place in Beit Hamikdash
exemplified by the kashrut signs for animals: split hooves and cud- (Tractate Tamid, Chapter 5) as part of the public daily offerings right after
chewing. Only true plant-eaters bear these two traits. For instance, split offering the morning sacrifices. In that case, it is obvious why we would
hooves are a poor substitute for a predator's claws but are well-suited to need a minyan to perform the same bracha today - the nature of a public
long-distance travel in search of fodder. Even the forbidden birds are offering requires a minyan.
predatory. One may want to learn of the dual meaning that Birkat Cohanim has.
Consequently, man who was created last, on the Sixth Day, can and The essence of the bracha on one hand is inducing the name of Hashem
must use animals for his own needs, according to the natural order as in the nation. That being related to matters of kedusha, it must be
determined by the Creator. However, there is one caveat. In turn, man performed in a minyan. On the other hand, Birkat Cohanim is the final
must recognize that something was created after him - namely, Shabbat. stage of the offering of public sacrifices in Beit Hamikdash and do to its
Shabbat symbolizes holiness and emphasizes that the Holy One, public nature, it requires a minyan.
Blessed Be He, is the Creator at the core of all creation. In this way, Relating back to our first question, seeing that the Cohanim lack any
matters are returned to their roots, and the circle of creation is closed. responsibility in relation to Birkat Cohanim we can view their job as being
Shabbat, which serves as a lofty moral and ethical standard, teaches Hashem's way of channeling a barcha to the nation. That is an additional
man that he is not the omniscient master of creation. Instead, man, as a way of inducing his name in the world. Truthfully, in that case, the
mere servant and messenger of the Creator, is tasked with leading all of Cohanim lack of any specialty as they deliver the bracha, and being the
creation and with moral completion and repair, in Hashem's light. servants of Hashem in Beit Hamikdash, they act as the 'shofar in the
If a person accepts this order and willingly serves the Shabbat, then hands of the ba'al tekiah'.
he may use the animals - which were created before him - in order to However, when we see the active part of the Cohanim in Beit
achieve his mission of uplifting the entire creation, based on that order. Hamikdash during the performance of the sacrificial requirements, we
But if a person refuses to recognize that his task is to accent the moral may view their bracha to the nation in a different manner. The
aspect of creation - in other words, if he arrogantly chooses to view spontaneous bracha that Aharon gave Bnei Yisrael, which may very well
himself as the king of creation - he thereby upturns the entire order of be a reflection of the joy of completing the Avoda in the Mishkan for the
creation. As a result, he may no longer employ that which preceded him very first time, may be the trigger for the future Birkat Cohanim which
during creation, because in his pride, he knowingly shattered creation's was established after ever y daily sacrifice in Beit Hamikdash.
sequence. In light of all this, we can understand why different aspects of Birkat
The ultimate goal of this sequence is to allow man - the shaliach Cohanim are performed in such manner. For example, the Cohanim will
tzibur of creation - to properly serve Hashem. To put it another way, this never start their bracha without being called upon since they are only the
is the Torah's "food chain", which leads to the spiritual elevation and messengers of Hashem, and as those they cannot initiate the bracha
redemption of the entire creation. without being called upon. On the other hand, we may not waive the
The shofar is an excellent example of this idea. While animals use necessity of being blessed by the Cohanim themselves since we have
their horns for ramming and fighting, man takes those same horns and learned of their importance to the frame of the bracha, being that they
elevates them by incorporating them into our prayer service. are in charge of performing the offerings of the public sacrifices.
The Gemara (BT Brachot 35a) employs this same principle with FAMILY LEARNING: PARASHAT SHMINI
respect to fruit. Before a person recites the correct blessing, the verse Bluma Zalcman
"The land and its fullness are Hashem's" applies, and a person is not yet 1) What are the names of Aharon's sons who died in the Mishkan?
entitled to eat the fruit. However, following the recitation of the blessing, a Who removed their bodies from the Mishkan?
different verse becomes relevant: "But the earth He gave to the children 2) When does Parashat Shmini take place?
of men". 3) What was Aharon's reaction to hearing the news of the death of his
By properly blessing Hashem, a person shows that he views himself 4) What are the signs of an animal that's meat is Kosher?
as Hashem's servant and a messenger for morally repairing the world 5) How does the Torah tell us which birds are Kosher?
and is therefore privileged and granted permission to use the entire Answers follow below
creation for this purpose. LOOKING BACK: THE HOLOCAUST
BIRKAT COHANIM - SPONTANEITY OR In Commemoration of Yom Ha'sho'ah, The Holocaust
CHANNELING? Rememberance Day in Israel this coming week, we bring you a question
Daniel Damboritz, former Shaliach, Manhattan brought before Rabbi Ephraim Oshry.
