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by Daneal Weiner

Omer Tov! I just made that up and now that I think about it, it's pretty 'good'! But more about that later. This past Shabbos, while outside of Israel it was the 8th day of Pesach and a special portion of the Torah was read, pushing off the weekly portion, in Israel the weekly portion was read. This Shabbos, the weekly portion is returned to outside Israel while in Israel the following weekly portion is read which happens to a double parsha, two weeks worth lumped into one! I was deliberating whether to talk about the one for outside or the two for inside. It occurred to me, that since the overwhelming majority of cyberspace exists outside of Israel, most appropriate would be to discuss what would be relevant to the majority. Needless to say, I found a dvar Torah by Rav Wolfson who happens to talk about

Parshas Shmini - Tazria/Metsorah!

Due to my sins, I ended up reading some horrendous dribble passed off as a dvar Torah on Parshas Shmini in which the precious sons of Aaron were defamed and denigrated for the sin they committed. The truth of the Torah and Chazal, our Sages, shows us the human frailty in every one of our holy ancestors. Chazal ALSO teach us that if we are men, our ancestors were angels. If our ancestors were men, then we are animals. We can't imagine what they were like. But we have to try. Unfortunately, this latter lesson is rarely learned and whenever the Torah does describe a sin of an ancestor, the most animalistic of our generation never miss the opportunity to portray our pious ancestors as soap-opera characters, r'l, in an attempt to vindicate their own vacuity which they undoubtedly consider a Torah lifestyle. (And I've calmed down now. You should have heard me when I read it.)

Thank the Almighty for the Rav Wolfson's of the world! Without them we would be lost in our understanding of Torah and our ancestors, Chazal and their wisdom and what it means to be a Jew. Not only does the Rav discuss all three parshas but he also ties in and gives us a Torah perspective of the sin of Nadav and Avihu.

Rav Wolfson first brings the Magen Avraham from his laws of the Torah reading on Shabbos where he says we should be careful not to mix up the parshas. Not to read them out of order. He bases this on a Zohar which says that each parsha is specifically meant for it's intended week. Rabbi Chanoch Henech wrote in his sefer "Chashvah L'tova" about a custom to read the upcoming parsha on the Motsai Shabbos, the Saturday night of the concluding week. He writes that since that parsha contains the kedushah- sanctity of that week, we read it at the soonest possible moment to begin to draw it's influence into the world. He continues that a Shabbos on which two parshas are read, it brings twice the sanctity to the week!

As mentioned above, this week two parshas are being read in Israel while one is being read outside of Israel. We once discussed how Israel (Jerusalem and the Temple mount, more specifically) is the main switching station for all prayers which ascend to heaven. The opposite is also true. Israel is the center of the influence which comes into the world. The first satellite dish for worldwide reception. So the fact that a double parsha is being read in Israel effects the rest of the world and that is on top of the kedushah of the Parshas Shmini being read as well. In other words, in the 'Diaspora Stadium' it's a triple header!

The Zohar also says that there are 'Gan' parshas in the Torah paralleling "'Gan' Eden". 'Gan' which means 'garden' has the numeric value of 53. The lunar calendar does not have 53 weeks in the year so a few of the parshas are doubled up. Had the moon not sinned, as the Gemorah Chullin tells us, then it would not have been diminished and the lunar year would have been 365 days like the solar year and every week would have had it's own parsha! (Granted, the solar year also does not have 53 weeks, (only 52) but the 53rd parshas is not read on Shabbos, rather on the holiday, Simchas Torah.)

For those not familiar with the aforementioned Gemorah in Chullin, a verse in Breishis (1:16) says that "G-d made 2 great luminaries; the big luminary to rule the day and the small luminary to rule the night and the stars." The problem is that "2 great" doesn't equal "the big" + "the small"!? So what happened? Rashi says that G-d originally created the sun and moon the same The moon came before the Creator and asked, "Can two kings wear the same crown? (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, point point)" G-d responded, "You're absolutely correct! YOU won't wear it!"

The Torah is not a book of science even though science was created from it. It is a book of moral instruction. To know that a sun can go nova, super-nova, implode, explode, or upload email may be good for trivial pursuit but doesn't make us better human beings. As Rabbi Berel Wein puts it, when we hear G-d's attitude to the moon was "You have a problem with him? You want to change him? YOU change!" now all we have to do is wake up in the morning and walk outside and we have our lesson for the day! And one of the tougher lessons at that!

Chazal tell us at the core of the sin of the moon was jealousy. Both can't wear one crown. What 'A' has isn't important. What 'B' has is! This is like the commandment not to covet the neighbors wife, house, donkey, etc. Some say, "You see! To the Torah women are just like a house or donkey. Just property." The truth is, the Torah is taking us into the mind of he who covets. He doesn't see the other mans wife as the perfect wife, great mother and friend for life. HE craves her purely because she is with another. That being the basis of his feelings it's no different than wanting the house or the donkey!

