Texts: Leviticus 9:1-11:47 || II Samuel 6:1-7:17 (Ashkenazi) // II Samuel 6:1-6:19 (Sephardic)
NOTE: Kol HaTor, in its commentaries on the weekly Parashot, endeavours to search for and accentuate the Torah Messages contained in the Parashot as applicable to the main Theme of Tanach of the Return of the House of Israel, i.e. the Lost Ten Tribes of Northern Israel and their Reconciliation with Judah to form the reunited 12-Tribed Kingdom of Israel.
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DISCLAIMER – The authors whom we quote from for this Commentary are not associated with KOL HA’TOR and need not agree with our views expressed herein or in our other publications. While we publish their views for its relative value to the interpretation of the Parashah, KOL HATOR does not necessarily agree with the views expressed by these authors.
The following extracts from Rabbinic commentaries on Parashat Shemini have been compiled into a comprehensive Commentary by Kol HaTor with further comments between [ ].
(found here: www.dailyhalacha.com)
DailyHalacha.com – Parashat Shemini- Obeying Torah Authority
Parashat Shemini tells of the inauguration of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) and the special events that were held to mark the “opening day” (on the eighth day) of the Mishkan’s operation. Moshe tells Aharon, who on this day became the Kohen Gadol, to prepare a number of animals as his personal sacrifice, and to instruct Benei [the Children of] Yisrael to prepare animals for their sacrifice. Benei Yisrael’s sacrifice included an Egel “a calf” as well as a goat. The Sages explain that these two offerings served to atone for two different sins: the calf (for worshipping of strange gods), of course, atoned for the sin of the golden calf, whereas the goat served to atone for the sale of Yosef. Over two centuries earlier, Yosef’s brothers sold him as a slave to Egypt, and to conceal their crime they slaughtered a goat and dipped Yosef’s garment in its blood, so that it would appear as though he were killed by an animal. On the day of the Mishkan’s inauguration, Benei Yisrael atoned for their ancestors’ sin through the offering of a goat as a special sacrifice to God.
[The “selling of Yosef into slavery” according to Rabbinic interpretation, represents the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel’s exile into oblivion amongst the nations. Yosef, through his two sons Ephraim and Menasheh, represents the re-identifying body of 10-Israel in dispersion, which will return to the Land in the End Time. Yosef’s life, his later rulership in Egypt under the Pharaoh and his revealing himself to his brothers, represent the ultimate Return and Reconciliation with Judah (the Jews) in the Redemption and the settlement of the Promised Land of Greater Israel) ].
The work “Be’er Yosef” explains that both these unfortunate events – the sin of the calf and the sale of Yosef – resulted from the same mistake: disregarding the guidance of Torah leaders. As many Rabbis explained, Benei Yisrael did not actually worship a golden calf. Rather, they sought to create some kind of structure that would replace Moshe as the source of guidance and instruction from God, the site at which God would convey His commands. Such an idea is not intrinsically wrong; in fact, this is precisely the function served by the Mishkan. However, when Benei Yisrael contemplated this idea, they consulted with Chur, one of the leaders appointed to guide the people in Moshe’s absence, and he opposed the initiative. But the people were very enthusiastic about the idea to fashion the calf, and therefore killed Chur for expressing opposition. Aharon, the other leader appointed over the nation, had no choice but to acquiesce, in order to spare himself the same tragic fate as his colleague. The severity of the sin thus lay not in the act itself, but rather in the brazen disregard for Chur’s authority.
Similarly, Yosef’s brothers acted as they did on the basis of sound Halachic reasoning. Yosef had spoken negatively about them to their father, seemingly in an effort to have them expelled from the family, and his dreams indicated that he sought to rule over them, in violation of Yehuda’s exclusive rights to the monarchy. The brothers therefore convened a Beit Din (Rabbinical court) and concluded that he is liable to the death penalty. They erred, however, in not consulting with the Rabbinic leadership of the time – Yaakov, Yitzchak, Shem and Ever. As in the case of the golden calf, what appeared as a valid and warranted course of action was followed either without the guidance of the Torah leaders.
