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Parashat Shemini

Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Ely E. Ashkenazi, Elyahu Ben Shafika A’H, by Grace Ashkenazi and Family Parashat Shemini The Loss of Tzaddikim This past week, on Motzei Purim and Erev Shabbat, the entire Jewish nation suffered a great loss, with the passing of the gadol, Rav Chaim Kanievsky A’H. Reb Chaim was considered to be this generation’s most cherished scholar and halachic posek across all orthodox communities. Reb Chaim would get tens of thousands of letters in the mail and visitors each year asking him for guidance, and he almost always responded, either with his scratchy scrawl on a postcard or in-person. Though his advice was short and to-the-point, it was always sincere, and sometimes known to be confusing at first, but then miraculous. Rabbi Ran Ilan Shlita, a Rosh Kollel in Bet Shemesh, told the following story. Years earlier, a scholar from his kollel had called him at two o’clock in the morning, dejected and in tears. His young son was not feeling well, and they brought him to Hadassah Medical Center for tests. To his great despair, they found a very dangerous brain tumor in the boy, and according to doctors, his condition was hopeless. “How can I help you?” Asked the Rosh Kollel with compassion. “I want you to come with me to see Rav Chaim Kanievsky.” “Alright,” Rabbi Ilan said. “Come to my home one hour before Shacharit, and we’ll go to Bnei Brak. After praying, we’ll speak to the Rav.” Consequently, they traveled to see Rav Chaim and explained the situation to him. “Bring the child here,” he said to them. That’s what they did, and a few hours later they both returned with the boy. As soon as the boy entered the room, Rav Chaim affectionally propped the little boy on his lap and asked him, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “I want to be like the Rav,” he said. When he heard this, the Rav asked his wife to bring him the wine that he used for siyumim. He then served it to everyone, and they drank a l’chaim in the boy's honor. The Rav then spoke to the father, “Return to Jerusalem, to the hospital, and ask the doctors to conduct a new brain scan.” Though he was confused, the boy's father left, optimistic to see where Reb Chaim’s guidance would take him. When they returned to Jerusalem, the man asked the doctor to conduct a new brain scan for his son on behalf of Rav Chaim Kanievsky. “It’s not necessary,” said the doctor. “We did one just last night. There’s no medical justification for another test, and it’s very expensive.” “No problem,” said the father. “I’ll pay all the costs, but on one condition. If the results are the same as those of yesterday, it means that the test wasn’t justified, and I’ll pay for it. However, if it shows a different result, then it was useful to have this test and therefore the hospital should pay for it.” The doctor agreed, and they conducted the test. The doctors inspected the odd results, and they wanted to check the boy again. They took another scan, and again, miraculously, the results were completely normal. The doctors couldn’t believe their eyes! They told the father the child could leave the hospital, and from there, the boy and his father went straight to Bnei Brak to see Rav Kanievsky. When they arrived, and the Rav saw their faces beaming with joy, he said, “You certainly think that a miracle occurred here, perhaps due to the wine of the siyumim. However, there’s something you should know. When I heard that the boy wanted to become a talmid chacham, I told you to get another test done, and I remained here beseeching Hashem to have compassion on the child. I told myself that I have a duty to help, through prayer, a child who wants to become a Torah scholar. And thank G-d, my prayer was heard.” It is no coincidence that this week’s parasha begins with the death of Aharon’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu. Rabbi Ozeirey spoke in the dome at Shaare Zion, saying that Chazal tell us that the passing of tzaddikim is as difficult, if not more so, then the loss of the Bet Hamikdash. Accept the Almighty’s Will The Torah describes Aharon’s reaction to the death of his sons, “And Aharon was silent (10:3).” Rabbi Zelig Pliskin explains in his book, Growth Through Torah, that Aharon was greatly praised for his silence. It’s logical, that only before something happens can one take action to prevent it. But afterwards there is nothing to do. It is a very difficult task, but many sages were praised for accepting the Will of Hashem. But what is the significance of silence? Rabbi Akiva always used to say when something 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 the Almighty for the bad just as we bless Him for the good. What then was the special praise of Aharon, the first High Priest, for his silence? When a person says, “Everything Hashem does is for the best,” about something that originally pained or frustrated him, implies that at first, he looked at the situation as a negative, but he uses his intellect to overcome the negative reaction. Intellectually, he knows that all that the Almighty causes to occur is ultimately for the good, and this knowledge enables him to accept the situation. But an even higher level is to internalize the concept that whatever the Almighty does is positive and good. When this is a person’s automatic evaluation of every occurrence, he does not have to convince himself that a specific event is 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 the Almighty does is purposeful. We should all strive to emulate this. Acceptance of Hashem’s Will is the most crucial attitude for living a happy life. The more we learn to accept the Will of the Almighty the greater joy we will experience. The Lying Pig 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 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 Yakar notes that the Torah goes to the trouble to list these animals’ kosher characteristics, and only then explain 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 as 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 Humane One of the hallmarks of Jewish law is extreme sensitivity to the pain of others. The mandate to minimize suffering extends even to animals, and it’s evident in our kashrut laws. Jewish law commands the kosher animal’s neck be slit in a quick motion. Most mammals have two main arteries carrying blood to and from the brain. The carotid artery is in front of the neck, and the vertebral artery is in the back of the neck. When an animal’s neck is slit, the carotid artery is severed, but the vertebral artery remains intact. This mean there’s blood flowing toward the animal’s brain, keeping it conscious and in pain until it bleeds out, which is incredibly inhumane. Remarkably, out of the entire animal kingdom, only kosher animals possess a unique physiological trait. The circulatory system of kosher animals is designed in such a way that both the carotid and vertebral arteries are located in the front of the neck. When shechting a kosher animal, both arteries are severed, causing the animal to immediately lose consciousness, resulting in a virtually painless death. Of all the animals in the entire planet, only kosher animals have this quality. Such an unparalleled knowledge of our world clearly points to a Master Planner and Creator. 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 poisons. Kosher animals, on the other hand, are herbivores, and eat only grass or grain, which they digest slowly, and therefore they must 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 almost-instant 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 unkosher 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 close to Him above all the other nations of the world. 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 social dining and other types of assimilation prevent us from keeping our families together as a holy nation to Hashem. Just recently, archeologists uncovered solid evidence during a dig in the UK that Jews in England kept kosher in medieval times before the 1290 expulsion. “Normally you would expect a mixture of cow, sheep, goat and pig,” said Dr. Julie Dunne, a bio-molecular archaeologist at Bristol University who worked on the project. As much as the archeologists dug, they found no evidence of bones from pigs, the hindquarters of cows, shellfish, or any other taref—unkosher animals at the site, only poultry and other kosher animals. Additionally, the archaeologists collected over 2,000 pottery fragments, and using organic residue analysis, identified the type of fat that had been absorbed in the 800-year-old ceramic vessels. The fats absorbed in the vessels were also exclusively from kosher animals, with absolutely no traces of unkosher fats. The scientists even did not detect traces of mixtures of milk and meat in the same vessel! May we all realize that Hashem truly runs the world and learn from Aharon to immediately accept Hashem’s Will with joy. May we also strive to keep the kashrut laws as it is written in our holy Torah, because those laws elevate us both in body and soul. May we see the arrival of Mashiach speedily in our days! Amen! Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Amram Sananes, written by Jack Rahmey UPCOMING BOOK Thank you for everyone's participation! Parshiot are sold out, but there are some dedication options still available. Please email for more information. Looking forward to our book release! Discussion Points:

  • Can we remember a situation that we accepted Hashem’s Will with joy?

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

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