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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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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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