[The sin of the Northern 10 Tribes of Israel, centuries later, after the Hebrew nation had settled in the Promised Land, was identical: They rebelled against the judicial mandate of Judah (Micah 1:2-7) and set up their own interpretations of Torah. Refer our in-depth study “Judah – the Mechoqeck of G-d“. As a result G-d cut them off from His Covenant and exiled them amongst the nations – but, with the Divine Promise that He would regather them and re-unite them at the End of Time with Judah, in fulfillment of His Promise and Blessing to Avraham of an innumerable generation (Gen. 12:7; 13:16; 15:5), settled in a vastly expanded land mass: The Greater Israel.
With the historical guilt record cleared, seeming disaster strikes the joyful celebrations at the inaugeration of the Tabernacle. Aharon’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu, both righteous souls, are struck dead in the Tabernacle by “the fire of G-d”, for bringing untimely, wrong sacrifice].
Rabbi Wein writes for Torah.org
After the seven days of excitement and joy upon the consecration of the Mishkan and the installation of Aharon and his sons as the priests of Israel devoted to the service of God and humans, tragedy strikes the family of Aharon and all of Israel. The commentators to Torah as well as the Talmud itself searched for the causes that created this sad situation.
The questions underlying the events described in the parsha of Shmini go to the heart of Jewish faith and worldview. They require investigation and serious analysis. A review of the opinions expressed in Talmud and by the commentators, do not at first glance reveal any major transgressions on the part of Nadav and Avihu. True, Aharon’s role in helping create the Golden Calf may explain his being brought to grieving for his two eldest sons, but it was Nadav and Avihu who died, not Aharon.
Small mistakes often lead to great tragedies. And the Torah teaches us that personal failures that can be tolerated in most humans are magnified and are not overlooked when they occur to people in positions of power and leadership. The scale of Heavenly tolerance, so to speak, is a sliding one, dependent on the status, accomplishments, abilities and public position of the human person being judged.
There is a special sin offering reserved for the leader of Israel. The accepted usual sin offering is insufficient if we are dealing with the sins of leadership. This is one of the key lessons of this parsha. God’s justice is personal and exacting. Nadav and Avihu are the prime examples of this truism.
Rabbi Tzwei, Torah.org
The Torah records that Nadav and Avihu brought an “eish zarah” – “alien fire” into the Holy of Holies, a service which only the Kohein Gadol was permitted to perform once a year on Yom Kippur. The Ramban finds it inconceivable that Nadav and Avihu would perform such a blatantly brazen act without authorization, and therefore offers another interpretation.
Nevertheless, the Sifra maintains that they did enter the Holy of Holies. How can the actions of Nadav and Avihu be explained?
Perhaps even more perplexing is the Tannaic interpretation that Nadav and Avihu entered the Sanctuary “shisuyei yayin” -“having imbibed wine”. Apparently, they violated the commandment forbidding a person to perform the sacrificial service while inebriated. Moshe Rabbeinu attests to the fact that Nadav and Avihu were greater than himself and his brother Aharon; how can this behavior be attributed to men of such stature?
The number eight [the title of this Parashah, named after the introductory words of this Scripture portion] Kabbalistically refers to the World to Come and therefore is used to define the events of the day of the erecting of the Tabernacle, “bayom hashemini”, for on this day a new world order was initiated. Nadav and Avihu’s error was a result of their belief that this new world order indicated the perfection of the world, created a utopian society. In a perfect world imperfection does not exist and therefore everything can be used to serve Hashem at the highest level; no special sanctification or time limitation exists to prevent a person from entering the Holy of Holies to perform service to Hashem. However, the building of the Tabernacle marked only the beginning of the process toward a perfect world, only a link to the World to Come. Therefore, limitations and imperfections still existed.
[Rabbinic interpretation of the Scriptures is done on 4 levels, varying between basic to advanced:
- Peshat, the plain (simple) or literal reading;
- Remez, the allegorical reading through text’s hint or allusion;
- Derash, the metaphorical reading through a (Rabbinic sermon’s) comparison/illustration (midrash);
- Sod, the hidden meaning reading through text’s secret or mystery (Kabbalah).
The study of Torah (and the Bible) affects man’s consciousness in various progressive ways:
- Da’yah – knowledge, the initial stage;
- Binah – understanding;
- Haskel – mind consciousness, convicting realization and effort.
This latter category of consciousness is a stage of spirituality which progressive study of the Bible can bring about. This, to Christianity, Ten Tribers and Hebraic Restorers may be known as a religious experience or conviction which they refer to as “conversion” (repentance), viz. spiritual conversion. In Judaism this condition is better known as Teshuvah].
