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Parashat Shemini

Dedicated by Jack Rahmey for a full and complete Refuah Shelemah for Harry Adjmi, a very special friend of mine and the entire community and to everyone else who is suffering from this terrible virus

Parashat Shemini

These are the times that test us and try our souls!

I would like to start this weeks divre torah with a video I received from Rabbi YY Jacobson who tells of a head nurse at a hospital in the Bronx who was interviewed recently during this Coronavirus pandemic. The hospital was hit very hard with the Coronavirus which had an overwhelming amount of patients being admitted, many who were in critical condition. This caused a tremendous shortage of beds, equipment and staff to care for all these patients. So as they interviewed this chief physician they asked her, “How are you able to deal with all that’s going on here with this catastrophe that’s all around you that you’re observing and how it must be so overwhelming for you and your entire staff?” She paused and answered the question by saying...”All my life I’ve been preparing for this situation. All my medical training and all of my preparation in the medical field has been for just this one moment and purpose to be ready and able to serve this need in a crisis such as this!” She continued, “If I should just fall apart and lose it now during this crisis then all my training and preparation over my long career would have all been in vain”.

Rabbi Jacobson pondered about the response of this interview and said, isn’t this about each and every one of us in our own way? Everything all of us has ever done in our lives, everything we’ve ever experienced and internalized throughout our lives has been a preparation for this one moment! These are the times that try our souls! These are the times when we have an opportunity to rise to the challenges that face us in these critical days and show us all what we’re all truly made of, it shows what our community is made of and what’s really important to all of us. It’s an opportunity for us all to show Hashem how much we really do care for our brothers and sisters with our prayers of passion for those who became ill from this virus. These are not times for us to be fearful but rather a time for us to have courage, it’s not a time of mediocrity but a time of leadership and resilience! This a time where we become the greatest we can be for ourselves, our families and our community! Don’t be a victim of the situation but a leader to be there for all who need you whether you’ve succumbed from the virus and are recovering or if you were spared the symptoms and must be there to support others, in either case gather up all your life experiences. Just like the head nurse did in that hospital and all the other medical professionals that are on the front lines everyday who use their years of preparation to show Hashem that we really do care and love one another. To show we’re willing to sacrifice for one another in order to survive and show our support for our brothers and sisters as Hashem is expecting us too!

Learn to Accept the Almighty’s will

This week’s parasha begins with the death of Aharon’s two sons Nadav and Avihu. Aharon’s reaction is probably one of the most famous in the Torah, “And Aharon was silent (10:3).” Rabbi Zelig Pliskin explains in his book, “Growth through Torah” why Aharon was greatly praised for his silence.

What was the greatness of Aharon for not complaining? We find later sages who excelled in accepting the will of Hashem like Rabbi Akiva who always used to say when something apparently negative happened, “All that the Almighty does is for the good.” Nachum, Ish Gam Zu used to say, “This, too, is for the good.” The sages required us to bless Hashem for the bad just as we bless Him for the good. Why was special praise given to Aharon, the first kohen gadol, for his silence?

When a person says, “All that the Almighty does is for the good” about something that originally disturbed or frustrated him, it implies that, at first, he was bothered by what happened. But as soon as he realizes the matter bothers him, he uses his intellect to overcome his negative reaction. Intellectually he knows that all that Hashem does is ultimately for the good and this knowledge enables him to accept the situation.

But an even higher level is to internalize it and automatically know Hashem does everything for good. Such a person accepts everything that occurs in his life with immediate joy. This was the greatness of Aharon. He remained silent because he knew clearly that everything Hashem does is purposeful. When things go well for a person consistently, he feels an inner joy. The more we learn to accept the will of Hashem, just as what we’re experiencing through this pandemic the greater joy we will experience in our lives.

