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להבדיל בין הטמא ובין והטהר 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)

Being knowledgeable about Jewish law is not just a privilege; it is a critical obligation for every Jew to develop proficiency in halachah. This applies not only in the abstract, but in its practical application. It is at least incumbent upon us to be acutely aware of what is a shailah, halachic question. We are a nation of law; brooking no compromise to illiteracy. One must learn in order to know. Rashi explains the above pasuk as applying to making the delicate and often difficult decision, whereby we must distinguish between things that appear kosher, appear similar, but are not….

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ואת אלה תשקצו מן העוף לא יאכלו שקץ הם את הנשר

These shall you abominate from among the birds, they may not be eaten – they are an abomination; the nesher. (11:13)

The nesher, commonly translated as the eagle, is unique among the non-kosher fowl in that its image is on the Kisei HaKavod, Hashem’s Throne. Chazal teach that the image of four creatures are on the throne: man, lion, ox and eagle. In contrast is the yonah, pigeon, which is a fowl that has its share of troubles, preyed on by other fowl, was slaughtered on the Mizbayach, Altar, and used as a korban, offering. How do we reconcile the fact that a non-kosher bird achieves such a lofty status, while the kosher bird, which is “pushed around,” does not? Horav…

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את זה תאכלו מכל אשר במים

This may you eat from everything that is in the water. (11:9)

Mikol asher ba’mayim, “from all that is in the water,” implies that an amphibian which has simanei taharah, signs of purity/kashrus, may be eaten. “A fish is a fish”; the question is only whether it is a kosher fish. Its status as amphibian is not relevant. The Mishnah in Meseches Keilim 17:13 appends this idea when it says anything in the water (utensils made from amphibious creatures) are tahor (utensils are considered tahor, ritually pure) except for the kelev ha’yam, sea dog (possibly the otter), since it flees to dry land.” In other words, a sea dog maintains the status…

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ויאמר משה אל אהרן ולאלעזר ולאיתמר בניו ראשיכם אל תפרעו ובגדיכם לא תפרמו... ועל כל העדה יקצף ואחיכם כל בית ישראל יבכו את השרפה אשר שרף ד'

Moshe said to Aharon and to his sons Elazar and Isamar, “Do not leave your heads unshorn and do not rend your garments that you do not die, and He became wrathful with the entire assembly; and your brethren, the entire House of Yisrael, shall bewail the conflagration that Hashem ignited. (10:6)

Aharon HaKohen is instructed by Moshe Rabbeinu not to mourn the deaths of his two sons overtly. His two remaining sons, Elazar and Isamar, are likewise instructed to refrain from overt mourning. Yet Klal Yisrael, the entire nation, is adjured to mourn the deaths of these two tzaddikim, righteous persons. Why? Is it more appropriate for those who are unrelated – in fact, distant from the deceased, to mourn, while those closest to them do not? The Sefer HaChaim explains this based upon the following statement made by Chazal in the Talmud Megillah 15a: “When a righteous person dies, he…

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וידם אהרן

And Aharon was silent. (10:3)

Aharon HaKohen sustained a Heavenly blow on what should have been the happiest day of his life. Experiencing such extreme tragedy on a day that should have engendered extreme joy would have destroyed not only a lesser person, but most people. Not Aharon, about whom the Torah writes, “And Aharon was silent.” As the various commentators explain, Va’yidom is much more than silence: it is numbness; no movement; no expression; like an inanimate stone. Aharon stood there without reacting whatsoever. Aharon was mute, like an insentient object that does not react to external stimuli. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning…

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ויאמר משה אל אהרן קרב אל המזבח

Moshe said to Aharon: Come near to the Altar. (9:7)

Rashi teaches that, at first, Aharon HaKohen demurred from offering the sacrifice. He was ashamed to approach the Mizbayach, Altar, due to his involvement in the building of the Golden Calf. Moshe Rabbeinu said to him, “Why are you ashamed? This is why you have been chosen for the position of leadership in the area of the Priestly service.” The Arizal comments that Moshe was intimating to Aharon that his embarrassment and humility were precisely the reasons for Hashem’s choice that Aharon became the Kohen Gadol, High Priest. A leader must maintain a strong sense of humility, or he will…

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