Shemini - Shabat Parah

March 26th, 2022

23rd of Adar II 5782


From Wise Elders I Gain Understanding

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"It was on the eighth day, Moshe summoned Aharon and his sons, and the elders of Yisrael" (Vayikra 9:1).

Why did Moshe also summon the elders?

The Midrash explains: "Rabbi Akiva says, Yisrael are compared to a bird. Just as a bird cannot fly without wings, so Yisrael cannot do anything without their elders." Moshe called the Elders because without them Bnei Yisrael cannot endure or do anything; any power we have is from our elders.

Where did the aging phenomenon come from? Chazal say (Bereishit Rabba 65:9), "Avraham Avinu asked for old age. This is what he said to Hashem: 'Master of the World, if a man and his son enter a place, we do not know who to honor. If you adorn the father with old age, we will know who to accord respect.' Hashem answered, 'You have asserted a good thing, and it will begin from you.' From the beginning of the sefer [Bereishit] until now, it does not mention old age, but since Avraham asked for it, he was given [signs of] old age, as it says, (Bereishit 24:1), 'Now Avraham was old, well on in years.'"

I saw a question on this Chazal in the Yabi'a Omer pamphlet. Avraham Avinu's request for signs of old age requires further explanation. What benefit did he see in old age that made him ask Hashem for it? It seems unlikely that all he wanted was for the elders to receive more honor and be held on a pedestal. He certainly had some deeper intention.

The gaon Rabbi Zvi Hirsch zt"l explains: Avraham Avinu understood clearly that if there would be equality in appearance between the young and old, this will cause the general population to err. The life experience and great wisdom exclusive to elders who have already been through so much in their lives gives them the ability to guide others, especially those younger than themselves, and educate them with deliberation and distinct wisdom, an ability lacking among the young. Avraham Avinu was afraid that if the elderly and young look the same, when people wish to ask elders for advice they might erroneously turn to the young due to their similar external appearance.

Avraham Avinu asked for old age so it would be clearly discernable to whom to turn for advice and guidance for life. In this way, the generation would be led in the most correct and beneficial way. Indeed, when Hashem heard this, He agreed with Avraham Avinu and told him it will begin with him since he had asked for a good thing.

However, despite old age being a virtue, this week's Parshah speaks of Aharon's two sons, Nadav and Avihu, who died young when they approached before Hashem. Already in their youth, they acted for the sake of Heaven when they offered an alien fire before Hashem that He had not commanded, because they wanted to sacrifice their lives al kiddush Hashem.

Because of this, Moshe said to Aharon: "Of this did Hashem speak, saying:

'I will be sanctified through those who are nearest Me.'" Chazal explain Moshe's words: "I thought the Mishkan would be sanctified through me or you. Now I see your two sons are greater than us both, for Hashem chose to sanctify the Mishkan through them."

Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to encourage his brother Aharon by telling him that despite Nadav and Avihu's youth, nevertheless they were great tzaddikim, and even more distinguished than either of them, even though they were elderly.

Nadav and Avihu offered an alien fire to prevent Bnei Yisrael from transgressing. They wished to impart the message that Bnei Yisrael should not think they can commit transgressions when there is a Mishkan because the morning and afternoon offerings will atone for any sins. Since they acted for the sake of Heaven, the Mishkan was sanctified through them despite the fact that they were young.

Now we understand the important lesson to be derived from the death of Nadav and Avihu. Although we must always look toward our elders for guidance, since they are the ones who keep the world standing, nevertheless we can also find young people among Am Yisrael  who can serve as an example for us, just like Nadav and Avihu who sacrificed their lives to sanctify the Name of Heaven, purely for the sake of Am Yisrael. As a result the Mishkan was sanctified through them and they were called Hashem's nearest ones, as it says, "I will be sanctified through those who are nearest Me."

Walking in Their Ways

A Refined Routine for Retiring

People often ask me why improper thoughts suddenly pop into their heads in the midst of the Shacharit prayers.

This question is exacerbated by the fact that these people often wake up very early to pray with a minyan. They pray slowly and thoughtfully and often remain to hear a Torah shiur.

If they have such good intentions, why then do foreign thoughts fill their minds first thing in the morning?

In response, I ask a pointed question of my own: “Did you go to sleep after spending time watching television? Were you immersed in a trashy novel, containing immorality? Did you think improper thoughts as you drifted off to sleep?”

Engaging in any of the above-mentioned activities before going to sleep is actually a way of ensuring unpure thoughts the next morning! The defilement of the night lingers in one’s mind, and these thoughts are most liable to disturb one's prayers and holy endeavors.

For this reason, Chazal advise (Mishnah Berurah 238:1) that one should retire after reading words of Torah. This will result in clear and pure thoughts upon arising. One’s prayers and Torah study will thus be free of all filth. 

Words of the Sages

Kashrut Should Not Flee from Us!

"I heard from authorized sources," said Rabbi Menachem Tzvi Berlin shlit"a, Rosh Yeshivat Rabbeinu Chaim Ozer, "that during the decree against shechitah in Europe, Maran the gaon Rabbi Chaim Ozer zt"l laid down an important principle in avodat Hashem. This foundation is not adequately known, so it is very important to instill it in our own minds and those of our children.

"'There are observant Jews who believe,' said Rabbi Chaim Ozer, 'that when they keep the mitzvot they are doing Hashem a favor and taking care of His concerns. But in reality this is not so. Whether we observe the mitzvot or not, G-d forbid, the mitzvot will take care of themselves...

"'Let us take the matter of shechitah as an example. If we thought for a moment that we were upholding the mitzvah of kashrut, we need to know that kashrut will uphold itself. But, if we do not observe the laws of kashrut meticulously, and are not particular about all stringencies, it will run away from us! It will be taken from us! We will not be allowed to observe it!

"'This is the meaning of the shechitah decree we have been subjected to,' cried out Rabbi Chaim Ozer from the depths of his heart.

"'This is how it works with regard to the other mitzvot too,' the gaon continued. 'We think we are doing Someone a favor by keeping Shabbat, by being meticulous with all the mitzvot and their fences, but we must realize this is not the case.

"'Shabbat will keep itself; it will continue to exist for all eternity. But if, G-d forbid, we disregard the laws of Shabbat in any way, it will run away from us! It will be taken from us and we will not be allowed to observe it'" (Tuvcha Yabi'u).

During World War II, Jews encountered very difficult challenges when it came to earning a living, to the extent that there were even Jewish shops selling non-kosher meat. When Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender zt"l, the spiritual leader of Breslav followers, came across this phenomenon, his soul almost departed out of great sorrow.

Once, this tzaddik was walking through the city streets (according to the testimony of his son-in-law, Rabbi Mordechai Lasker, it happened in a central city in Germany). Suddenly he noticed a Jewish store selling pork. He entered the store and saw the butcher paring the meat with his knife, preparing it for sale.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak courageously approached the butcher and said: "Instead of using the knife to cut the pork, are you perhaps prepared to cut me, here in my heart?" As he spoke, the Rav unbuttoned his shirt and pointed to his heart.

When the Jewish butcher heard these heartfelt words, they entered his own heart and he decided to stop selling this non-kosher meat.

"Usually," says Hagaon Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein shlit"a, who quotes the story in his sefer Aleinu Leshabe'ach, "when one rebukes a wayward person and tries to prevent him from committing prohibitions, the response is "If you don't get away from here, I'll harm you!" But when Rabbi Levi Yitzchak approached the butcher with this "offer" and told him to point the knife at him, all the butcher's allegations fell away and he repented fully.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

I Will Be Sanctified Through Those Who Are Nearest Me.

"A fire came forth from before Hashem and consumed them, and they died before Hashem. Moshe said to Aharon: Of this did Hashem speak, saying: 'I will be sanctified through those who are nearest Me, thus I will be honored before the entire people;' and Aharon was silent" (Vayikra 10:2-3).