The Rambam in Hilchot Tefilla (15:7) writes with regard to Birkat Rabbi Oshry, who had studied under the most renowned Torah
Cohanim that the Cohanim are simply a channel for Hashem's blessing sages, was one of the few rabbinical authorities for the Jews seeking the
to Bnei Yisrael. The bracha is not the Cohanim's bracha to Bnei Yisrael, Torah's answers for their heart-wrenching questions throughout the war.
rather it is a bracha from Hashem to the Nation of Israel, which at his Rabbi Oshry hoped to one day show the world how his fellow Jews
own mercy and will decides to give us a bracha. The wonder only grows thought, felt and behaved in the most inhumane of circumstances. When
when we learn the Rambam's words just a chapter earlier (14:3), asked a question, he would write the details on scraps of paper, along
according to which, the chazzan reads out the three famous pesukim with the responses he provided. He then hid these papers in cans which
word by word and the Cohanim must follow him. Looking at the two were buried in the ground of the concentration camp near Kovno.
Halachot we have just learned, it seems that the Cohanim have no real Rabbi Oshry miraculously survived the war. However, his beloved
responsibility in relation to Birkat Cohanim, as they have no control of the wife and children were murdered in the concentration camps. He later
bracha they are to deliver, and they are not even ex pected to phrase the remarried, to a woman who herself was a survivor of Auschwitz.
bracha as they are lead through it by the chazzan.
After the war, Rabbi Oshry unearthed the hidden cans, and then
painstakingly reviewed each and every question with Torah texts, as his
original answers were based solely on memory. Once properly
researched, he then compiled a five volume work in Hebrew of the
responses, titled Shaalot U'Teshuvot Mimaamakim ("Questions and
Answers From the Depths"). This was later translated into a one-volume
work titled Responsa From the Holocaust.
.I was asked to render a halachic decision on the following problem:
A boy, whose leg the Germans had amputated, lay in the hospital.
Wishing to pray daily to his Creator, he sent a request through Jewish
channels that a pair of tefillin be sent into the hospital. A persistent rumor
in the ghetto claimed that the Germans burned every patient's personal
possessions upon his death or dismissal. Knowing what might happen to
the tefillin, was it still permissible to send a pair into the hospital?
I ruled that the tefillin might be sent to the lad so that he could fulfill
the Torah's commandment.. The story of the Germans burning personal
effects was an unsubstantiated rumor, one of many produced by the fear
that reigned in the ghetto. If we had known it to be a fact, I would
definitely have forbidden sending him the tefillin. But a rumor alone was
not enough to deprive that lad from praying with tefillin. They were sent
through a trustworthy emissary who gave them secretly to the boy, away
from German eyes.
I also felt that the tefillin would be an inspiration to the boy, a recent
baal teshuvah who had changed his life around from non-observance to
observance... Dr. Davidovitch, who worked in the hospital, testified to the
boy's immense joy when he donned the tefillin for the first time.
On 3 Tishrei 5702 [September 23, 1941] when the accursed
Germans destroyed the Little Ghetto, they also burned down the hospital,
incinerating the patients, nurses, and doctors inside. Some 60 Jews,
including Dr. Davidovitch and the boy to whom the tefillin had been sent,
were killed in the fire. G-d avenge their blood!
Wonder of wonders! One of the Jews who had been inside the
hospital, was miraculously saved, and told of what happened before the
incineration. The boy had guarded the tefillin literally with his life. When
he realized that the hospital would be destroyed together with its patients
and its staff, he asked this man to make every effort to hide the tefillin so
that they would not fall into the hands of the murderers who would surely
destroy them. The man succeeded in escaping from the hospital trap and
showed us the treasure, the boy's tefillin that had been saved. May G-d
fulfill in our time the verse, "For You, O G-d, have set in afire, and You
will restore it through fire."
ANSWERS: FAMILY LEARNING
1. Nadav and Avihu; Mishael and Eltzafan
2. The eighth day of the dedication of the Mishkan
3. He was silent and he didn't become angry with Hashem
4. It chews its cud and has split hooves
5. It lists the birds we are NOT allowed to eat.