The next Rashi on the verse is regarding the 'stars' mentioned at the end. He brings from the Midrash that as an appeasement, the moon was given a host of stars subservient to it. Meaning, although the moon is smaller than any star, due to the proximity of the moon and the tremendous distance of the other stars our night light is overwhelmingly due to the presence of the moon. So the moon, because of sin, became small and the stars are to make it feel better! So too the Jews, because of sin, ended up outside of Israel and having to keep an extra day of holiday, and are given the appeasement of the doubling up of the parshas which bestows upon them twice and sometimes even three times the divine influence. Rav Wolfson notes that 'star' in Hebrew is 'kochav'. 'Ko' has the value 26 and 'chav', the value 22. 26 is (the gematria of) Hashem and 22 are the letters in the aleph-beis. Just as the stars appeased the moon 'ko''chav', G-d's letters, the Torah, appeases us.

This Shabbos (Shmini) there is the custom (by women who bake there own challahs) to poke or perforate a challah with a key. (I've also seen a key baked onto the surface of a challah. That is 'seen' in a kitchen, not seen in writing. I don't know if it is sourced somewhere or had grown out of the former custom by women in a big hurry!) The sefer Ohev Yisrael explains that on Pesach all the heavenly gates were open but now they've closed. He adds in that Shabbos is one of the more precious commandments of Hashem and that the challah represents the Manna our forefathers ate in the desert, i.e., physical sustenance. What does all this mean? Although we anticipate the coming of the Mashiach every day, certainly the days of the redemption from Egypt have the greatest potential for his arrival. To our dismay, he has not yet come. As an appeasement, we combine the key and challah and this first Shabbos after Pesach, the Shabbos on which we welcome in the month of Iyar, when the Manna first fell from heaven, in the hope that we at least merit the resources to amply sustain ourselves, making ourselves available and capable to fulfill the will of Hashem. After all, it says in Devarim 28:12 and Tehillim 78:23,24 state, "[If you observe the commandments] Hashem shall open for you his storehouses of goodness..." "He had instructed the skies above and the doors of heaven He opened, and rained upon them the Manna to eat..."

Along these lines it is no coincidence that the week of Shmini also was the week of the "Bizas Hayam", the collecting of all the precious gems from the chariots of the Egyptians on the shores of the Red Sea. Again showing this time appropriate for hope and prayer of sustenance. Rav Wolfson points out that "Shabbos seder Shmini"- Shabbos, the portion of Shmini = 1376 = "patach tiftach"- He should surely open (as in the doors of heaven and storehouses of goodness). May it be the will of Hashem! The Grand Rav of Korits said that extending Shabbos, taking time from the mundane and adding it onto the sanctity of Shabbos, also draws a blessing of sustenance. May it be the will of us!

We are in the Sfiras Haomer- counting the Omer. During this time the 24,000 students of Rebbe Akivah died. The Gemorah says their sin was not according each other appropriate honor. Rav Wolfson learned these 24,000 students were reincarnations of the 24,000 members of the tribe of Shimon who died in the plague which Pinchas' act of Torah endorsed zealousness put an end to. Rather than recognizing the divine retribution and appreciating Pinchas for saving the rest of their tribe, the Shimonites wanted to kill him! This revealed a character flaw of this tribe. The students of Rebbe Akivah knew they were the reincarnations of those Shimonites and INTENTIONALLY did not act with honor to each other in order to break that character flaw! The Gemorah describes these students as living across the globe. So what? What does geographic location have to do with the moral of this story? The Gemorah's is telling us that the students were not under the direct guidance and watchful eye of their Rabbi, mentor and teacher who could monitor their behavior, assuring it's proper measure. These great students, with out their greater Rebbe, fell victim when their act of reparation crossed the line into the sin of disrespect.

The first Rashi in Shmini marks the time as Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the new moon and month of Nissan. Rashi says the Mishkan (Sanctuary) was erected and 10 crowns descended into the world. The first new moon had its crown removed and on this new moon it received 10. This was a time of divine reparation for the sin of the moon and it's lack of respect for the sun. This heightened the sensitivity in the world against the sin. Hashem judges His most righteous, His most precious within a hair's breadth of justice. During this month the students of Rebbe Akivah were judged. This time of the year is a very important time to work on this trait. But not like the students of Rebbe Akivah who worked on changing each other. Like the moon was taught, to work on changing ones selves.

It was on this same day, Rosh Chodesh Nissan, that Nadav and Avihu entered the Mishkan with their strange fire, as recorder in the Torah. They are recorded by Chazal to have said regarding Moshe and Aaron, "When will these two old men die that we may lead the people." Chazal certainly seem to paint them lacking much repsect for Moshe and Aaron. But knowing that Nadav and Avihu were hand picked by G-d to be the priests, knowing that Moshe told Aaron his sons were greater than they themselves, knowing this parsha is juxtaposed to its haftorah in which Uzzah showed disrespect regarding the holy ark and it says, "The anger of G-d flared...and [He] struck him for the error," vernacular we don't see by Nadav and Avihu, knowing that the death of the righteous are an atonement for their generation and every Yom Kippur- Day of Atonement we read THIS episode of Nadav and Avihu because they atonement for EVERY generation(!!!!!!)- knowing all this- anyone with simplest common sense must say it CAN'T be that we are to think of Nadav and Avihu as unrefined as Chazal chose to describe them. So we must look for the real meaning.

