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אל תשקצו את נפשתיכם בכל השרץ השרץ ולא תטמאו בהם ונטמתם בם

Do not make your souls abominable by means of any teeming thing; do not contaminate yourselves through them lest you become contaminated through them. (11:43)

Thorough the vehicle of a number of mitzvos, the Torah exhorts us to distance ourselves from prohibited foods. The prohibitions come in various forms: Some foods have once been kosher/appropriate for eating until they contracted a form of tumah, ritual contamination, rendering them spiritually unsuitable for Jewish consumption. Neveilah is a dead carcass, which has not been ritually slaughtered, rendering it unkosher, so that it is tamei, unclean. Sheratzim, creeping creatures, in various sizes and physical build, may not be eaten. Bugs and insects, both land and water based, are restricted from Jewish consumption. They are all included under the…

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זאת החיה אשר תאכלו

These are the life forms that you may eat. (11:2)

Rashi explains that the word chayah, life, is related to the word chaim, life. Because Klal Yisrael are davuk, cleave, to Hashem, they are fit to be alive. He separated them from impurity and decreed commandments upon them in order to maintain their purity of soul, thus continuing their relationship with Hashem, which, consequently, grants them life. To put it simply: Our adherence to the laws of kashrus grants us “life” status. Our people have kept the laws of kashrus for thousands of years, ever since Hashem gave us the Torah. Hashem entered into a covenant with the Jewish People…

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ויהי ביום השמיני קרא משה לאהרון ולבניו ולזקני ישראל

It was on the eighth day, Moshe summoned Aharon and his sons, and the elders of Yisrael. (9:1)

The command to bring the offerings was for Aharon HaKohen alone. Why were the Zekeinim, Elders, included in the summons? Rashi explains that Moshe Rabbeinu wanted the Elders to hear for themselves that Hashem had elevated Aharon to the position of Kohen Gadol, High Priest. They should not suspect that Aharon had seized it for himself, or that Moshe had played favorites and given it to his older brother. Partiality, especially toward close relatives, has a way of raising people’s ire. To assuage the situation and clear the air, Moshe stated that it was Hashem’s command. It is certainly true…

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ויאמר משה אל אהרן קרב אל המזבח ועשה את חטאתך ואת עלתך וכפר בעדך ובעד העם

Moshe said to Aharon: “Come near to the Altar and perform the service of your Sin-offering and your Olah-offering, and provide atonement for yourself and for the people.” (9:7)

Aharon HaKohen was reluctant to approach the Mizbayach, because he was ashamed of his role in the creation of the eigal ha’zahav, Golden Calf. Moshe Rabbeinu attempted to assuage his perceived guilt and apparent shame, saying, “Why are you embarrassed? It is for this reason that Hashem chose you to be the Kohen Gadol, High Priest.” Simply, this means that Hashem chose Aharon to fill the position; therefore, he must execute the service. It is not an optional, arbitrary position. It is mandatory. Alternatively, the Degel Machane Efraim explains that it was specifically Aharon’s sense of shame and inadequacy that…

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וכל כלי חרש אשר יפל מהם אל תוכו כל אשר בתוכו יטמא ואתו תשברו

All earthen vessels into which (something contaminated) falls, all that is within it shall be unclean, and it must be destroyed. (11:33)

Unlike wooden or metal vessels that are rendered (spiritually) unclean by virtue of being touched externally by an unclean object, klei cheres, earthenware vessels, become unclean only when the contaminated object is within the airspace of the vessel. External contact of a Klei cheres is not mitamei, does not render the earthenware vessel unclean. The Kotzker Rebbe, zl, explains this halachah as predicated on the notion that only something of value can be rendered unclean. Wood and metal possess intrinsic value. Thus, they can become unclean. Earth, however, has no intrinsic value, other than the fact that if it is formed…

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'ואחיכם כל בית ישראל יבכו את השרפה אשר שרף ד

And your brethren, the entire House of Yisrael, shall bewail the conflagration that Hashem ignited. (10:6)

Chazal derive from here that the suffering of a Torah scholar (in this case, Aharon HaKohen and his remaining sons grieving) should be shared by all of Klal Yisrael. Indeed, as Horav Shlomo Kluger, zl, says, all Jews should show solidarity by mourning and grieving over a fellow Jew’s misfortune. Kol Bais Yisrael applies to every generation of Jews. Forever, until Moshiach arrives and wipes away our tears, it is incumbent upon us to shed tears over the tragic and untimely deaths of the two sons of Aharon HaKohen, Nadav and Avihu. Indeed, in the Yom Kippur Machzor right before…

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בקרבי אקדש

Through those who are close to Me, I will be sanctified. (10:3)

When Hashem carries out His decree of Strict Justice, especially when – as a result of this decree – someone dies, Hashem’s Name is sanctified. There is no greater Kiddush, sanctification, of Hashem’s Name, than missah, death. It indicates that Hashem is in control, that He alone determines how long and under what circumstances one will live. The Talmud (Niddah 30b) comments concerning the pasuk, Ki li tichra kol berech, “To me will every knee bends” (Yeshayahu 45), Zeh ha’missah, ‘This is a reference to death.” Indeed, the solemnity of a funeral – even one that takes place with a…

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ותצא אש מלפני ד' ותאכל אותם וימתו לפני ד'

A fire came forth from before Hashem and consumed them and they died before Hashem. (10:2)

Chazal enumerate a number of areas of deficiency in the behavior of Nadav and Avihu which, on their lofty level, was considered sinful. One of their shortcomings was manifest in their drinking wine prior to performing the service. Inebriation might find an acceptable place in contemporary society’s morally bankrupt value system, but it certainly did not belong in the Priestly service. While Nadav and Avihu certainly did not entertain the idea of inebriation, this does not preclude their partaking in a glass of wine. Truth be told, they were not commanded against drinking wine prior to performing the service until…

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ויקריבו לפני ד' אש זרה אשר לא צוה אתם... וידם אהרן

And they brought before Hashem an alien fire that He had not commanded them… And Aharon was silent. (10:1,3)

Much has been written concerning the apparent misstep of Nadav and Avihu in offering what was considered an alien fire, and the reaction of their father, Aharon HaKohen, to their tragic deaths. Chazal have analyzed and explained every word in order to give later generations a clue, a path for understanding and coming to grips with this tragedy. The Torah writes, Asher lo tzivah osam, “That He (Hashem) had not commanded them.” Apparently, their sin was in acting on their own. Discipline is obviously important, but is it that demanding? The Chiddushei HaRim sheds light on this “sin.” He derives…

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ויאמר אל אהרן קח לך עגל בן בקר לחטאת

He said to Aharon: “Take for yourself a yearling calf as a sin-offering.” (9:2)

Various levels of atonement coincide with different transgressions. “One size fits all” does not fit all in reference to penance, because sins occur on various levels. Two people might commit the same act of infraction; yet, their modes of atonement are different. Although, on the surface, their sins may appear similar, Hashem gazes into the hearts and minds of the sinners and distinguishes between them. Aharon was commanded to bring a calf as a Korban Chatas, sin-offering, to let him know that, with this calf, Hashem would grant him atonement for his actions in creating the Golden Calf (Rashi). Klal…

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