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“Whatever has a split hoof and is wholly cloven footed and chews its cud among the beasts, you may eat.” (11:4)

The two features stated in this pasuk are signs which identify permitted animals. No reason is stated as a rationale for their permissibility. The Abarbanel suggests that animals which chew their cud are not capable of crushing and chewing up bones.  Consequently, they feed on plants, and they do not have the ferocity of wild animals.  Their split hooves do not have claws, suggesting that these are peaceloving and relatively harmless animals. Indeed, these animals reflect the traits of compassion and mercy, which are the hallmarks of the Jewish personality. In a similar sense, Rabbi S.R. Hirsch z.l. explains that…

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“The camel, because she chews the cud, but parts not the hoof, she is unclean to you… and the pig, because he parts the hoof… but chews not the cud, he is unclean unto you.” (11:4,7)

The Midrash notes that even when Hashem describes the impure characteristics of the unclean animals, He identifies their pure features before mentioning the reason for their uncleanliness. This seems enigmatic! The Torah is listing the various unclean animals, such as the camel and the pig. Why does the Torah specify their pure characteristics altogether?  What purpose can be served by this? Horav Yerachmiel Shulman z.l. derives an important lesson from this seeming verbosity. The Torah teaches that when we are about to render the pig, camel, or any other unclean animal unacceptable for Jewish consumption, we must be considerate not…

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“And the sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, each took his pan… and they offered before Hashem a strange fire.” (10:1)

Nadav and Avihu brought a “strange fire” on the mizbayach, an offering that Hashem had not commanded them to bring. This violation resulted in their immediate death. The Yalkut Shimoni points out that this erroneous offering was the result of their not consulting with Moshe or with each other. This criticism seems questionable. Indeed, they should have consulted with their Rebbe, Moshe prior to offering the fire, but why were they censured for not consulting one another? Indeed, if such erudite and righteous men as Nadav and Avihu reached the same conclusion independently, it would seem obvious that consulting each…

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“This is the thing which Hashem commanded that you should do, that there may appear to you the glory of Hashem.” (9:6)

This pasuk seems enigmatic. Bnei Yisrael had already performed everything that was demanded of them. What else were they expected to do? Chazal comment that Moshe said to Bnei Yisrael, “Remove the yetzer hora from your hearts so that you will be imbued with one common awe with which to serve Hashem. As He is one, so, too, should your service to Him be one.” This Midrash begs clarification. The Netziv z.l. offers a classical explanation which carries with it a timeless message. He explains that during Moshe’s tenure as leader, some individuals already charted their own path for experiencing…

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