Since Nadav and Avihu were on a higher spiritual plane then Moshe and Aaron and since Moshe was from the 49th level of Sanctity, that would make Nadav and Avihu from the 50th level which is where the potential of full world reparation exists. Also, the Zohar tells us Nadav and Avihu's souls both entered into Pinchas, who was also Eliyahu the Prophet who went up to heaven alive, who did not need the atonement of death, who was chosen by G-d to herald the coming of the Mashiach, who is also connected to the 50th level of Sanctity. So Nadav and Avihu, who's perspective of events was from this near perfect state, saw a very different way in which Bnei Yisrael could have been lead. A way they felt would have quickly brought the world to it's perfected state. We need Chazal to exaggerate the flaw which was so subtle that they did not recognize it in themselves. Compounding the crime, again, was this time sensitive of this particular sin. Hashem judges His most righteous, His most precious within a hair's breadth of justice.

The Torah also says about Nadav and Avihu, "each took his fire pan..." Chazal say this describes another shortcoming, that they acted individually, even while together. Had they discussed it with one another, played devil's advocate to each other, they would have realized their slightly less than 100% pure intentions which would have stopped them immediately. When Moshe tells the two surviving brothers to enter the Mishkan to remove the bodies he commands them saying 'kirvu', from the root 'karev' which means 'come close'. A strange verb to use. Moshe is warning them to be unified. The opposite of the sin.

Although they were not able to rectify this flaw in their life time, it was rectified by their death. And Nadav and Avihu soon entered into Pinchas with whom G-d then made a Bris Shalom- a covenant of peace! And, again, Pinchas was Eliyahu the Prophet about whom it is written, "He will return the hearts of the fathers upon the sons and the hearts of the sons upon the fathers." Another indication of a time peace. Between father and son, between big and the small, between the sun and the moon.

And speaking of hearts, the plague attacking the students of Rebbe Akivah stopped on the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. The 32 days prior are the gematria 'lamed, veis' which is 'lev' which means 'heart'. 32 is also the numeric value of 'Kavode' which means 'honor'! During this time period we have a custom of learning Pirkai Avos, Ethics of the Fathers. An excellent tool for working on improving ones character. And if we work at it these 32 days then we have a good chance for success the remaining 17 days of the count which is the numeric value of 'Tov'- Good! Omer Tov!!! Our counting and our efforts of refinement eventually lead us to the 50th day, the symbol of the ultimate level of Sanctity!!! May we all get there this year!

For further support in our quest for perfection, Parshas Shmini tells us what foods are not kosher. Who ever coined the phrase, "You are what you eat" heard it here first! Refraining from non-kosher foods is refraining from spiritually clogged arteries. If any Jew on the road of return asks you what should be the first mitzvah to take on, the answer is keeping kosher. Clear arteries allows the blood, which carries the soul, to move freely about, elevating every cell of the individual, heightening their spiritual sensitivity and giving them a desire to do more to connect more to their Creator. On a deeper level, the four non-kosher animals listed symbolize the four nations which put us into exile. Just as we avoid these animals so too must we avoid the customs and ways of these nations.

Chazal say there are 600,000 Jewish souls corresponding to the 600,000 letters of the Torah. During this same time of atonement, of working on honor and unity, we find the letters of two and sometimes even three parshas come together, expressive of that unity between the souls of the Nation of Israel!

By the Ashkenazic Jews, the Rabbi gets the 3rd aliyah to the Torah because it's the most honored aliyah. According to the Chassidim, the Rebbe gets the 6th aliyah because it's the most honored aliyah. When we double up two parshas the 3rd aliyah called to the Torah falls on the 6th aliyah of the first parsha! It's 'kirvu' every where you look!!! That word 'kirvu' has 2 cantillation marks over it! 2 on one word!! In Hebrew, the word for these notes is 'ta'am.' 'Ta'am' also means 'reason' as in the Gemorah, when asking for the reason between two differing opinions. Both reasons co-exist even on one word. Not only that, the Ba'al Koreh- the reader of the Torah sings the second cantillation first! How's that for giving honor!

[Which aliyah is more honorable is a time/honored dispute. The Midrash says that when Moshe raised his hands asking the sea to split, the sea didn't want to! He said, "I was created on the 3rd day and Man on the 6th! First in time, first in line! Why should I split for you?" Moshe said, "Creation was uphill! The later the better!" (shhh! don't tell the women) Hashem made peace between them and HE split the sea. (shhhh! don't tell the ashkenazim!)]

Have a wonderful, respectful, no-fighting-over-the-biggest-cholent-potatoe, time-honored Shabbot Shalom!

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