This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Shemini is dedicated Lilui Nishmas for My Mother: Chaya bat Zalman who was niferet on 22 Nissan 5775.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
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After learning in Parsha Tzav that for seven days, Moshe taught Aaron HaKohen and his sons the laws of their Avodah (the Kohanic Service, i.e. in the Tabernacle and later in the Beit HaMikdash — ” The Temple”) in the Mishkan, our Parsha Shemini begins by relating that on the eighth day, Aaron and his sons commenced their Avodah HaKodosh (Holy Service).
But the alignment of these two Parshiyot, one-after-the-other, seems to this author, to have deeper meaning, above and beyond mobilization and deployment in time of war. This deeper meaning seems to denote a constancy of service, of humility, modesty and selflessness, of guard over Am Yisrael and their connection to Hashem, to Torah and to their sanctity (consecration, purity, holiness). And with this constancy of vigilance of Am Yisrael’s sanctity, our Parsha also teaches us about Kashrut, and “abstain[ing] from impure, non-Kosher item[s].” (L’ilmode U’Lamed, by Rabbi Mordechai Katz, Parsha Shemini, page 108)
Our Parsha also relates the tragedy of the deaths of Aaron’s two oldest sons, Nadav and Avihu who died while performing an unauthorized Service, offering a “strange fire …, which He did not command them…” (Artscroll Chumash, Vayikra, Perek 10, posuk 1)
Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz, in his sefer “Majesty of Man” (page 181-182) cites the Yalkut Shimoni’s crucial observation about Nadav and Avihu and their failure to discuss and clarify among themselves the halachot regarding their offerings:
The Yalkut Shimoni points out (524:20) that they made this mistake because they did not consult Moshe.
Furthermore… they were blamed because they did not consult with each other…. Why were they blamed for not consulting each other? If both Nadav and Avihu, the greatest men in Israel after Moshe and Aaron, both independently came to the same conclusion that this korbon [the “strange fire"] should be brought, why would asking each other make
Chazal are showing us the power of asking advice. Even if two equals … both feel the same way about a certain topic, talking it over may cause them to change their minds. By discussing a matter, the concepts involved become clarified.
Had Nadav and Avihu consulted each other, the ensuing discussion would have brought into question the halachic basis for the korbon and saved them from their fatal mistake.
This attribute of seeking clarity regarding facts or issues applies to more than only behaviors. Seeking clarity is a particular theme for me when commemorating the Yarhtzeit of my Mother: Chaya bat Zalman, she, with my Dad, should have an Aliyah in Shemayim.
Clarity played an important part at points in my Mother’s life. To cite relevant excerpts from my hespid:
Mere days after my parents’ wedding, while on their honeymoon, their hotel burned to the ground — my Father’s life saved due to the advent of penicillin which in 1945 was administered only to US military personnel. Nine months later, my Mother gave birth to a daughter destined to pass away at two years due to the genetic disorder – Tay Sachs which, at that time, was unknown to, and confounded American doctors. It was only once she took the daughter to a doctor in Montreal, that she received clarity, that the child was diagnosed as having Tay Sachs. B’H, later in life, when much attention was focused on areas of genetic research, I was tested and found not to be a carrier of the gene.
In my early childhood years, we lived in a North Philly post-World War 2 then predominantly German neighborhood. We lived in a corner house with a store front — my parents together operated a Mom ‘n Pop grocery store for about six years. As an only child who was shy, introverted; attending a public school, I was a child written off by a cruel, arrogant first grade teacher as being backward, retarded, seen as never amounting to anything. My Mother was one who fought for her child’s future by having me tested numerous times and by being active in that school’s PTA for as long as we lived in that community — again clarity.
And finally, in September and early October, 2015 some seven months before my Mother’s passing, she was seriously ill, and it was thought that the end was near. A head nurse in intensive care in a Florida hospital insisted to the family that she needed a procedure in order to get nutrition, despite the fact that one of the other nurses informed us that my Mother had passed certain tests which never made it to her medical record. My Mother rallied miraculously giving us more time with her, thanks to Hashem’s kindness in giving us great counsel; by way of the gentleman handling my Parents’ affairs, the medical personnel at my Parents’ assisted living facility, Rabbi Dr. Maurice Lamm z”l, Founder, President of the National Institute of Jewish Hospice and the Hospice organization which provided care for my Mother in my Parents’ apartment during her final months — yet again, clarity.
And so, as with our Parsha’s enumeration of the consequence of lack of the kind of clarity which comes with an absence of advice and counsel, seeking advice and clarity was vital for my parents and myself at crucial life junctures.
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of two and a half years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.