"And Moses said: 'This is the thing that G-d has commanded that
you do--and the glory of G-d will appear to you.'" (Lev. 9:6)
Every mitzva in the Torah has a myriad of inner, esoteric meanings,
which each Jew understands according to his or her intelligence and level
of Torah learning. Even the most learned scholar cannot fully grasp these
secrets, for human comprehension and understanding of the infinite is
limited and finite. This is why Moses commanded the Jews--"This is
the thing that G-d has commanded"--no matter how much one has studied
and no matter how many inner meanings a person has learned, the real reason
to do a mitzva is because G-d has so commanded. When your intent
in performing a mitzva is solely because G-d wants that particular
act to be performed, then "the glory of G-d will appear to you."
"Moshe said to Aharon, "Come near to the altar."
Aharon was hesitant and fearful of approaching the altar. Moshe told him
to come near as he had been chosen for this position. The fact that he
was reluctant made him the most suitable for the job, for fearing Hashem
means being careful in all that one does.
(Degel Machne Efrayim) (from L'Chaim #463)
"Aaron lifted up his hands to the people and blessed them."
Why did Aaron, not Moses, bless the Jewish people? The Divine Presence
could only rest in the Tabernacle after the sin of the Golden Calf was
atoned for. Aaron was the one who had to effect the atonement, as it was
he who was ultimately responsible for the sin having been committed in
the first place. Therefore, he was the one to bless the people.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
"Aaron raised his hands ("yadav") toward the people
and blessed them." (9:22)
Although the word for hands, "yadav," is pronounced in
the plural, it is written without an extra yud, as if in the singular
("yado"). This is an allusion to the importance of Jewish
unity: When the Jewish people stand united, Aaron's "hands"
are transformed into a single hand reaching up to Heaven, to bring down
an abundance of G-dly blessing.
"They brought near before the L-rd a strange fire, which He had
not commanded them." (10:1)
In truth, a Jew should perform every one of the Torah's mitzvot with such
enthusiasm and self-sacrifice that it utilizes all of his energy and life-force.
The mitzva, as a commandment of G-d, will then in turn infuse him with
renewed vitality and life, as it states, "And you shall live by them."
Nadav and Avihu, however, were not "reanimated" after bringing
their "strange fire," for despite having the proper intentions,
what they did was not a mitzva.
"Fire came forth from before G-d and it consumed them, so that
they died before G-d." (10:2)
What was the failing of Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aaron, that they
were killed by a Divine flame when they offered an unauthorized fire?
They desired to be one with G-d spiritually (through the sacrifice) rather
than remain in this physical world. The spiritual high was not brought
down into practicality.
(Rabbi Sholom Ber of Lubavitch) (from L'Chaim #513)
"...Moshe inquired and researched.." (10:16)
These words are at the exact half-way point of the Torah (according to
the total number of words). This hints that until "Moshe inquired
and researched", i.e. until the explanations of our Sages in the
Oral Torah, the Torah is only half a Torah. The Oral Torah complements
the Written Torah to comprise a whole unit.
(Dekel Machane Efraim -translated from Sichat HaShavuah 274)
"But these you shall not eat...because it chews the cud (ma'aleih
geira) but does not divide the hoof (u'farsa einenu mafris); it is unclean
to you." (11:4)
A Jewish host must make sure that his guest is comfortable. He should
cut several slices of bread from his loaf (the Hebrew word parsa
means both hoof and a slice of bread) in case the guest is too embarrassed
to do so, and must himself partake of enough food to encourage the guest
to eat without self-consciousness. This is alluded to in the Torah: The
camel, which "chews the cud but doesn't divide the hoof," is
not a kosher animal, as it eats enough but doesn't share his parsa
(bread). Likewise, the pig, "which divides the hoof (i.e., shares
his bread with others)...but doesn't chew its cud (i.e., does not eat
enough to encourage guests) - it is unclean to you." Only a host
who fulfills both requirements is "kosher."
(Reb Meir of Premishlan)
"And the stork
The Hebrew word for "stork" is "chasida," which
means kind. It is thus named because the stork shares its food with its
friends. Jews are forbidden to eat birds and animals that have adverse
character traits. Yet the stork, with its kind, sharing nature is forbidden!
A person who, like a stork, only shares with those he likes and ignores
the needs of others, is not considered a kind person. We are forbidden
to eat the stork to prevent us from acquiring this negative trait.
(Chidushei Harim) (from L'Chaim #463)
"..and the stork...[is impure; you shall not eat]" (11:19)
It says in the Talmud: "Why is the stork called 'kind one' (Hebrew:
'chassida')? Because she helps her friends". If so, why is
she counted with the impure birds? Because she is kind only to her friends.
She takes care only of those birds that are "of our way of thinking".
(but see:63) from Our Old Treasure (translated from Sichat HaShavuah #120)
and the chasida [stork]..." (11:19)
Why is the stork called "chasida" ['kind'] in the Holy Tongue?
Our Sages tell us it is because the stork acts kindly, sharing food, with
its companions. If so, why is it classified among the impure species of
birds? Because the kindness it engages in is only with its companions!
Similarly, a person who is truly holy and pure will be kind and generous
to everyone, whether they are friends or not.
