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Parshas Shemini ~ Torah Gems

Shemini

I. Going in the proper way.

1. ‘And it was on the eight day Moshe called…’ (V’yikra* 9.1) We can explain this verse with a teaching that appears in the sefer O’lalos Ephraim. He explained the passage in the Talmud* that says: (Eruvin* 53b) ‘Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananyah said that once a boy triumphed over him. This happened when he once came upon a place in the road where it branched. He had a choice of going one of two ways to arrive at the city he was going to. He saw there a young boy.  He asked the boy which way leads to the city.  The boy said that they both did.  One way was short and long, and the other way was long and short.  Rabbi Yehoshua chose the way that was short and long.  He quickly arrived at the city, but the path went into thick gardens and fields.  Seeing that he couldn’t go further, he turned back.’ The idea here is that there are two paths placed before every person for him to choose. One is short and long. This is the way of the wicked, who follow the way that is easy in the beginning. It appears to them as if they are close to HaShem*. [However that is not the case.] The end of this way is suffering.  They find that there is a great expanse between them and HaShem. The second way is that of the Tzaddikim*. It is long and short. In the beginning it appears to them as if they are very far from HaShem. However in the end it is easy for them. It is easy for them to rise to the place where HaShem is [and serve him.] People want to go in the short and long way. This is because the fulfillment of ones desires for the things of this world can be attained by a person immediately.  However the rewards of the world to come ‘no eye has ever seen.’ For this reason Eve sinned when she said, ‘It [the fruit] is desirous to the eyes.’ This is because the eye only sees what is a temporary good. [They do not discern what is truly good.] So when he ‘arrives at the city’ he finds the gardens and fields separating him from the city. The desires of this world are compared to gardens and fields. They separate the person from the city and holiness.  This is because ‘your sins make a separation between you and your Father in heaven.’ Then he turned around. I.e. he did tshuva*. He carefully examined his actions so that he should not be among those who fool themselves and live in fantasies. Thinking that they are close to HaShem [when in truth they are not.] As the verse says, ‘the ways of men are good in their own eyes.’ They think that HaShem approves of them. They consider all things permitted, and everything pure.  (Until here are the words of the O’lalos Ephraim) With this we can understand the verse: ‘And it was on the eight day.’ This means: woe is to the one who does not inspire himself to do tshuva during the seven days, i.e. the 70 years of his life. Only on the eight day ‘Moshe called’. This means that it had appeared to him for his whole life that he was serving HaShem. However when he is in his old age he sees his error and does a sincere tshuva. (p. 296 sefer Toldos Yakov Yosef teachings of Rebbe* Yakov Yosef HaKohen of Polnoye)                                 * * * II. Good food. 2. ‘These are the creatures that you may eat’ (V’yikra 11.2) [The Midrash comments with regards to this verse:] “This is what the verse means, ‘To do Your will is what I desire, Your Torah* is within my stomach.’ The Jewish people are blessed [from HaShem] in that each of their limbs has been given a mitzvah*.” A man has 248 limbs. Therefore we say the blessing, ‘Who has formed man …with …  many cavities [Heb. chalulim]. The gematria* of the word ‘chalulim’ [124] doubled [as this word appears twice in the blessing] is equal to the number of limbs that a person has. [This shows us that each of the 248 limbs is for one of the 248 mitzvos. The mitzvah for] the head is ‘do not round the corners [Heb.  peyos] of your head.  For ones flesh there is the mitzvah ‘don’t make cuttings for the dead in your flesh’.  Likewise there is the mitzvah of circumcision. The truth is that every Jews desires to do the will of HaShem with learning Torah and prayer. However the Yetzer Harah* that is in him, and the desire to fill his stomach keep him back from the service of HaShem. The Yetzer HaRah causes him to follow after all his desires for food and drink. [This causes him to rebel as the verse says] ‘Yeshurim waxed and rebelled.’ This is even more true with the person who has (G-d forbid) stumbled by eating foods that are forbidden, and impure things. However the Tzaddikim are like those who go on a well lit way.  They overcome their physical desires, and don’t fill their stomachs [with all manner of foods.] Therefore their hearts [i.e. their Yetzer] are in their own hands so that they can serve HaShem with learning Torah and good deeds. This is what David said, ‘To do Your will is what I desire.’ This is certainly my desire to do Your will. However the main thing is that ‘Your Torah is within my stomach.’ I.e. to observe the Torah [laws] that deal with your stomach [i.e. the eating of only kosher* foods.] You should not allow any chance of the power of physical pleasures in your stomach to hold you back from going in the way of truth. Therefore the Midrash associates this verse with the verse ‘These are the creatures that you may eat.’ This is to warn against eating impure foods, so that your souls should not become despicable to HaShem. You should not be held back from the service of HaShem, and the love of Him. The impure foods are called ‘assur’ [forbidden], meaning that they are bound [Aramaic assur] to the Yetzer HaRah. [By eating of them you go into the power of the Yetzer HaRah.] There is no way that they can be used to serve HaShem, as it says in the sefer Tanya*. This is the meaning of what the Midrash says, ‘The Jewish people are blessed [from HaShem] in that each of their limbs has been given a mitzvah.’ The meaning is that each person should make himself holy in each of his 248 limbs by accepting upon himself the holiness of the 248 positive mitzvos [and doing them.] If he does this HaShem will be able dwell within him. (p. 153 sefer Avodas Yisroel teachings of Rebbe Yisroel of Koznitz.)                                 * * * III. Serving HaShem 3. ‘Speak to the children of Israel and tell them, These are the creatures that you may eat’ (V’yikra 11.1-2) Chazal* say that from this verse we learn that HaShem took every type of creature by the tail and showed it to Moshe and said to him these you may eat. We may say in explanation of this teaching that the tail is the end of the body. This indicates the lowest spiritual levels. This action by HaShem was a remez* to Moshe that he should raise up everything to it’s source, even those things that are on the lowest of levels. Even those that are on the very bottom he should raise up and use them in the service of HaShem. (p. 61 sefer Lekutei Shoshanim teachings of Rebbe Moshe Tzvi of Savoran)                                 * * * IV. Who is great? 4. ‘And it was on the eight day …’ (V’yikra 9.1) This refers to the eighth day of preparation for the dedication of the Mishkan*. Each day Moshe would assemble the Mishkan. Then he would disassemble it and then reassemble it again. The idea of this assembling, disassembling and then reassembling again of the Mishkan was to teach us that HaShem brings low the haughty and raises up those who are lowly. This can be understood according to what I have taught in the ‘general principles’. [His collection of Chassidic explanations of teachings of Chazal.] There is a legal principle that when ‘the Torah includes/adds something after having previously included/added, it is only to remove/subtract something which was already included.’ The meaning of this is that the more a person considers himself great in his eyes he is really becoming smaller and smaller.  [By ‘adding’ to himself he is actually subtracting. Instead of being greater he is smaller.] Likewise where they teach that when ‘the Torah removes/subtracts something after having already removed/subtracted other items, it is only in order to include/add something that would not have been included before.’ This means the more one considers himself smaller in his eyes, he is truly greater.  [By ‘removing’ his personal honor continually, he actually becomes greater.] This is what the Zohar* teaches, ‘the one who considers himself great he is small, and the one who considers himself small, he is great.’ The same can be said with regards to the learning of Torah. [We see this illustrated by] what I have taught with regards to the meaning of the verse ‘behold a ladder is resting on the earth and the top reaches to heaven.’ This is the Torah that is given in this world, but it reaches up to heaven.  This is because Torah that is learned with love and fear flies up to heaven. ‘And the angels of G-d’. These are the souls that are sent to this world to learn Torah. ‘Going up and down.’ This is the person himself. If he considers himself as if he was rising up because of his learning of Torah, then he is really going down. If he considers himself smaller then he rises up. This is the idea of the 7 days where Moshe took apart and put together the Mishkan. If the person stands up and becomes raised up in his eyes, he is really low and like the disassembled Mishkan. However if he is broken hearted, then he is raised up. (p. 45 sefer Divrei Yisroel teachings of Rebbe Yisroel of Modzitz.)                                 * * * V. Trusting in HaShem 5. ‘And Moshe said, this is the thing that HaShem commands for you to do and the glory of HaShem will be revealed to you.’ (V’yikra 9.6) We need to understand what this verse is adding to what appears in the previous verses. It appears that there is a remez here. At that time the Jewish people were at the pinnacle of perfection. They had just assembled the mishkan and they were informed that HaShem would appear to them. Moshe was the leader of the Jewish people, and Aharon was the high priest. It was a generation great in wisdom. [However] Moshe saw that there would come a time that they would not have a leader who was as great [as he was.] They wouldn’t have a mishkan, and the generation would not be on such a high level as they were [at that time. The question would be] how can a person attain perfection [in such a generation?] Therefore he told them, ‘This is the thing that HaShem commands for you to do.’ This means that no matter what condition they find themselves in, they should do the mitzvos of HaShem, and HaShem will appear to them. Even if they had sinned until then and they need to rectify their previous actions. In any case they should trust in HaShem and do the mitzvos of HaShem. That is what is meant by what Chazal say in Torah Kohanim* on this verse. ‘Moshe said to the Jewish people, “You should remove that Yetzer HaRah from your hearts…”‘ This means that they should remove from their hearts all those things they have done until now by following the Yetzer HaRah. And they should have trust in HaShem. They should improve their ways, and from now on go in the ways of HaShem and do his mitzvos. Through that ‘The glory of HaShem will be revealed to you.’ (p. 127 sefer Emunas Moshe teachings of Rebbe Yehudah Moshe of Alexander.) ———————————————————————

Glossary:

Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok    Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as    Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
HY’D: Heb. HaShem Yimkom Domov: HaShem should avenge their blood.
Mishleh: One of the books of the Tenach, called in English Proverbs.
Mitzvah (mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
nashama: Hebrew word for soul.
peshat: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding the simple meaning in the Torah.
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Shabbos: Tractate in the Talmud
Shemos: Second book of the Torah. Called Exodus in English
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible            b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law            c. also common term for a chassidic teaching

Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance

Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic Rebbe.
Yetzer: lit. Inclination. It is Jewish belief that every Jew has both an evil and good inclination within him, that are at ‘war’ to see which of them the person will follow.
Yetzer Tov: Heb. Good Inclination
Yetzer HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination.
ZT’L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The memory of a Tzaddik – Righteous person is a blessing.)
ZY’A: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechiso Yagan Aleinu (His merit should protect us.)
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