Rabbi Pinchas Winston, Torah.org
Haskel, [is derived] from the word seichel, which means “mind”. Haskel, therefore, refers to a level of consciousness on which a person becomes mindful of an idea, to the extent that it becomes an axiom of his perspective on life. On such a level, violation of the idea is a violation of self.
This is different from Dayah and Binah, two lesser levels of awareness, which mean knowledge and understanding respectively. Dayah is really just awareness of an idea, before one actually begins to understand its meaning or role in life, something that is a function of Binah, or understanding.
Understanding something or even its consequences alone is not necessarily enough to change a person’s path in life.
A heart attack or something similar, God forbid, does change lives. To intellectually confront death lacks impact; to experientially confront it is real enough to cause a person to identify their errant behavior with catastrophic results. This has the capacity to change a person’s life, and to force them to take responsibility for their actions to the point of biting the bullet and quitting what they should have quit a long time ago, or to start doing that which they should have begun doing a while back.
This is the level of Haskel, or Da’as. It is the level of intellectual realization on which an idea merges with one’s mindset. A person has a difficult time living with himself if his life runs contrary to the concept, which is what forces a person to eventually do teshuvah [repentance, turning around].
If he doesn’t, then he has to shut himself down emotionally, which can and usually will have extreme consequences, such as, at best, becoming a hypocrite, and at worst, a sociopath. When that happens, a person can do just about anything without any real sense of remorse, making him a danger to society and himself.
It is only on the level of Haskel that ideas become part of reality, and they make life exciting. Ideas that are based in truth, when implemented, impact us and the world in which we live. The more truth-based they are, the greater the impact they will have, some of which is visible to us, much of which takes place in spiritual realms beyond our ability to perceive.
This can be both exhilarating and dangerous at the same time. If the idea being actualized is implemented at the wrong time, or even in the wrong place, it can damage the world and the person responsible. The intention can be good, and the act great, but if the conditions are wrong then the impact is wrong and destructive.
There is no question that Nadav and Avihu, the two eldest sons of Aharon HaKohen, were great people. They learned their Torah directly from the mouth of their uncle, Moshe Rabbeinu, and they had been sanctified for their roles in the Mishkan. If they suffered from anything, it was a little too much religious fervor, too great a desire to achieve Haskel on some of the holiest ideas known to mankind.
They had been trained to connect to God. They knew things that others did not, and could not. Officiating in the Mishkan required more than obedience and a memorization of responsibility. It required a deep and profound understanding of what was supposed to be accomplished, and how. If they had been drunk on anything, it was on all of the sublime knowledge they had been exposed to in a very short period of time.
It was only natural for them to want to become unified with that knowledge, to experience what they had already gained on the levels of Dayah and Binah on the level of Haskel. And, in time, they would have done exactly that, with the permission of God, just as Adam – would have been permitted to eat from the [Tree of Good and Evil] on the first Shabbat, had he waited for Divine permission to do so.
For, G-d does not create knowledge and then keep it away from man. What we are not supposed to know at all we do not know about. What we are told about is something that we can know, but only at the right time, when we’re ready to know it, and when history is ready for us to learn it. To jump the gun is to bring about exactly the opposite of what the knowledge is meant to do: bring us closer to G-d, and make life a Godly experience.
This is also true of levels of knowledge as well. We may already know about something on the level of Dayah and Binah, but not yet on the level of Haskel. As hungry as we may be to make that leap of knowledge experience, and we should be, we have to be careful to not emotionally bite off more than we can chew at the time.
I believe that the majority of the time people are ready for higher levels of knowledge, or at least could be, but they do not pursue them. Instead, they accept their current level of understanding and intellectual appreciation, and intellectually, and therefore emotionally, stagnate.
[The above Rabbinic analysis provides great guidelines to re-awakening Ten Tribers and Hebraic Restorers. In fulfillment of Prophetic Promise, these souls are finding (often on their own, by G-d’s Guidance as promised) great revelationary Truths in the Bible. These discoveries rocket them out of Churchianity and into the Wilderness, on the Way back Home to the Promised Land. It also, logically so, boosts their personal egos. This, unfortunately, to the extent that many of them, having been burnt by the contorted teachings of their Church leaders, have become very hesitant about learning from established religious institutions. Also, having been brainwashed against Rabbinic teaching while living in a society which condemn the “man-made contortions of Scripture by the Rabbis”, a society which generally hates Judaism for some or often no reason at all, these restorers of Truth are very reluctant to fall under “man-made” religious domination once more.