In Rabbi Ashear’s first “Living Emunah” book, there’s a story of a woman from Great Neck who related that in the summer of 2012, her 2-year-old daughter fell into a pool. When she was pulled out, she did not have a pulse, her eyes were open, her face was blue, and her nails were purple. It appeared as though she had already passed away. While her husband performed CPR on their daughter, the mother cried out to Hashem.

She made a decision at that moment to accept the Will of Hashem with joy, and that she would dress modestly and cover her hair. Miraculously, within a few minutes the child’s pulse was restored, at which point she was rushed to the hospital in a Hatzala ambulance. During the time the girl spent in the hospital, Tehillim was being recited by Jews across the world. Six top neurologists were brought in to examine her, and she underwent hours upon hours of testing. When the testing was finally completed, the chief doctor, Dr. Keith Meyer, said to the parents, “Your daughter is a walking miracle.”

The doctors obtained a video of the accident taken by a surveillance camera and it showed to their sheer astonishment, that the girl had been underwater for three minutes and ten seconds. She should have been clinically dead. Yet, there was not even a trace of any brain damage. Baruch Hashem she was alive and well.

The doctor, who is Jewish, said to the parents, “I don’t know what I have believed until now, but now I clearly see that there is a G-d in this world.” He noted that he had, unfortunately, seen many children who had been underwater for less that a minute and suffered permanent brain damage. It made no medical sense that this girl suffered no damage after being underwater for that long.

We see from this story that this is something each and every one of us can take upon ourselves in our own way in order to grow and to show Hashem how much we care for our fellow Jews! We know that HaShem can do anything if we show Him by doing and not just idle talk. We all know nothing is impossible for Hashem no matter what the situation is as long as there is hope and tefillah, salvation will come!

Our Kashrut Laws

This week’s parasha also goes on to include some of the most intriguing commandments, and one of the most important and dramatic proofs that Hashem is the indisputable author of our Torah.

We learn from our kashrut laws that there are just four animals in the entire world that have one of the two signs of a kosher animal but not the other. In the thousands of years since the Torah was given to us, scientists have not found any other animals like this. This proves that our holy Torah was written by Hashem, because He’s the One who created the world, and He knows what animals He put in it!

The Lying Pig…

The Torah describes the signs of a kosher animal. In order to be kosher, the animal needs to have split hooves and chew its cud. Then the Torah lists the four animals which have only one kosher sign. “This is what you shall not eat from among those that bring up their cud, or that have split hooves: The camel, for it brings up its cud, but its hoof is not split; the hyrax, for it brings up its cud, but its hoof is not split; the hare, for it brings up its cud, but its hoof is not split; the pig, for its hoof is split and is completely separated, but it does not chew its cud.”

The Kli Yakkar notes that the Torah goes to the trouble to list these animals’ kosher characteristics, and then explains what they lack. This suggests that animals with one kosher characteristic are worse than those with no kosher signs at all. They are like people who make no real effort to behave well, but make a big deal of publicizing their occasional good deeds or traits, instead of concentrating on getting rid of their deficiencies. This “dishonesty” — flaunting their one kosher sign — labels these animals non-kosher!

It’s an amazing fact that no other animal has ever been found that fits the Torah’s description of the pig — having a split hoof but not chewing its cud! Of the four animals that are not kosher due to only having one kosher characteristic, the pig is the only one that has a split hoof. Pigs often stick out their legs, as to display their cloven hooves and fool people into thinking that they are kosher, even though they do not chew their cud. They look kosher on the outside, but they aren’t kosher on the inside. It is not enough to have the outward appearance of an admirable person; one’s inner life is what counts. Our values and the things we strive to achieve make us who we are.

Eating Kosher is Good For Body and Soul

Pigs have an unusually fast digestive system and can digest poisonous food without getting sick; that is why they eat garbage. The poisons are wrapped with fat and remain inside the body, and anyone who eats pork will consume those toxins.

Kosher animals, on the other hand, are herbivores and eat only grass, which they digest slowly, and therefore they avoid poisons. Lobster and shellfish, which are also not kosher, roam the seabed and they too consume the refuse that lies there. Contaminated shellfish have caused death in countless cases.