(Kotzker Rebbe -translated from Sichat HaShavuah #)
"..All that walk on their 'hands' (claws, paws etc)"
He who performs the commandments only with his "hands," i.e.
from ingrained habit only, without thought and soul, without purpose or
feeling, he is like the animals who "walk on their hands."
(from Rebbe Simcha Bunim -translated from Sichat HaShavuah 173)
"Every earthen vessel... whatever is in it shall be unclean."
An earthen vessel becomes unclean by virtue of its contents, not because
of anything its exterior may come into contact with. For pottery itself
has no intrinsic value, serving only as a container for whatever it holds.
A metallic vessel, how ever, becomes unclean from the outside, as the
metal itself is valuable. A human being is likened to an earthen vessel;
he too is composed of "dust of the earth." He himself has no
intrinsic worth; his value comes from that which is within.
(The Kotzker Rebbe) (from L'Chaim #1014)
"If any of these fall on the inside of a clay vessel, then anything
inside it becomes unclean, and the vessel itself shall be broken"
Man can be compared to a clay vessel. With man, too, the main aspect is
the inner: his mind and heart. Therefore, he too becomes impure primarily
from the "inside": his thoughts and feelings.
(Otzair Chayim -translated from Sichat HaShavuah 484)
"Whatever goes on its belly [gichon] ...you shall not eat; for
they are an abomination." (11:42).
According to tradition, the Hebrew letter vav (the third letter
in the word gichon) is the exact middle letter in the entire Torah.
This hints to us that if one has learned half of the Torah, he must not
consider himself great or be boastful. "Don't let your chest swell
- you should still consider yourself as low as one who walks on its belly
in the dust."
(The Gerrer Rebbe)
"All the creeping things that creep upon the earth, you may not
eat them, for they are an abomination." (Lev. 11:42)
The Torah portion of Shemini begins (9:1) with the most sublime and elevated
service on the eighth day of preparation for the Tabernacle, and ends
(11:41-43) with the prohibition against eating crawling insects, something
which goes against human nature. From this we learn that even one who
stands on the highest level of spirituality and observance is not protected
against spiritual downfall, G-d forbid, and must serve G-d with the same
measure of acceptance of the yoke of heaven as others.
"You shall sanctify yourselves and you shall be holy, because
I am holy." (11:44)
The rich man's son doesn't worry about livelihood because his father is
always there to help him financially. So too is it with the Jewish people:
Because our Father is holy, it doesn't take very much effort to be holy
ourselves. All we need do is take a step in the right direction, and our
Father helps us along.
(Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev)
Both the "red heifer" and the Messianic redemption effect purification.
The ashes of the "red heifer" are used for removing a legal
state of impurity. The redemption will purify the entire people of Israel
(including those who halachically are pure) from any trace of deficiency
in the bond with our Father in Heaven. One of the Messianic prophecies
(Ezekiel 36:25) thus says of that time, in terms analogous to the "waters
of purification" of the "red heifer": "I shall sprinkle
pure waters upon you that you be purified. I will purify you from all
your impurities and from all your idols!"
[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]
Kosher animals have two signs: they chew their cud and have split hooves.
The Torah lists four animals that have only one of these signs, and are
therefore non-kosher - camel, rabbit, hare and pig. Each of these four
animals represents one of the four nations that enslaved the Jewish People
in exile. We are now in the last of these four exiles, which corresponds
to the pig (chazir in Hebrew). The word chazir also means
"return." For, at the end of this - our fourth and longest exile
- G-d's glory and the glory of the Jewish People will return to their
formerly lofty level.
(Vayikra Rabba 13)#815
"G-d said to Aharon: When you enter the Communion Tent, neither
you or you descendants may drink wine or any other intoxicant."
The Torah prohibits a Kohen from entering the Bais HaMikdosh (Holy Temple)
if he drinks too much wine. If he drinks a reviis (86 grams) of wine,
he must wait about 24 minutes before he may enter the Bais HaMikdosh to
There is an opinion in the Gemara that even today, when we do not have
the Bais HaMikdosh, a Kohen is still forbidden from drinking wine, because
maybe the Bais HaMikdosh will suddenly be rebuilt . If that happened,
and he had just drank wine, he wouldn't be allowed to enter the Bais HaMikdosh!
But if all he has to do is wait 24 minutes, what would be the problem
anyway? From this we see that the entire Bais HaMikdosh could miraculously
appear in less than 24 minutes!
[Adapted from Discover Moshiach in the Weekly Torah Portion (by
Rabbi Berel Bell and the students of Bais Chaya Mushka Seminary of Montreal),
as published on www.mashiach.org]
"In the future, G-d will make a banquet for the tzadikim
[righteous] from the flesh of the Leviatan [giant fish]." (Bava Basra
75a) Besides all the spiritual concepts alluded to in this banquet, including
the inner meaning of the Giant Fish, the Wild Ox, and "the preserved
wine" - this will also be a physical banquet. Furthermore, as is
known, the ultimate reward in the days of Mashiach is not in Paradise,"
where "there is neither eating nor drinking" (Brachos 17a),
but in the World of Resurrection, specifically to souls within bodies
(according to Ramban and as affirmed by the teachings of chassidut).
[The Lubavitcher Rebbe--translated by Michoel-Lieb Dobry of Tsfat]