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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Parashat Shemeni

Parasha: Shemeni – Leviticus 9:1 – 11:47

Haftara: 2Samuel 6:1-7, 17 (Ashkenazi) 6:1-19 (Sephardi)

Reading date: 29th March 2008 – 22nd Adar Bet 5768

9:1 Each day for seven days Moses erected the Tabernacle, performed the entire service himself, and disassembled the Tabernacle when the service was done. The inauguration process climaxed with the consecration of Aaron and his sons on the eight day. From then on only Cohenim were eligible to perform the Tabernacle service.

9:4 Their offerings would bring about the descent of a Heavenly fire, which represented YHVH’s appearance among the people.

9:7 The High Priest first had to atone for himself before he could atone for others.

9:8 The sin-offering always went first, because it served to remove the estrangement of man from YHVH arising from sin and to clear away the hindrances to his approach to YHVH.

9:22 It is not clear whether this was the first time that the Aaronic Blessing was used or whether it was a result of Aaron’s desire to bless the people that the blessing was given (Sfat Emet).

9:24 The appearance of the glory brought the people to their faces. This same occurrence happened annually at the end of the Day of Atonement when the High Priest uttered the name of YHVH. As we do not see this type of occurrence anymore, where a nation is brought onto their faces before YHVH, we need to ask ourselves why?

10:1 Nadav and Avihu bring strange fire and die and the hand of YHVH. They did not do as was expected of them in the Tabernacle. We need to be aware of our service responsibilities when serving the Tabernacle today which is within us! “The majority of commentators suppose the sin to have consisted in the fact, that they did not take the fire for the incense from the altar-fire. But this had not yet been commanded by YHVH; and in fact it is never commanded at all, except with regard to the incense-offering, with which the high priest entered the most holy place on the day of atonement (Lev.16:12), though we may certainly infer from this, that it was also the rule for the daily incense-offering” (Dilitch).

10: 16 “Moses enquired insistently” in Hebrew ‘drash derash’ (literally: inquire he inquired). This is the exact halfway mark of the words of the Torah. The sages tell us that one must always inquire; one must never stop seeking and even deeper and broader understanding of the Torah (Degel Machaneh Ephraim).

11: 1-23 At the end of this chapter (v43-45) the Torah stresses the reason for the observance of the kosher laws. By observing these laws we pull ourselves up to a higher level of holiness; by ignoring them, we contaminate ourselves and build a barrier that blocks out the comprehension of holiness.

11:4 The word used in Hebrew translated to English as ‘unclean’ is “tuma” translates better as ‘unfit for consumption’.

11:7 One of the main reasons for pigs, bottom feeding fish and carrion not being fit to eat is that they are natures waste disposal system. These creatures can eat garbage that would be toxic for us but remains within them and is not passed on. Pigs, for instance, do not sweat and contain their toxins. If we eat them, we are of course exposed to these toxins.

11:9 The Ramban recommends fish whose scales can be easily removed by scraping. This excludes shellfish and amphibians.

11:13 – 19 Because of the exile and Hebrew falling into relative disuse, some of the species are not known to us exactly. I will use ‘Hirsch’ transliterations.

11:13Nesher’ – Eagle; ‘Peres’ – Vulture

11:14Daah’ - Kite

11:15Orev’ - we know as a Raven or a Crow

11:16Bat Ya’anah’ – Ostrich, this is in doubt amongst the sages because of its similarity to the chicken. ‘Netz’ – Sparrow Hawk.

11:17Kos’ and ‘Yanshuf’ are both Owls. The ‘Shalach’ - draws fish from the water, Pelican or Cormorant.

11:18Tinshemet’ – This is translated by some as a Bat but in modern Hebrew it is accepted as a species of Owl.

11:19Chasidah’ – the Stork; ‘Anafah’ – the Heron. The ‘Duchifat’ – the Hoopoe and the ‘Atalef’ is a Bat.

11:29-31 This passage lists eight small animals whose carcasses convey contamination to people and objects.

11:29Choled’ – Weasel; ‘Achbar’ – Mouse or Rodent; ‘Tzav’ – a turtle or tortoise.

11:30Anakah’ – Hedgehog or Porcupine although these animals are known by different names in Modern Hebrew; ‘Koach’ – a Lizard as is the ‘Letaah’. The ‘Chomet’ is a thought by some to be a Snail and others as a Chameleon. The ‘Tinshemet’ mentioned in this verse is not to be the same as the bird in earlier verses but rather a Mole or possibly another type of Lizard.

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