Apart from the health reasons that benefit us physically, our Rabbis teach us that our kashrut laws primarily affect our spiritual well-being. Rashi explains that the reason various animals are forbidden to Jews is that our spiritual mission is to attach ourselves to the ultimate source of spiritual life, which comes from Hashem. These non-kosher animals, if eaten, have an effect on our neshama as well, and dull us in this world and the next. Eating forbidden foods prevents us from learning Torah properly and dulls our senses. By observing the laws of kashrut, a Jew can pull himself up the ladder of kedusha. But if he ignores them, he will contaminate himself and eventually build up a barrier blocking his spiritual growth. This is called timtum halev, the dulling or polluting of the heart!

Keeping Kosher

We learn throughout our Torah that Hashem elevated us to be a separate and special people so we can be closer to Him and above all the other nations. So why do so many Jews today choose to lower themselves to follow the ways of other nations by eating their non-kosher foods and in their non-kosher restaurants? Our community has been blessed because of the zechut of our fathers, grandfathers, and the previous generations who forged a path for us to follow. Dining has always been a very social event, but our forefathers taught us that kosher social dining prevent us from assimilation at the same time also protect us by keeping our families together as a holy nation to Hashem.

Maybe this would be a good time as we are hopefully winding down from this virus which originated from China’s unhealthy dietary practices for us to show Hashem that we want to do better and strengthen our commitment to our Kashrut Laws. In a time when Hashem has blessed us with the luxury of Kosher restaurants and establishments in all corners of the world especially in NY, we should take it upon ourselves each in our own way to make a new commitment, just as the woman in the previous story did, to elevate ourselves by going forward to only patronize our kosher restaurants, when this crisis finally subsides.

May we all realize that Hashem truly runs the world and that nothing is impossible for Him even in our most dire situations. May we also strive to keep the kashrut laws as it is written in our holy Torah, because Hashem gave us those laws in order to elevate us. We should keep kosher, both in our homes and while traveling on the road. Our kashrut laws are truly for our own benefit and will stimulate our spiritual growth, and will also benefit us in many other ways that we may not even be aware of!

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Discussion Points:

● Can we remember a situation that we were in where we asked Hashem to help us and He came through for us when no one else could?

● Are our kashrut standards at home, on the road, and at work up to par?

Le’ilui Nishmat...

Eliyahu Ben Rachel

Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Avraham Ben Garaz

Sarah Bat Chanah

Esther Bat Sarah

Avraham Ben Mazal

Shulamit Bat Helaina

Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Rahamim Ben Mazal

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther

Rafael Ben Miriam

Ovadia Ben Esther

Rav Haim Ben Rivka

Moshe Ben Mazal

Moshe Ben Yael

Yitzchak Ben Adele

Avraham Ben Mazal

Meir Ben Latifa

Chanah Bat Esther

Yaakov Ben Rachel

Malka Bat Garaz

Moshe Ben Garaz

Avraham Ben Kami

Yaakov Ben Leah

Mordechai Ben Rachel

Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal

Natan Ben Rachel

Saadia Ben Miriam

Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon

Margalit Bat Mazal

Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky

Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama

Anyone interested in Dedicating this Divre Torah L'ilui Nishmat or Refuah Shelemah or In Honor of someone, can email me at jrahmey@rahmeyfinancial.com.

Checks can be made out to “Mikdash Melech” for $101 and mail to 1326 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11230 (please put in the memo “Divre Torah Food for Shabbat”)

Anyone interested in past parshiot please go to the website ParashaPerspective.org

Anyone interested in Dedicating this Divre Torah L'ilui Nishmat or Refuah Shelemah or

In Honor of someone, can email me at jrahmey@rahmeyfinancial.com.

Checks can be made out to “Mikdash Melech” for $101 and mail to 1326 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11230 (please put in the memo “Divre Torah Food for Shabbat”)