Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to This Week's Parsha Previous Issues

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

Vol. 16   No. 25

This issue is sponsored jointly
l'iluy Nishmas Hena Hitza bas Eliyahu
(Anne Dodick, mother of Risa Reisman) z"l
on the occasion of her eighth Yohrzeit

Parshas Shemini

The Twelve Heavenly Fires
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

R. Bachye lists twelve fires that descended from Heaven on different occasions, six of them acts of mercy and acceptance, all in connection with the Korbanos, and six by way of anger and punishment. Starting with the first group, he lists 1. the current fire that came down to burn the Korbanos on the Mibei'ach in the Mishkan;

2. the fire that came in the days of Gid'on in Shoftim (6:17/18). After asking for a sign from Heaven to prove that the five 'strange' acts that the angel had bidden him to perform were Divinely ordained, a fire descended and consumed the burned-offering and the fat-pieces that he had prepared, as instructed by the angel;

3. the fire that descended in the days of Mano'ach (father of Shimshon) when the angel appeared to his wife with tidings of the imminent birth of their son, and upon which the angel returned to Heaven. This fire too, served as a sign from G-d that the angel's promise that they would give birth to a son who was destined to save Yisrael would come true;

4. the fire that descended in the days of David Hamelech, when following a plague of pestilence, he purchased the granary of Aravnah ha'Yevusi as the future location of the Beis-Hamikdash, and then built a Mizbei'ach, on which he brought Burned-Offerings and Peace-Offerings to stop the pestilence that was devastating Yisrael.

5. the Fire that descended and burned the Korbanos that Shlomoh Hamelech brought, after completing the building of the Beis-Hamikdash and praying to G-d for its success. This fire was needed, because the original fire burned permanently on the copper Mizbei'ach that Betzalel built. However, this Mizbei'ach was too small to contain the many Korbanos that were brought in the Beis-Hamikdash that day, so the King sanctified the floor of the Chatzer for that purpose since he wass neither permitted to bring a fire into the Chatzer from the outside, nor to take a flame from the Mizbei'ach for that purpose (as that would have been considered a desecration of the Holy Fire). So, in answer to Shlomoh's prayers, G-d needed to send down a fresh fire to burn his Korbanos as a Divine sign of acceptance.

6. the final fire in this group descended at the behest of Eliyahu ha'Navi, who issued a request from G-d that He send down a fire to consume the bull that he had sacrificed on the Mizbei'ach (which he had saturated with water). This would prove to the people that He was indeed the One and only G-d and that he (Eliyahu) was his sole prophet.


The author then presents the second list

1. the current fire that burned Nadav and Avihu, when they brought 'a strange fire' that they were not asked to bring.

2. the fire that burned in the Desert (in Parshas Be'ha'aloscha), when the people complained without justification, about their travels in the Desert;

3. the fire that destroyed Korach and his two hundred and fifty men, when they brought Ketores that was not part of the daily ritual.

4. the fire that burned Iyov's entire family, leaving only himself intact.

5. & 6. the fire that fell from Heaven on two consecutive occasions, and which, at Eliyahu ha'Navi's command, consumed the officer of fifty plus his fifty men, messengers of Achazyahu the son of Ach'av, King of Yisrael, as each group came, first one and then the other, to capture him, punishing each officer for the arrogant way in which he addressed the Navi of Hashem.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Moshe, the First Kohen

"And Moshe and Aharon came to the Ohel Mo'ed and they left, and they blessed the people" (9:23).

During the first seven days, it was Moshe who performed the Avodah in its entirety (including kindling the lights and bringing the Ketores, an indispensable pert of the Avodah), R. Bachye explains. During that entire period, Aharon was commanded to remain at the entrance of the Ohel Mo'ed and not to enter it. And it was only now, on the eighth day, that he finally attained the status of Kohen Gadol. Indeed, he points out, the Parshah dealing with the Seven Days of Inauguration, the Torah repeats at every opportunity - "And Moshe took" "and Moshe sprinkled" "and Moshe gave" .. "and Moshe burned". Because, in spite of Aharon's official appointment, Moshe was the first Kohen, as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (99:6) "Moshe and Aharon among His Kohanim".

Interestingly, Moshe served with a white garment, not with the Bigdei Kehunah, and he did not require seven days of inauguration; or perhaps the seven days at the Burning Bush, or the seven days that he spent on Har Sinai until receiving the Torah (six of them enveloped by the Cloud), served that purpose.


The Potency of the Ketores


They entered the Mishkan so that Moshe should teach Aharon the Avodah of the Ketores; and immediately after that they left its precincts to bless the people (see Rashi).

