APRIL 21-22, 2001 28 NISAN 5761
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And do not defile your souls with any vermin which crawls on the earth, for I am Hashem Who brought you up from the land of Egypt" (Vayikra 11:44-45)
Normally, when the Torah reminds us that Hashem freed us from Egyptian servitude, it uses the term "hamosee - Who brought you out." Here, however, the Torah says "hama'aleh - Who brought you up," to teach us that abstaining from forbidden foods, and especially from the forbidden species of vermin, has an uplifting effect on a Jew. The Sages (Yoma 39a) gave a homiletic interpretation of the previous verse "v'nitmetem bam - and you will be defiled by them [if you eat them]." The defilement referred to is that the heart would be blocked, as it were, resulting in insensitivity to spiritual concerns.
On the other hand, someone who is careful about what he eats will have an open heart and find it easier to develop a benevolent outlook toward his fellow man. This is the "bringing up" that Hashem spoke of in our verse, an elevation of the spirit from the pride, selfishness and cruelty that characterized the Egyptian mentality. May we be privileged to carefully watch what we eat so that our souls are elevated to get closer to Hashem. Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And Moshe told Aharon, 'come near to the Altar'" (Vayikra 9:7)
Aharon, the brother of Moshe, was chosen to be the priest (kohen) to serve in the Mishkan. He had the job to offer up the various sacrifices on the Altar. This was a great honor bestowed upon Aharon and all of the generations that came from him. Today, we have kohanim reciting the special blessing every day. Only the kohanim can bless, and only because they are descendants of Aharon.
In our perashah, Aharon is instructed by his brother, Moshe, to step forward for the first time, to perform this glorious service of offering the sacrifices. Rashi says he was ashamed to come forward. Moshe told him not to be ashamed, for he was chosen for this. The Ramban quotes a parable from the Midrash. Once, a king married a common woman. The woman was ashamed to come to the king. Her sister said to her, "Don't be ashamed! After all, the king has chosen you!" Rabbi Moshe Feinstein asks: Aharon's shame is difficult to understand. Can Aharon say "No?" And what does the parable teach us? The answer: Aharon was ashamed because Hashem declared that Aharon was holier than the average Jew. Precisely because of this extra holiness he was chosen. Aharon was ashamed to step forward because he felt he wasn't holier. Moshe told him, like the sister told the king's wife, that Hashem loves you because of your extra holiness. That's why you were chosen! We all must realize that a kohen, today in 2001, is holier than the average Jew. It's a fact. We must treat them that way and the kohen must act according to his higher status. Rabbi Feinstein adds that Torah scholars are also referred to as kohanim in the Torah. I would like to add that just as we see that within the Jewish people some are holier than others, this applies even more to the Jewish people as a whole. They are holier than the gentiles. Just as Aharon was told not to be ashamed, the same applies to us. I must add that a wicked Jew can be worse than a gentile since he is misusing his powers. However, we are obligated to feel pride in our Jewishness. All men are created equal; Jews are different. Shabbat Shalom.
"Take a he-goat for a sin offering and a calf and a lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt offering" (Vayikra 9:3)
The Sifra states that a he-goat was to atone for the selling of Yosef. The brothers dipped Yosef's shirt into the blood of a he-goat and sent it to Ya'akob as proof that Yosef was devoured by wild beasts. The calf was offered as forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf. Considering Aharon's involvement in the making of the calf, it is easily understood why he needed to seek forgiveness. However, why did the iniquity of the selling of Yosef surface now?
According to the Midrash Raba, the brothers' rationale for killing Yosef was that they foresaw that in later years Yosef's descendant, Yerobam ben Nebat, would lead the Jewish people astray by making two golden calves. Consequently, they plotted to kill him so that he would not have any descendants. This excuse could be applicable only until the time when the Jewish people worshipped the Golden Calf in the desert. Once they committed this transgression, they shared in a sin similar to that of Yerobam ben Nebat, and they could no longer justify their intent to kill Yosef. Consequently, when Aharon made the Golden Calf, the crime the brothers endeavored to commit against Yosef became newly relevant. Therefore, when Aharon sought forgiveness for the Golden Calf, he also sought atonement for the sale of Yosef. (Vedibarta Bam)
This week's Haftarah: Shemuel II 6:1-19
The haftarah tells the story of how King David brought the Aron to Jerusalem with great celebration. Along the way, the Aron suddenly looked like it was about to fall, a man named Uzah rushed to support it, and he died on the spot. Similarly, in our perashah, Nadab and Abihu offered a strange fire in the Mishkan and were punished with immediate death. Both incidents served to sanctify Hashem's Name because they showed the extreme holiness of the Aron and the Mishkan.
Answer to Pop Quiz: They were offering incense in the Mishkan.
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