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להבדיל בין הטמא ובין הטהור ובין החיה הנאכלת ובין החיה אשר לא תאכל

To distinguish between the contaminated and the pure, and between the creature that may be eaten and the creature that may not be eaten. (11:47)

A Jew must know the Torah and its laws; otherwise, he is challenged to keep them. In order to carry out the will of Hashem, we must know what is His will and how to execute it properly. In most cases the distinction between “clean” and “unclean,” “pure” and “not pure,” what may be eaten and what may not be eaten, is evident and does not require a degree in higher Torah knowledge. It is, however, vital that we know how to distinguish between those categories that are similar to one another. For example, the slaughtering of an animal or…

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ולא תטמאו בהם ונטמתם בם

Do not contaminate yourselves through them lest you become contaminated through them. (11:43)

Noticeably, the aleph of v’nitamtem /v’nitmeisem is missing. We translate v’nitmeisem as, “and you have become contaminated through them.” In contrast, we read v’nitamtem as “and you become dulled by them.” Consuming forbidden foods will cause the mind to become dense (with regard to learning Torah, which he will have difficulty grasping) and ultimately blunt his spirituality. The following story is frightening and gives us all something to ponder. A devout family was blessed that all of their sons were accomplished talmidei chachamim, Torah scholars, except for their youngest child, who could not comprehend the simplest, most basic line of…

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וישמע משה וייטב בעיניו

Moshe heard, and he approved. (10:20)

We do not find disputes between Klal Yisrael’s leaders: Moshe Rabbeinu and his brother, Aharon HaKohen – except with regard to the sa’ir Rosh Chodesh, he-goat brought on Rosh Chodesh. They disagreed about whether an onein, mourner, was permitted to eat the sa’ir Rosh Chodesh on the day of the funeral. The question arose concerning kodshei doros, that which is sanctified for generations: a korban which will continually be offered; and kodshei shaah, a korban designated for that specific time. Three he-goats were offered that day – two of which were kodshei shah, and one of which was kodshei doros….

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ויקחו בני אהרן נדב ואביהו איש מחתתו... ויקריבו לפני ד' אש זרה אשר לא צוה אותם

The sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, each took his firepan… and they brought before Hashem an alien fire that He had not commanded them. (10:1)

Nadav and Avihu’s action was clearly in violation of the norm. These two tzaddikim, righteous persons, did not plan on sinning against Hashem. They were of the opinion that their initiative was appropriate and even commendable. Wherein lay the difference between their position and that of Moshe Rabbeinu? While the commentators enumerate a number of areas in which they could have been lacking (clearly relative to their exalted spiritual status), the Talmud (Eiruvin 63a) underscores two: they entered the Sanctuary while intoxicated with wine; they rendered a halachic decision in the presence of their Rebbe, Moshe. Both of these seeming…

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קרב אל המזבח ועשה את חטאתך ואת עולתך וכפר בעדך

Come near to the Altar, and perform the service of your sin-offering and your elevation-offering, and provide atonement for yourself. (9:7)

The Chatas, sin-offering, which Aharon HaKohen brought, was personal. It atoned for his participation in the chet ha’eigal, Golden Calf debacle. Why was it necessary for Aharon to offer up his korban prior to offering up the communal offering? Horav Eliyahu Meir Bloch, zl, derives from here that, prior to teaching others, one must first and foremost show that he himself is free of any such taint. When one seeks to convey his hashkafos, perspectives/outlook on life (based upon the Torah) to others, he must first be an exemplar of his teaching. K’shot atzmecha v’achar kach k’shot acheirim, “Beautify yourself…

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כי אני ד' אלקיכם והתקדשתם והייתם קדשים

For I am Hashem your G-d, you are to sanctify yourselves and you shall become holy. (11:44)

Ibn Ezra adds to the pasuk: “You shall sanctify yourselves because I am Hashem your G-d. I gave you mitzvos and statutes to guard (and observe), so that you will maintain your holiness.” In other words, the mitzvos which we observe protect us. The greater our affiliation with and observance of mitzvos, the greater is our protection from failure and falling into the abyss of sin and spiritual contamination. One night, quite late, Horav Akiva Eiger, zl, Rav of Posen and the preeminent Torah giant of his generation, heard knocking at his door. As Rav of the city, the people…

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אך את זה לא תאכלו ... את הגמל כי מעלה גרה הוא ופרסה איננו מפריס ... ואת השפן כי מעלה גרה הוא ופרסה לא יפרים ... ואת הארנבת כי מעלת גרה היא ופרסה לא הפריסה טמאה היא לכם

But this is what you shall not eat… the camel (for it brings up its cud), buts its hoof is not split … and the hyrax, for it brings up its cud, but its hoof is not split… and the hare, for it brings up its cud, but its hoof is not split. It is unclean to you. (11:4,5,6)

The Torah teaches us that an animal achieves kosher status when it possesses two identifying signs/characteristics: split hooves; and chews/brings up its cud. We are taught that three animals, the camel, hyrax and hare, chew their cud, but, since they do not have split hooves, they are deemed unkosher. In his Nitzotzos, Horav Yitzchak Hershkowitz, Shlita, observes what appears to be an anomaly in recording the three circumstances of a lack of split hooves. In animal number one, the camel, the Torah writes, uparsah einenah mafris, which loosely translated means, it presently does not have split hooves. The next animal,…

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וימתו לפני ד'

And they died before Hashem. (10:2)

When a person renders a decision, he must take into consideration its effect on others, as well as all the ramifications, direct and indirect, present and future, that will result from his decision. Nadav and Avihu did not marry. Chazal (Midrash Rabbah, Vayikra 20:10) consider them guilty of haughtiness for not marrying. They would say, “Our father is the High Priest;” “Our father’s brother is the king/leader of the nation;” “Our uncle is the Nasi, Prince of the tribe of Yehudah.” “We are next in line for the hierarchy of the Priesthood. Is there a woman that is suitable for/worthy…

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ויקחו בני אהרן נדב ואביהוא איש מחתתו

The sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, each took his fire pan. (10:1)

Yalkut Shemoni (Shemini, Remez 524) adds that each one – Nadav and Avihu – took his fire pan, mei’atzmo, on his own, neither discussing it with – nor accepting advice from – his brother. The two brothers erred in thinking that it was a mitzvah to offer on their own without first receiving a Divine mandate. It makes sense to assume that their error was extremely minute, as they were such righteous individuals. They certainly did not arrive at their individual decisions without intense cogitation. Clearly, they thought the matter through and rendered their individual decisions. Nonetheless, the Yalkut implies,…

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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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