Torah Reflections; Lessons in the weekly Torah portion and topics of Judaism, spirituality, observance and tradition

Torah Reflections from Torah Readers

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Parashat Shmini

For the week of Sat 15th Apr 2023 - כ״ד בְּנִיסָן תשפ״ג
Shabbat Mevarchim Chodesh Iyyar
Parashat Shmini
9th day of the Omer

Living this eighth day

The eighth day is a special day, it is a day that came after the Sabbath and one that we are living even now. What is the meaning of the eighth day and what is its connection to holiness? This essay draws lines between some of the most puzzling commandments in the Torah

Did you know that...

Parashat Shmini includes a detailed description of the animals that are considered kosher for consumption, but it also contains a curious reference to a creature that is explicitly identified as forbidden to eat: the chameleon. The Torah states in Leviticus 11:30 that "the gecko, the land-crocodile, the lizard, the sand-lizard, and the chameleon" are all prohibited as food.

This is a bit surprising, as chameleons are not typically considered as food in any culture, and it is unclear why they would be singled out in the Torah as forbidden. Some scholars have suggested that the reference to chameleons might be symbolic or metaphorical, rather than literal. Others have speculated that chameleons were associated with certain pagan practices or beliefs that the Torah sought to distance itself from. Whatever the reason, the mention of the chameleon in Parashat Shmini remains a puzzling and little-known fact.

Parasha Summary

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Following the inauguration of the Tabernacle, Aaron's sons offer a strange fire to God and are immediately consumed by a fire from the heavens.

Parashat Shmini is the third portion in the book of Leviticus, which describes the laws and regulations for the Israelites as they establish their religious and social order in the wilderness. In this portion, the Israelites complete the consecration of the tabernacle, and Aaron and his sons are inaugurated as priests.

The portion begins with Moses instructing Aaron and his sons on the offerings that they are to bring as part of their consecration, including the sin offering, burnt offering, and grain offering. After this, Aaron and his sons offer sacrifices and blessings, and the glory of God appears to the people, signifying that the consecration has been successful.

The portion then turns to the laws regarding kosher animals, identifying which animals are considered clean and permissible for consumption and which are unclean and forbidden. The animals that are considered clean include those with cloven hooves and that chew the cud, such as cows, sheep, and goats, as well as certain species of deer and antelope. The animals that are considered unclean include those that do not meet these criteria, such as pigs, camels, and rabbits.

In addition to these animals, the Torah also prohibits the consumption of certain sea creatures, such as shellfish and eels. The portion also includes a prohibition against eating insects, except for certain species of locusts.

The portion then describes the events that take place on the eighth day of the consecration, which is known as Shmini. On this day, Aaron offers a sin offering for himself and the people, as well as a burnt offering and a grain offering. After this, Aaron blesses the people, and fire comes out from the presence of God to consume the offerings.

However, the portion also includes a tragic event that occurs on this day, when Aaron's two eldest sons, Nadav and Avihu, offer a "strange fire" before God and are immediately consumed by a divine fire. Moses instructs Aaron and his surviving sons not to mourn publicly for the deceased, and the portion concludes with a warning to the priests to avoid intoxication while serving in the tabernacle.

Overall, Parashat Shmini provides important insights into the religious practices and dietary laws of the Israelites, as well as the dangers of disregarding the instructions of God. The portion emphasizes the importance of obedience and purity in the service of God, and the consequences that can result from failing to uphold these standards

18 Mitzvot in Parashat Shmini

  1. A Kohen must not enter the Temple with his head uncovered Lev. 10:6
  2. A Kohen must not enter the Temple with torn clothes Lev. 10:6
  3. A Kohen must not leave the Temple during service Lev. 10:7
  4. A Kohen must not enter the Temple intoxicated Lev. 10:9
  5. Mourn for relatives Lev. 10:19
  6. To examine the signs of animals to distinguish between kosher and non-kosher Lev. 11:2
  7. Not to eat non-kosher animals Lev. 11:4
  8. To examine the signs of fish to distinguish between kosher and non-kosher Lev. 11:9
  9. Not to eat non-kosher fish Lev. 11:11
  10. Not to eat non-kosher fowl Lev. 11:13
  11. To examine the signs of locusts to distinguish between kosher and non-kosher Lev. 11:21
  12. Observe the laws of impurity caused by the eight shratzim (insects) Lev. 11:29
  13. Observe the laws of impurity concerning liquid and solid foods Lev. 11:34
  14. Observe the laws of impurity caused by a dead beast Lev. 11:39
  15. Not to eat non-kosher creatures that crawl on land Lev. 11:41
  16. Not to eat worms found in fruit on the ground Lev. 11:42
  17. Not to eat creatures that live in water other than (kosher) fish Lev. 11:43
  18. Not to eat non-kosher maggots Lev. 11:44

Second Opinion

Opinions, Essays, Cultural Observances

Dedication, sacrifice, death and holiness

This weeks portion of Shmini is rich in lessons, from the dedication of the tabernacle, through the deaths of Aaron's sons, and finally the dietary laws.

The Last Word

Social Religous, Cultural and Political Commentary

The Tragic murder of the Dee Family

The following is the transcript of the wonderful eulogy by Rabbi Dee, the father of the two murdered girls. Rabbi Dee's wife, Lucy, would die of her wounds the following day.
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