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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Shemini

Moshe said to Aharon: Come near to the Mizbayach and perform the service of your Sin-offering and your Olah-offering. (9:7)

Rashi explains that the introductory phrase, "Come near to the Mizbayach," was necessary in order to encourage Aharon to come forth. Aharon hesitated to come forward to serve at the Mizbayach as a consequence to his involvement in the sin of the Golden Calf. Targum Yonasan says that Aharon saw an image of the Golden Calf before his eyes as he approached the Mizbayach. This vision elicited his shameful response. Moshe told him, "Why are you ashamed? This is why you were chosen." A number of explanations elucidate this statement. Horav Yitzchak Volozhiner,zl, explains that Moshe told Aharon that, specifically, his profound humility in feeling himself not worthy of this august position qualified him for the position. "Because of this - your humility - you were chosen."

Nachlas Tzvi cites the Talmud in Sanhedrin 7a, which recounts Aharon's emotions preceding the creation of the Golden Calf. He saw Chur, his cousin, lying dead, murdered at the hands of the wild crowd clamoring for a god. He conjectured, "If they kill me too, they will have gone too far. There will be no repentance, no hope left for them." He decided that although it would be wrong to assist them in making the Golden Calf, it was better for them to sin in this manner than to kill him and be eternally condemned. Aharon made an aveirah lishmah, a transgression for the purpose of saving Klal Yisrael. He "sinned" with mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice. He risked his own spiritual future in order to protect the nation that he loved so much. Moshe told him, "Because of your overwhelming sense of achrayus, responsibility, your willingness to relinquish spirituality for Klal Yisrael, you were selected to serve and offer korbanos on the Mizbayach." At times, one must see the greater good and act accordingly. We must add that a decision of this sort may be decided only by a gadol, Torah giant, whose non-biased opinion will reflect true daas-Torah.

In the city of Kalinkuvitz, a suburb of Minsk, an incident occurred that had repercussions throughout Lithuanian Jewry. On Erev Yom Kippur, a group of prisoners were brought to the city. Among them were murderers and thieves on their way to be incarcerated in the main jail. The Jews found out that one of the prisoners was a Jew. They implored the officer in charge to permit him to be released for Yom Kippur. They would assume all responsibility for the man. The official deferred to their request, and the prisoner joined the community donned in a borrowed Tallis and Kitel to pray on Judaism's holiest day of the year.

During Shemoneh Esrai, when everybody was hunched over covered by his Tallis, the prisoner asked the guard if he could go out to the "bathroom." Before the guard could even respond, the prisoner had disappeared somewhere among the Talleisim and could not be found. One can imagine the fear that gripped the Jewish community when the congregation discovered this situation. Soon, everyone began to search throughout the town and the surrounding villages, but to no avail. In an effort to cover his own negligence in permitting the prisoner to be released temporarily, the mayor immediately incarcerated the rav and five of the most distinguished members of the community, along with the guard who had failed to watch the prisoner adequately. The next morning pandemonium broke out in the town when the guard's body was discovered hanging from the ceiling of his jail cell. He could not wait to hear the death sentence that would surely have been pronounced against him for his dereliction of duty. Now the only ones left were the rav and the five members of the community who were languishing in jail, afraid for their lives.

Knowing full well the mayor's lust for money, the community attempted to bribe him. He accepted! The price, however, was so exorbitant that they had no hope of ever raising that sum of money. The Jews of Kalinkuvitz decided to secretly send an emissary to the famous Zundel Zonenberg in St. Petersburg, an orthodox Jew whose connections in the government were well-known. His devotion to his People, and his personal piety, were exemplary. If anyone could intercede in their behalf, it was Zundel ha'gadol, Zundel the great. Travel at this time of the year was treacherous, as a result of the rains that had flooded the roads. Jewish lives were at stake. People had no time to feel sorry for themselves. They drew lots, and the lot fell upon the aged dayan, head of the rabbinical court, to be the emissary. Everyone wished him well as he left on this dangerous journey.

He stopped along the way in Minsk to visit with the famous sage Horav David Tebli, zl. After relating to him everything that occurred and where he was going, he asked the great tzadik for a blessing. Rav David told him, "Go in peace, May the Almighty grant you success. Remember that nothing stands in the way of human life - even Shabbos."

The dayan could not understand the meaning of the rav's cryptic message, but "filed" it away in his mind in case he would need the advice one day. Meantime, as it began to rain, the ground became almost impassable, and it was getting closer to Shabbos. What should he do? He remembered Rav David's instructions that human life takes precedence over everything. Therefore, he told his driver to keep going. He arrived on Shabbos, exhausted, broken and filthy. He immediately ran to the main shul where Reb Zundel was engrossed in his Shachris prayers and cried out to him, "Reb Zundel! Save the Jews of Kalinkuvitz!" The dayan could not contain himself, breaking down from physical and emotional exhaustion.