Two of Aharon's sons died young, on the happiest day for Am Yisrael – the day the Mishkan was established and the Mizbeach dedicated. On this day too, the eighth day of the inauguration, Aharon HaKohen was appointed as Kohen Gadol. It is astounding how this shocking incident is actually treated not as a tragedy, but rather as an incident of great kiddush Hashem, as Moshe Rabbeinu said to Aharon HaKohen, "I will be sanctified through those who are nearest Me."

In addition, Aharon HaKohen did not say anything; he did not feel resentment, complain, or question why Hashem took his sons. In his greatness, he remained silent. It seems unfathomable! But this was the reality. Aharon HaKohen proved his elevated status and accepted the Heavenly decree with love.

There is a story told that when the young daughter of a certain tzaddik died, he only recited the blessing, "Blessed are You, Hashem… the true Judge" after three days had passed. He was asked to explain and replied: "You should know it was very difficult for me to accept this decree; that my daughter passed away at such a young age, free of sin. It took me three days to strengthen my pure faith in Hashem Yitbarach, and know deep in my heart that everything is from Hashem and there is no chance happening in the world. Only then was I capable of reciting the blessing with true intent!"

Indeed, reinforcing one's complete faith, even when faced with innumerable questions and objections, requires intense strength. David Hamelech a"h is an example of someone who was able to override his personal feelings during a time of suffering. When he was very ill and heard that his enemies too were sick, he fasted for them and asked Hashem to heal them. And he continued praying and fasting until they were completely cured!

This is an unbelievable level! Although David Hamelech had to wage wars against his enemies, he nevertheless did not pray for himself at all. He ascended to such a supreme level of pure faith in Hashem, believing even his enemies were for his benefit. If this is the case, why should he curse them with death or feel anger or grievances against them? On the contrary, David Hamelech overcame his instinct and removed all his grudges against his enemies, and was able to pray they be healed.

Aharon HaKohen acted in the same way. After the death of his two sons, he ascended to the most sublime level, not feeling any complaints, grudges, or resentment at all. He accepted the Heavenly decree with love and remained silent, despite the fact that he could have had many questions about Hashem's conduct.

Moshe Rabbeinu said to Aharon, "Of this did Hashem speak, saying: 'I will be sanctified through those who are nearest Me.'" Meaning, I knew the Mikdash would be sanctified through Hashem's close ones, but I thought this meant through me or you. Now I see your two sons are more worthy and holy than both of us.

Even if they were such holy tzaddikim, Aharon HaKohen could have asked why they had to die exactly on the day of the dedication of the Mishkan. But he remained silent because he believed everything Hashem does is for the good. For this he received a reward from Hashem, as Chazal say, the commandments against intoxicants were said to Aharon alone and not to Moshe Rabbeinu. This was the reward for his silence and acceptance, for he truly saw everything as emanating from Hashem, for the good.

The Sabbatical Year

1. Shemittah oil left over after frying should not be discarded if it can be used for lighting, unless it is a very small amount one would normally throw away.

2. If canned products have absorbed the taste of other ingredients which are peirot shevi'it, since we are interested in this taste all contents must be treated with kedushat shevi'it.

3. Bones cooked with fruits or vegetables which have kedushat shevi'it, do not attain kedushat shevi'it since the taste in the bones is unnoticeable. Some say it is also not necessary to give the bones to animals, since nowadays they are not considered animal food.

4. If a dish was cooked with vegetables which have kedushat shevi'it and the dish went bad, or bread becomes moldy, it is not necessary to force oneself to eat it, since it is no longer edible. One is even not obligated to eat food that is a day old, for it is not as fresh and tasty as when it was cooked. The same law applies even to a fresh, edible dish. One does not have to force oneself to eat it to prevent waste, even if he just doesn’t like the taste or desire eating it right now.

Similarly, if he feels satisfied, he does not need to force himself to eat or finish the dish. Instead, the remains should be put in the Shemittah bin. Nevertheless, if he does wish to eat the food even though he is forcing himself, this is not prohibited.

5. Agriculturists are accustomed to throwing away the outer leaves of vegetables. It is not necessary to eat these leaves out of concern of wasting peirot shevi'it. Since it is normal to throw them away, it is therefore not forbidden.

