by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS SHMINI 5770 BS"D
Ch. 9, v. 6: "Zeh hadovor asher tzivoh Hashem taasu v'yeiro a'leichem k'vode Hashem" - This is the thing that you shall do and the Glory of Hashem will be seen upon you - People sometimes feel that they are greatly lacking in their service of Hashem when they don't plumb the depths of understanding why they should perform this or that mitzvoh. They might even add on that if they were to be asked why they are doing a specific mitzvoh and they don't have a deep penetrating explanation, they will be looked upon as simpletons, robots who just perform. Our verse tells us totally contrary t this train of thought. "Zeh hadovor asher tzivoh Hashem taasu," this is the thing you shall do simply because it is "asher tzivoh Hashem." Have no fear that you will be perceived as a simpleton. Our verse ends with, "V'yeiro a'leichem k'vode Hashem. The Honour and Glory of Hashem will be visibly seen upon you. (n.l.)
Ch. 10, v. 2: "Va'yomusu" - And they died - there are numerous explanations for the death of Nodov and Avihu. Among them are that they never had children, a verse in parshas B'midbar, and that they said one to the other, "When will these two elders die so that we may lead the nation" (gemara Sanhedrin 52b). The combination of these two is what did them in. Not marrying and in turn not having children can be somewhat excused in the case of extremely diligent people (gemara Y'vomos 63b). However, when they expressed their wishes that both Aharon and Moshe should die so that they will be able to take on the mantle of leadership, they destroyed any vestige of amelioration for their not marrying. Being a leader of the bnei Yisroel would surely take up much of their time, depriving them of time to study the Torah. Nevertheless, they so lusted this that they hoped for the demise of their father and their uncle. If so, there is no excuse for not marrying and procreating. (Torah Lodaas)
Ch. 10, v. 2: "Va'yomusu" - And they died - The medrash says that two strands of fire left the Holy of Holies and entered their nostrils and burned them to death. This can be understood in the light of the explanation that they deserved death because they issued an halachic ruling in front of their teacher Moshe. The medrash says that he who does this is deserving of being bitten by a venomous snake. The medrash Shir Hashirim says that although the desert contained many venomous serpents two strands of fire descended and burned all venomous creatures. Nodov and Avihu deserved to be bitten by venomous snakes, but there were none as the two strands of fire consumed the snakes. These two strands of fire, which were the cause of the lack of snakes, now had to do the work of the snakes, and they proceeded to kill Nodov and Avihu. (Yaaros Dvash)
Ch. 11, v. 6: "V'es ho'arne'ves" - And the hyrax - Rabbeinu Yoel cites Chayei Ha'nefesh, who says that this species has a most unusual nature. It changes its gender from male to female and also from female to male. He notes that "V'es ho'arne'ves" has the same numeric value as, "B'chodesh echod zochor uvchodesh echod n'keivoh." He adds that there is an allusion to this in our verse, as it says "maalas," which he considers a female term, and then "hu," which is male. This is most interesting, as we have this word pronounced "hee," with a "chirik" under the letter Hei (see Responsa Shnos Chaim #252). In my print of Chumash Targum Yonoson ben Uziel says, "masik pishra hU," but the other two Targumim say "hee." When the Septuagint was written the seventy Sages changed the word "arne'ves" to another word to avoid hurting the fragile sensibilities of Ptolmy, the king who ordered the translation, because his wife's name was "Arne'ves." The species that has the nature to change its gender also experienced a change it its text in this special edition of the Torah. Coincidental or planned?
Ch. 11, v. 9: "Asher bamoyim" - That is in the water - The Torah does not give names to fish species, contrary to animals and birds. This is because they are hidden from the eye. (Baal Haturim)
Alternatively, Odom did not give names to the different fish species, so the Torah left them nameless. (Baal Haturim in Tur Ho'oruch)
Ch. 11, v. 9: "Asher bamoyim" - That is in the water - The most prestigious of the species the Torah lists in our parsha is animals that walk on the ground. They are therefore mentioned first. The next level is birds as they in the main fly, but also walk on the ground. Nevertheless, fish are mentioned ahead of birds, even though they do not walk on the ground and are of a lower level. This is because the Torah gives us physical signs to determine which animals are and are not kosher for consumption. Birds are categorized by name only. The Torah therefore saw it fit to place fish immediately after animals to continue with the sign indication theme. (Ralba"g)
Based on this, an explanation is due for the Torah's waiting until after the bird naming section to introduce flying "sheretz" rulings, where signs are given for kashrus and non-kashrus (verses 21 and 23). Given that the species that always walk on the ground are given priority over those that fly, you might be wondering why the eight "shrotzim" of verse 29 and 30 are listed after birds, given that both groupings are identified only by name. However, this presents no problem. Rashi on verse 29 clearly states that the "tumoh" of the verse does not refer to restriction against consumption, but rather, defilement.
Ch. 11, v. 29: "V'zeh lochem hato'mei basheretz hashoreitz al ho'oretz" - And this is for you the defiled among the crawling creatures that crawl on the land - The snake is glaringly missing in the list of crawling creatures that defile when they are touched when they are dead. Rabbeinu Bachyei explains that since the paths of the Torah are pleasant Hashem did not want to apply the law of defilement to a snake since it is a creature that is poisonous and can injure and even kill. If one were to become defiled when killing a snake and coming in contact with it, it would be a great deterrent to killing it, and this would allow a menace to mankind to remain alive. This also explains why scorpions and poisonous centipedes are also excluded from this list. Nevertheless, these creatures are listed in verse 42 as those that we are prohibited from eating. The eight species that convey impurity carry no venom and do not cause injury either.
Ch. 11, v. 29: "V'hatzov" - Rabbi Yitzchok Karo in Toldos Yitzchok writes that this creature has the ability to puff itself up when it is angered. It can sometimes so blow itself up that it can burst and die. This is the reason it is called "tzav," which means to swell, as we find by the results of the "sotoh," "latzbos betten."
Ch. 11, v. 30: "V'ho'anokoh v'hako'ach v'halto'oh v'hachomet v'hatinsho'mes" - In some texts of Targum Onkelos the only one of these 5 species that has the definitive letter Hei before it if "v'hal't'sa." This is most unusual. By taking note of the missing "dogesh" in the letter Lamed in "hal't'sa," an answer might emerge. After a definitive Hei, the following letter, if capable of being "m'nukedes," takes a "dogesh." Since it is missing here, we might say that Targum Onkelos posits that the letter Hei is not a definitive Hei, but rather, the first letter of the name of this species. (n.l.) The other two Targumim list all five of these species without a definitive Hei.
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