May 19, 2024
Parashat Shemini 5784

When you Choose Shabbat, you choose to learn that every Shabbat is different and special. This week I learned about Parashat Shemini (שְּׁמִינִי‎), the 26th weekly Torah portion in the annual cycle of Torah readings.

According to Wikipedia, Shemini (שְּׁמִינִי‎), Leviticus 9:1 through 11:47, contains 4,670 Hebrew letters, 1,238 words, 91 verses and makes up 157 lines of a Torah scroll. Shemini (Hebrew for “Eighth”) opens with the consecration of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Two of Aaron’s sons are consumed by a fire sent from G-d when they attempt to offer a “strange fire.” G-d describes the animals, birds and fish that are permissible and prohibited for consumption as well as some laws of ritual purity.

Rabbi Michael D Klein of Temple Torat Emet offers his insights on this week’s Torah reading, Shemini for Shabbat April 6, 2024 aka 27 Adar II 5784:

“We are honored to share the simcha of the Berman family on this Shabbat of Sarah’s bat mitzvah. The Sedra this week contains a mixture of sadness and adherence to the dietary laws, enumerating specifically which animals on land, sea and air are permitted as food. It begins with the tragic story of the death of Aaron’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu who violate the specific commandments of the Kohanim by bringing “external fire” into the Mishkan. We may ask a valid question. After having been taught in all the specifics of sacrifices, why would Nadav and Avihu violate such obviously apparent laws? Many sages point to this story as a parable, teaching that, when we become too invested in our own glory or fame, we endanger ourselves and others by losing sight of the real reasons for our existence. If we stray from the path of Torah and begin trying to justify our own foibles, we run the risk of being consumed in our own hubris! This story serves as a warning to those who achieve success, not to become legends in their own mind as we see happening to many famous people in Hollywood and politics.

The other important message transmitted this Shabbat is the joyous announcement of the upcoming month of Nisan: the season of liberation from bondage and the Passover narrative. This helps us attain the correct mindset as we prepare our homes and hearts to celebrate freedom. Alas, there are still members of Klal Yisroel whose pain we feel acutely because their family members are still held in brutal captivity in Gaza. We must, therefore, strive with all our being to share their captivity and pain with the entire world and bring to attention even to those who hate us that we will not tolerate this horrible outrage to our people and that we will stand strong and determined in our support of Israel and the IDF in its courageous battle against terrorism and the forces of slavery and darkness.

Am Yisrael Chai! May the incoming month bring about the hostage’s release from captivity so they can celebrate Pesach with their families. AMEN!:

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What do the paragraphs concerning strong drink that follow the opening narrative suggest was the reason for the tragedy of Nadav and Avihu?
  2. Why does the Torah frequently change direction in the aftermath of a difficult narrative?
  3. What are the two direct requirements for land animals to be Kosher? What are secondary suggestions about these animals?
  4. What are the two direct requirements for marine animals to be Kosher? What general characteristics are prohibited for marine animals to be considered Kosher?

Rabbi Michael D. Klein

Rabbi Michael D. Klein attended Yeshiva College of South Florida and served as Torah Reader, Hebrew teacher, Chazzan and spiritual leader of various synagogues throughout South Florida. In January 2015 he became Ritual Director, Bnai/Bnot Mitzvah instructor and 7th grade Hebrew instructor for Temple Torat Emet of Boynton Beach. In October 2019 he was accepted into an accelerated track and received his shicha from Yeshiva Adath Wolkowisk and has been the Rabbinic leadership of Temple Torat Emet since August 2020. In September of 2022 he was appointed Rabbinic and Spiritual Advisor of the Florida Region of FJMC.

Choose Shabbat; choose to celebrate, to light candles, sing songs and learn a little Torah.

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