This Parashah and these Rabbinic interpretations, presented on the Sod level beyond the very limited extent of the “Written Word”, hold vital guidelines and Divine reprimands for these discoverers of new-found Truth, about the danger of extravagant zeal – even for the Truth – as with Nadav and Avihu.
Reconciliation needs to come from both sides, just as in the case of two estranged spouses who want to heal their marriage. Those of the House of Judah therefore, need to bring their own sincere introspection to the table to ensure that Peace can be attained in the House of HaShem where strife has reigned now for some 2800 years since the break-up of the Kingdom of Israel in the days of king Solomon.
Here, below, follows the spiritual remedy. Do take careful and serious note!].
Rabbi Pinchas Winston continues:
We are now into the period of Sefiras HaOmer [the Counting of the Omer – i.e. the 50 days from Pesach to Shavuot, Pentecost], the goal of which is to develop a leiv tov – a good heart. The 32 days from Pesach to Lag B’Omer is for developing a heart (the gematria [i.e. the numerical value of the Hebrew letters spelling of] leiv, or heart, is 32), so-to-speak, and the 17 days after Lag B’Omer, the gematria of tov, or good, is for transforming our hearts into good hearts, as it says:
He [Rebi Yochanan] said to them [his students], “Go out and discern which is the best way to which a person should cling.”
Rebi Eliezer said: “A good eye (i.e., be tolerant of others).”
Rebi Yehoshua said: “A good friend (i.e., he should be one and have one).”
Rebi Yosi said: “A good neighbor [from whom he can learn good traits].”
Rebi Shimon said: “One who considers consequences [of his actions].”
Rebi Elazar said: “A good heart [that will lead him to all of the above].”
(Pirkei Avos 2:13)
If ever there is a time of year to achieve a good heart, it is now. Ultimately speaking, it is about becoming real with truth, which means knowing what you know not just on the level of Dayah and Binah, but on the level of Haskel as well. That is when a person has a difficult time acting contrary to what he knows is the Godly way to behave.
[A good starting point for those who are not conversant with the above concepts of: Omer, Shavuot, Gematriah is to start learning about it and the many related topics].
To strive for UNITY
In closing, Rabbi Frand (Torah.org) makes the following observation of the underlying Divine Call for UNITY in this Parashah and its Message. He responds to the question: “Why is this symbolism (the Goat that atones for Yosef’s Sale) appropriate now at the dedication of the Mishkan?
Maybe it would have been appropriate when they left Egypt to have the Paschal Offering be a goat rather than a lamb?”
Emphasis in bold applied by Kol Hator
“The Oznaim L’Torah gives a very logical answer. The underlying cause of the sin of Yosef’s sale was unfounded hatred (sinas Chinam). Part of the function of the Mishkan was to act as a unifying force within the Jewish [Hebrew} people. That is why emphasis is placed on the fact that it was “in the midst of the camp.” The Mishkan was the focal institution of the nation, geographically as well as spiritually. It served to unify Klal Yisrael [The 12-Tribed Community].
“This year, unfortunately, because of our sins we all spent Pessach separately. But G-d willing, the Temple will speedily be rebuilt and we will all spend Pessach together in Jerusalem — unified as a single and cohesive nation [i.e. ALL 12 Tribes as required for the Redemption]. The Oznaim L’Torah quotes the pasuk from Parsahs Terumah “The middle bar inside the beams shall extend from end to end (min hakatzeh el hakatzeh)” [Shmos (Exodus) 26:28] This phrase is symbolic of the ability to unify diverse components of the people — from the far left to the far right –who can all come together and rally around a single national focus of attention, i.e. — the Mishkan.
“Now, at the dedication of the Mishkan, whose purpose in part was to unify the people, was indeed the appropriate venue to achieve atonement once and for all for that unseemly incident in the nation’s history which typified disunity within the family — the sale of their own brother into slavery.”
[May Judah and 10-Israel in these Times of re-awakening be infused with this spirit of unifying the House, Family and Nation of HaShem. Parashat Shemini sets some precious guidelines for us through the guidance of the above Rabbinic commentaries.]
“Next year in Jerusalem!”