6. When boiling or marinating vegetables which have kedushat shevi'it, if the taste of the water is unimportant, such as water in which potatoes were boiled (and it is normal to pour the water away after cooking), or water used to marinate cucumbers, the water does not have kedushat shevi'it and may be discarded. But water from vegetable soup, or syrup from canned fruit, may not be discarded if the fruits or vegetables have kedushat shevi'it.

7. If cucumbers have been pickled in a mix of spices, and one of the spices, such as dill, has kedushat shevi'it, the cucumbers must be treated with kedushat shevi'it.

For any questions in practical application of these halachot, please consult a rabbinical authority.

Zecher Tzaddik Livracha

Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg zt"l

During his earliest years, Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg drew heaping handfuls of love for Torah and yirat Shamayim, accompanied by astounding self-sacrifice, from the holy atmosphere of Ostrava, situated in the Lomza district of Poland. He later became Rav and Rosh Yeshiva of Torat Or in America; after a few years he relocated his family and the Yeshiva to the holy city of Yerushalayim.

At a very young age, Rabbeinu went to study at Yeshivat Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, the first yeshiva established in America for young boys. Rabbeinu related that at that time he was an American child the same as all children; he loved to play and have a good time like all his peers. But in one area he invested much effort. Whenever he did not grasp his maggid shiur's explanation, he would not leave clarifying the matter for a later time, but toiled to comprehend it; he was not satisfied until he understood the idea.

Many years later, when the Nachalat Shmuel Yeshiva was established in Yerushalayim for young bachurim, Rabbeinu was invited to give a lecture to the bachruim and offer guidance on how to succeed in their studies and grow into talmidei chachamim. During the lecture he related: "What do you think, that at your age I did not play?! I loved playing and doing whatever you love to do. I had the same challenges, even greater than you have today! But when I came across a difficult Tosfot or idea posed by the maggid shiur, and I did not understand it completely, I did not move on. I stopped and prayed to Hashem to help me understand. I said to myself, 'Why is Hashem making it hard for me? He also wants me to succeed! The reason is so I will receive more reward!' I toiled to understand it well and baruch Hashem I eventually understood!"

Rabbeinu used to tell every chatan who came for a blessing on the occasion of his engagement, that he wishes him mazal tov on the occasion of becoming chatan Bereishit. However, he would add a blessing that he become a chatan Torah too! Rabbeinu himself was a living example of this. When he became engaged, his parents expressed their desire that he come to the wedding with a letter of ordination (semicha) to act as a rav. He decided to fulfill their wish, and studied with even more diligence. Preparations for the wedding notwithstanding, he devoted himself to completing his studies in Yoreh De'ah, and successfully passed the examination. Indeed, when the Roshei Yeshiva came to his chuppah, officiated by the Rosh Yeshiva, the gaon Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik zt"l, they brought with them the ordination certificate and handed it to him in front of his delighted parents.

Rabbeinu was always cheerful and enjoyed making others happy. Although he exhibited true peace of mind, nonetheless one perpetual fear accompanied him throughout his life; the fear of not using every moment for Torah study or its fulfillment. This awareness was the catalyst for his every step in life. For example, he wore shoes without laces so as not to waste time tying them. Once when they bought him shoes with laces, he asked one of the family members to tie his shoes in a way that they should not be too tight or too loose, so he would not have to open the knot while putting them on or taking them off.

He also never buttoned his left sleeve, even though he was a very neat person. When asked about this he explained that since he wears tefillin all day, and sometimes he has to remove them and put them on again, it turns out that opening and closing the button several times a day can waste time and cause bitul Torah; time that could be used for Torah study!

Likewise at night he would not fold the tefillin straps he wore throughout the day; rather he covered them with a garment to maintain their dignity. Here, too, he justified this by explaining it would be a waste of precious time in the morning to open the tefillin bag and take them out. He also did not take off his night clothes and would wear his clothes over them. Similarly, he did not remove his tie at night, to save time. Although each of these actions takes very little time – just a few seconds – these customs were a clear demonstration of his priorities in life!


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