Friday, April 1, 2005

Vayikra: Parshat Shemini

There are two major issues which take place in this parsha. The first is the death of Aaron’s two oldest sons, Nadav and Avihu. The second is the discussion about kosher animals.

The first topic is the one of the death of Aaron’s sons. This is a tough one to think about. Aaron is not only Moses’ brother, but was also the High Priest. His sons were also priests who worked in the Tabernacle. They had made an unauthorized offering, which G-d through Moses had asked them not to. But how can we condemn them for trying to go over and above what was expected of them?

Aish HaTorah brings an interesting story to try to help us understand.

What is interesting is that the kosher discussion follows. This is where we gets the rules which explain the basic outline of what we are looking for in kosher animals. We learn that a kosher animal has split hooves and chews its cud. Fish need fins and scales. Seafood is not kosher. We also know that we do not birds that are carnivorous are not kosher either.

We believe that the character of what we eat has a direct impact on our character. We don’t eat predatory birds. We don’t want to be predatory types of people, taking advantage of others. We also kill the animals we eat in a “kosher” way as well in the most humane way possible.

These are only a couple examples of why we eat kosher. There are some who suggest that we no longer need to keep kosher since they are only ancient rules to staying healthy. In ancient times people did not eat pig because of trichinosis, but nowadays we no longer have to worry about that and therefore eating pig products isn’t a problem.

While the logic is interesting, the premise of the idea in wrong. We don’t keep kosher because it’s healthy. While certainly there are side benefits, both spiritual and physical, these are not the reasons we keep kosher. We keep kosher because G-d instructs us to. G-d’s giving us an opportunity to bring spirituality to the physical. Our job in the world as Jews is one of bringing G-dliness into the world around us. Here we have instructions of how to go about doing it.

Where Nadav and Avihu made their mistake in trying to decide what they thought would bring spirituality into the world by going beyond what G-d wanted, we can learn from their error. We know what G-d wants since it’s written there. It’s not up to us to decide what G-d wants, and feel that it’s out of date in our modern day. Perhaps this is why the story of Aaron’s sons is followed by the rules of kosher. Eating kosher is an everyday example of us being able to carry out something that G-d wants.

It all comes down to integrating Judaism into our lives. How do we do that? We check into each week’s parsha to find out what we can learn. It’s not only about the learning, but about the doing. All the best. Shabbat Shalom.

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