R. Bachye explains that it is after the Avodah of the Ketores that Tefilah is particularly potent. That is why on Yom Kipur, it was when he had completed the Avodas ha'Ketores in the Kodesh Kodshim, that the Kohen Gadol would leave the pan there, and go out to pray for the welfare of the people regarding sustenance, rain, and their various other needs.


Because Tefilos are more acceptable, when they are accompanied by the Ketores; and that is why David ha'Melech wrote in Tehilim (141:2) "Establish my prayer incense before You".


G-d's Fire

"And fire went out from before G-d, and it consumed on the Mizbei'ach " (9:24).

Now on the eighth day, after the Mishkan had been fully inaugurated with the various Korbanos which came to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf, the Heavenly Fire descended from Heaven to accept them.

This fire, says R. Bachye, remained on the Mizbei'ach until the time of Shlomoh Hamelech, when it was transferred on to the Mizbei'ach that he built. And it remained there up until the destruction of the first Beis-Hamikdash, a total of almost nine hundred years - as hinted in the Pasuk earlier in the Parshah (6:6) "An everlasting fire shall burn on the Mizbei'ach; it shall not be extinguished".


Trading Prohibited

"From their flesh you shall not eat and their carcasses you shall abominate " (11:11).

This latter statement, says R. Bachye, comes to prohibit trading with the carcasses or non-Kasher fish, as the Sifra explain (though the Sifra actually learns it from the words "it shall be an abomination for you", in the following Pasuk [see footnote]).

And the author goes on to list eight things that the Torah forbids to trade with, four on account of their importance, and four due to their insignificance.

The first group comprise

1. Hekdesh, which belongs to Hashem, who has no need for financial profit, seeing as everything is His anyway. Therefore, the treasurer of Hekdesh puts it away to be used for Bedek ha'Bayis (for Hekdesh to make use of it in any way that he sees fit). The exception to this is Hekdesh that the owner designated on condition that Hekdesh invests it, in which case it is permitted to carry out the will of the owner.

2. Tzedakah, which is forbidden in case the money is unexpectedly needed for Pidyon Shevuyim (the redeeming of captives), or to feed poor people or to clothe them, and it is now unavailable because it has been invested (see footnote).

3. A B'chor or Ma'aser animal that has become blemished and needs to be redeemed, which must be redeemed and eaten (exclusively, but not used in any other way).

4. The fruit of Sh'mitah, which must be eaten, but not bartered or used in any other way.


Whereas the second group consist of the flesh of Neveilos (an animal that died in a way other than Shechitah) and T'reifos (an animal with one of numerous blemishes that render it unfit to survive a year), Shekatzim and Remasim (non Kasher fish and insects). One is permitted to sell them, if one happens to come across the latter, or in the case of the former, if one intended to eat them, only they subsequently became forbidden; However, trading with them is prohibited, dead or alive.


Land and Water Rodents

"Do not abominate yourselves with all rodents that crawl" (11:41).

The Pasuk does not add the words 'on the ground', as it did in the previous two Pesukim. The reason for this, says R. Bachye, is because there are two species of mouse, one that lives on land, the other, in the water. Indeed, the Gemara in Chulin (126a), says that this is the case with all other creatures too, with the sole exception of the weasel (reference notes in R. Bachye). Consequently, this Pasuk, as opposed to the previous Pesukim, is coming to add a La'av that incorporates water vermin too.


Contaminating One's Soul

"And do not contaminate yourselves, lest you become contaminated through them (11:43).

The Torah is saying here that someone who contaminates his body (physically) by eating vermin, automatically contaminates his Soul (spiritually). (This can seriously interfere with his general Mitzvah performance, and even in his ability to grasp the Torah that he learns.)

That explains, says R. Bachye, why the 'Alef' is missing in the word "ve'nitmeisem", at the end of the Pasuk, transforming its meaning from 'becoming Tamei' into 'becoming blocked' (as if it read 'u'netamtem'). To put it bluntly, he says, the Holy Spirit that rests on a Mitzvah-performing Jew no longer rests on him, and he becomes stupid (see footnote).

And the significance of the missing 'Alef' can be explained further, says the author, when we bear in mind that the letter 'Alef' signifies the Oneness of G-d and His Eternal Existence. Its omission therefore, symbolizes that the Shechinah departs from a place where there is Tum'ah and sin, much like the Pasuk in ki Seitzei (32:46) "For Hashem 'walks around' in the midst of your camp. Let Him not see in you any nakedness, lest He turns away from you".


By the same token, he explains, a person who withdraws from worldly matters and dedicates himself to serve G-d is called 'kodosh', whereas someone who lives an immoral lifestyle is known as 'kodesh' (without the 'Vav'). Here too, the 'Vav' is a letter of G-d's Holy Name, and there cannot be Kedushah in a place where there is Tum'ah.