After relating the entire story and Rav David Tebli's instructions, Reb Zundel himself trembled with awe. He immediately removed his Tallis and went out, going from agency to agency, beseeching those in authority to free the hapless Jews. The Minister of Interior placed all of the onus of responsibility upon Zundel's head if anything went awry in the Jewish community. He made him sign an affidavit attesting to the fact. The only thing that bothered the dayan was the fact that he had desecrated the Shabbos. He told the dayan, "It was the name Rav David Tebli that prompted me to go. Otherwise, I never would have been mechalel Shabbos."

The old dayan returned home by way of Minsk, once again stopping at the home of Rav David Tebli. The rav then explained to him the significance of his chillul Shabbos on behalf of Klal Yisrael. He cited the Rambam who writes in Hilchos Shabbos, 2:3, that when one is compelled to desecrate Shabbos to save a Jewish life, this act of chillul Shabbos should not be executed through a gentile, a slave or women, but rather by gedolei Yisrael, Torah leaders. Rav David Tebli concluded his remarks saying, "If your heart still bothers you regarding your chillul Shabbos, then take for you any and every Shabbos that I have observed and give me in exchange only one Shabbos - the Shabbos that you desecrated in order to save the Jews of Kalinkuvitz!"

Moshe said to Aharon, "Of this did Hashem speak, saying, "I will be sanctified through those who are close to Me"…and Aharon fell silent." (10:3)

The commentators render a number of explanations regarding Aharon's silence. The Chafetz Chaim says that Aharon accepted Hashem's decree with love. He did not exhibit any outward indication of depression. He was "va'yidom," inanimate like a stone: no movement, no expression, nothing that would in any way allude to his pain or protest. The Tzor Hamor explains that Aharon's silence in its own right did not constitute an indication of his acceptance, of his tziduk ha'din, accepting/justifying Hashem's judgement. He could have been silent as a result of depression, a feeling of dejection. In his heart, however, he might have harbored pain and resentment for the tragedy that had befallen him. No, Aharon harbored no ill will; he accepted Hashem's judgement with love. In support of this, we see that Hashem addressed His speech to Aharon alone, in instructing him in the laws that deal with Kohanim who are intoxicated. Hashem does not appear to an individual who is depressed or saddened. Aharon's conviction, his love and trust of the Almighty, enabled him to transcend pain and sorrow in order to "see" the truth.

Nachlas Tzvi cites an incident involving the Divrei Chaim, Horav Chaim Halberstam, zl, M'Tzanz, whose son, Horav Meir Nosson, zl, father of the first Bobover Rebbe, zl, passed away at a very young age. The funeral took place on Erev Shabbos. That night, the Tzanzer Rav came to shul and davened with the same warmth and enthusiasm that had been his hallmark. The chasidim could not get over the fact that just a few hours before he had laid his dear son to rest.

During the Rav's tish, table, when the chasidim gathered together with the Rav to hear words of Torah and sing zemiros, inspirational songs, the Tzanzer explained his behavior: "When a person walks along the street," began the Rav, "and someone gives him a strong slap across the back, his first reaction is to turn around and see if the slap is from a friend or foe. If it is from an enemy, his reaction will be anger, and perhaps even a blow in response. If he sees that it was his good friend that slapped him, however, he realizes that it is not an angry blow. I received a slap from Hashem, a difficult and painful slap, but I know that it came from Hashem - who is my friend."

This response to the tragic loss of a child is unusual, reflecting a sense of conviction that is beyond the scope of the average person. The Tzanzer Rav, however, was no ordinary human being. Indeed, his wife could not reconcile herself to this overwhelming tragedy. She would sit and cry constantly. One day the Rav came over to her and said, "If you would have any idea of the spiritual satisfaction and ecstasy that takes place in Heaven when our grandson recites Kaddish, you would not be so distraught." These powerful words consoled the rebbetzin. Certainly we are not on this level, but we can now have a better understanding of the resolve that Aharon HaKohen manifested in remaining silent.

Moshe said to Aharon, "Of this did Hashem speak, saying, "I will be sanctified through those that are close to Me…"and Aharon fell silent. (10:3)

In Toras Kohanim, Chazal state that the righteous are used to being matzdik es ha'din, accepting Hashem's judgement, regardless of its harshness. They support this statement citing three instances of tziduk ha'din: David Ha'melech, when he accepted the onus of guilt that caused his suffering; Avraham Avinu, who, in his profound humility, declared, "I am dust and ashes;" and Yaakov Avinu, when he said that he was too small, unworthy of Hashem's kindness. The question that arises from Chazal is apparent: David suffered, while Avraham Avinu and Yaakov really did not. How are they "accepting" G-d's judgement? All they were doing was expressing their unworthiness in receiving Hashem's favor. Is that tziduk ha'din?

Horav Chaim Goldvicht, zl, derives from Chazal a profound lesson regarding our relationship with the Almighty. During much of a person's life he is blessed with good health, a livelihood and nachas from his children. Such a person, unless he is a fool and is always looking to see what his neighbor has, should be satisfied with his lot in life. Thus, he serves the Almighty amid happiness and joy. In the event the "wheel of fortune" turns against him, suddenly changing his situation for the worse, he becomes disconcerted, wondering why he is suffering. If he is a G-d fearing, Torah-oriented Jew, he will introspect to see where he could have gone wrong. He will search for a reason to "accept" Hashem's decree.

This is the simple way of looking at tziduk ha'din. The individual realizes and accepts Hashem's judgement. Under normal circumstances, he has expected to live life in a positive manner, with health, wealth and happiness. This is his error. Who asserted that he "deserves" a life of happiness and joy? Perhaps it is a special gift from Hashem: Moreover, did he ever stop to think that everything he enjoys - even waking up in the morning - is a gift from Hashem? Why does he remember Hashem, why does he "accept" His judgement, only in times of crisis? We must remember and reflect constantly on the fact that everything we enjoy is a gift from Hashem. Every breath of air that we breathe warrants our boundless praise to the Almighty. Regrettably, only when that breath of air is at risk, do we remember its source.

We now have a new perspective on the life that we take for granted. It is a gift, a very special gift. The reason the righteous never complain when something "bad" happens to them is that they realize that the "good" which they enjoy is a gift. Tziduk ha'din is a profound understanding that every kindness we receive from the Almighty is just that - a kindness, a gift. We are eternally in debt to Him. For the righteous, accepting Hashem's judgement is routine; it is a moment in which one delves deeper in his understanding of the many favors he receives all of the time. Avraham and Yaakov were constantly mindful of Hashem's beneficence. Hence, even in "good times," they reflected a sense of tziduk ha'din.

For distinguishing between the impure and the pure, and between the creature that may be eaten and the creature that may not be eaten. (11:47)

Rashi comments that the Torah need not tell us to be proficient in distinguishing between a cow and a donkey. The distinction is obvious. Rather, the Torah demands that we be expert in differentiating between that which is impure to us and that which is pure to us. This refers to an animal or fowl that has had half of its windpipe severed by shechitah, slaughtering, compared to one that has had most of its windpipe severed. In other words, it takes no expertise to distinguish between species. The Torah demands our expertise in distinguishing a kosher animal that has been properly slaughtered, from one that has not.

Horav Baruch Sorotzkin, zl, notes that the difference between a kosher and a non-kosher animal is in a mashehu, a fraction. That is what is takes to make the difference between chatzi, half, and rov, majority. There is much to be derived herein from both a halachic and ethical perspective. One must eat a kazayis, specific measurement, of matzoh. If he eats a fraction less, he does not fulfill the mitzvah. This applies to all cases where the Torah prohibits certain foods. If one eats a kazayis, he is guilty and will receive kares, spiritual excision; if he eats a fraction less, he is not liable.

It would seem that this entire idea applies only to the shiur, correct measurement. It either fulfills a shiur, or it does not. Rashi, however, teaches us a profound lesson: He implies that a mashehu completely transforms the form and essence of an object. One fraction can alter the basic nature of an animal from impure to pure, non-kosher to kosher. A man begins to shecht, slaughter the animal, and makes it half-way. He has accomplished nothing. He shechts a little more. Now it is a new animal; it is kosher. It was that extra bit of effort, just a little bit longer, just a little bit better, just a little bit more enthusiasm. That is all it takes to create something from nothing, to make a kosher animal from one that would otherwise be not kosher.

This same idea applies to one's personal avodas Hashem, service to the Almighty. One thinks that he has done enough, but in reality he has not. He needs to do a little more to make the difference. That fraction of time, of effort, of enthusiasm, can oftentimes create the difference between mediocrity and excellence, between literacy and scholarship. Two students may attend the same yeshivah and have the same rebbeim, while only one of them succeeds as a scholar. Superficially, it looked like both had been expending the same effort in prayer and study. Regrettably, it just appeared to be the same. One of them worked a little bit harder; one of them davened with a little bit more feeling. That little bit made a big difference in the end-product.


1. On what Hebrew date did the eighth day of Miluim occur?
2. What was Aharon's reward for remaining silent after the tragedy that befell his sons?
3. The Torah records the name of Aharon's uncle. What was his name?
4. Kodoshim Kalim may be eaten anywhere within machane____________, which includes the entire _______________.
5. May a bas Kohen partake of Matnos Kehunah?
6. A. May a Kohen onen perform the avodah? B.Does this halachah also apply to the Kohen Gadol?


1. Rosh Chodesh Nissan.
2. The speech of G-d was directed exclusively to him. Hashem addressed him alone when he delivered the section of the Torah that deals with Kohanim intoxicated by wine.
3. Uziel.
4. A. Yisrael.
B. (City of) Yerushalayim.
5. Yes.
6. A. No.
B. No. The Kohen Gadol performs the avodah, regardless of his aninus.


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