Chazal, on the other hand, commenting on the double expression used in the Pasuk, explain that 'When a person contaminates himself a little, G-d contaminates him a lot (much like the principle 'One sin leads to another'); When he contaminates himself from below, G-d contaminates him from above, and when he contaminates himself in this world, G-d contaminates him in the World to Come. That explains, R. Bachye concludes, why the Pasuk continues "And you shall make yourselves holy, and you will be holy (if you make your bodies holy, your Souls will be holy in the World to Come), because I am Holy".

* * *


'And Aharon said to Moshe "Behold today Yisrael brought their Chato'os and their Olos before Hashem, and this accident occurred with my two sons; Why, a mourner is commanded not to eat even Ma'aser Sheini, how much more so a Korban Chatas. To be sure, had I forgotten and eaten the Chatas this day, then surely my two remaining sons would have deserved to die too, since it cannot be good in the eyes of Hashem!" ' (10:19).


' Moshe heard, and it was good before him, and he issued an announcement in the camp saying "I forgot the Halachah, and it was Aharon my brother who reminded me" ' (10:20).


'And Hashem spoke with Moshe and Aharon, that they should tell Aharon's sons to warn B'nei Yisrael to eat their food in purity and that they should keep away from the "Tum'ah" of the eighteen T'reifos' (11:1).


'All (animals) that have split hooves - that are completely separated into two, (Chayos) that have horns, and that chew their cud among the animals, them you may eat' (11:3).


'But the following you may not eat (even) from the species that chew their cud and have split hooves, those that are born from a non-Kasher mother; but the camel ' (11:4).


'And they (fish that do not possess fins and scales) shell be abominable to you, including their brine and their juice, you shall abhor their carcasses and distance yourselves from benefiting from them' (11:11).


' these are the species (of birds) that you shall abominate; those that do not possess both an extra claw and a crop, and those whose stomachs cannot be peeled' (11:13).


'And all species of birds that walk on four legs, those that make a noise when they fly, all species of hornets and of bees are an abomination to you, though the honey of bees is permitted (11:20).

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 129:
The Asham Vaday (cont.)

A reason for the Mitzvah So that one should assume that, seeing as the prohibition of stealing is Nitak la'Asei (connected to an Asei), as the Torah writes in Vayikra (5:23) " and he shall return the object that he stole ", this is a carte blanche to steal from one's friend whatever one needs, with the intention of paying back when one is able to do so , and wipe the slate clean, and his sin will be atoned, as if he has done nothing wrong. Therefore the Torah informs us that even after having returned what one stole, and even after having added a fifth, one still requires a Korban to atone for one's sin. And the author has already mentioned in this regard the fact that, in any event, the sinner is not spared from having transgressed the will of his Creator - 'Suffering on the head of one who contravenes the Master of the Heaven who does not bring many fat sheep as a burnt-offering'. He also mentioned there that the Korban and paying back the principle is crucial to the atonement, where paying back the extra fifth is not.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah such as under which circumstances one is obligated to swear (which leads to the obligation to bring the Korban Asham), and under which circumstances one is Patur when one is Chayav to bring many Ashamos, and when one brings only one and the remaining details are discussed in Maseches K'riysus and Shevu'os (and in the Rambam, chapter 40 of Hilchos Shegagos).

The Mitzvah to bring this Korban applies to both men and women. Someone who contravenes it by failing to bring it, even though he returns what he stole, will not receive atonement, though one can assume that his punishment will not be as severe as it would have been had he not returned the money. It can be compared to somebody who struck his friend, for which he became obligated to pay a fine to the king, and who then made up with his friend without having paid his fine.


Mitzvah 165:
Not to eat Vermin that Were Created from Dirt

It is forbidden to eat Sheratzim (vermin) that were created from dirt/decay, even though they do not belong to any particular species of rodent, and they were not born from a male and female, as the Torah writes in Shemini (11:44) "Do not contaminate yourselves with "ha'sheretz ho'romeis al ho'oretz" (e vermin that crawls on the ground). The Sifra writes that this Pasuk incorporates those species that do not procreate. And the Rambam explains that whereas with regard to those species that are born from parents the Torah uses the verb "shoretz", "romeis" implies those that are created from dirt/decay. The Ramban however, citing Pesukim, proves that the Torah uses both expressions by either species.

The reason for the Mitzvah is well-known.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah, which are few boil down to the fact that all creatures that crawl on the ground, are forbidden - except for those that grow in rotten fruit after it became detached and those that are created from mold in water, as the author explained above (in Mitzvah 176).

This Mitzvah applies to men and women alike. Anyone who contravenes it and who eats a creature from dirt in the rubbish dumps or from any other such location whole, irrespective of its minute size, is subject to Malkos. Should the creature not be whole, he must eat at least a k'Zayis in order to be Chayav.

* * *

For sponsorships and adverts call 651 9502

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel