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

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Vol. 22   No. 25

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Parshas Shemini

Tamei Animals
(Adapted from the Ramban)


"But this you may not eat, among the animals that chew their cud and have cloven hooves - the camel, because it chews its cud but does not have cloven hooves; it is Tamei for you" (11:4).

Why, when speaking about animals that one may not eat, does the Torah refer to them as Tamei animals?

Live animals are not subject to Tum'ah at all!

An animal that dies or is killed in any way other than by a Kasher Shechitah, is a Neveilah (a carcass) and is automatically Tamei.

And it is only with regard to an animal that has been Shechted that the difference exists between a 'Kasher' animal and a 'T'reifah' one, since Shechitah ensures that the former remains Tahor, whereas the latter adopts Tum'as Neveilos as if it died by itself.


This brief introduction will help us understand the following explanation of the Ramban.


G-d spoke to Aharon?

"And G-d spoke to Moshe and to Aharon to tell them (the B'nei Yisrael). Speak to B'nei Yisrael saying 'This is the animal which you may eat, from among all the animals that are on the land' (11:1/2).

Commenting on the fact that Aharon is mentioned here, bearing in mind that the Mitzvos concern Kasher and non-Kasher animals, the Ramban writes: The Kohanim are more involved in these Mitzvos, since, due to their obligation to constantly enter the Mishkan and to eat Kodshim, they need to be on their guard against rendering themselves Tamei. Moreover, he points out, it is the Kohanim who will bring the sin-offering of a Yisrael who enters the Mishkan or who eats Kodshim when he is Tamei - either of which carry the penalty of Kareis, a Chatas, if transgressed be'Shogeg.

And it is on account of the Kohanim's involvement in this Parshah that the Mitzvah is said to Aharon, so that they should take special care not to disqualify the Avodah by contravening the laws of Tum'ah and Taharah, and in order to teach the people to do likewise.


And it is due to this close connection between the laws of Tum'ah and the Mishkan, the Ramban concludes, that this Parshah appears in Seifer Vayikra, immediately after the Parshah dealing with the inauguration of the Mishkan and the Kohanim.


Land Animals

" the animals that are on the land" (Ibid.)

The reason the Torah adds this seemingly unnecessary phrase, says the Ramban, is to preclude the numerous species of animals that are to be found in the sea. In spite of their resemblance to the land animals, their signs of Kashrus are equivalent to those of fish (fins and scales).


Eating Human Flesh

"Anything that has split hooves that is completely separated into double hooves, that you may eat" (11:3).

The words "that you may eat", says the Ramban quoting Rashi, teaches us that somebody who eats Treif food transgresses, not only a Lo Sa'aseh, but also an Asei. The ramifications of this statement, aside from the Teshuvah that one needs to perform, are that, in the event that one is obligated to perform a Mitzvas Asei concerning food, and the only food available is Treif, the Asei, which would override a plain Lo Sa'aseh, will not override the Lo Sa'aseh here, This is because, even though an Asei overrides a Lo'Sa'aseh, it cannot override a Lo Sa'aseh and an Asei.


The Ramban however, disagrees with Rashi. According to him "that you may eat" comes, not to add an Asei, but for the inference - "that you may eat", 'but not human flesh'.


The Ramban agrees with Rashi, inasmuch that nowhere do we find a prohibition against eating the flesh of a live human being (a corpse is Asur be'Hana'ah). He goes on to cite a Toras Kohanim from which the Rambam may have derived his ruling, but concludes that he is not correct, based on a Gemara in K'riysu (21 & 22). The Gemara there says that there is no Isur whatsoever, in eating the blood (before it has separated from the body) or the milk of a human being. Now if the flesh would be forbidden, says the author, we would apply the principle that 'Whatever comes from something that is Tamei, is Tamei', in which case drinking the blood or the milk of a human-being would be prohibited.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ramban)

Aharon's Blessing

"And Aharon raised his hands his hands towards the people and he blessed them" (9:22).

'Birchas Kohanim', comments Rashi - 'Yevorech'cho, Yo'er, Yiso'. The Ba'al ha'Turim elaborates; he explains how the three B'rachos corresponded to the three categories of Korban that Aharon brought on the eighth day of the Milu'im - a Chatas, an Olah and a Shelamim.


The Ramban, forever hesitant to apply the principle 'The Torah does not necessarily follow a chronological order', points out that Birchas Kohanim only appears later, in Parshas Naso. Consequently, we will need to apply that principle here. Although he concedes that Rashi may well be right, based on the Torah's statement there "the day when Moshe finished setting up the Mishkan", an event that took place before the current Parshah, he nevertheless cites a Medrash, which refers to Aharon's B'rachah here as 'unspecified'. In other words, it was his own personal blessing, the contents of which are unknown to us.


Removing the Corpses

"Approach and carry your brothers from out of the Sanctuary" (10:4).

According to Rebbi Eliezer in the Toras Kohanim, this Pasuk indicates that Nadav and Avihu died in an area that Misha'el and Eltzafan (cousins of Nadav and Avihu who were Levi'im) were permitted to enter.

And when (in Pasuk 2) the Torah wrote that "they died before Hashem", it means that an angel struck them there and took them outside, where they actually died.

Rebbi Akiva, however, explains that Nadav and Avihu died in an area that was forbidden to Levi'im to enter, as is implied by the latter-quoted Pasuk, whereas the first Pasuk is not saying that they actually entered that area, but that they cast metal hooks on to the clothes of the deceased and pulled them out.


The Ramban, who cites this Toras Kohanim, goes on to explain that in fact, even Kohanim are forbidden to enter the Sanctuary for no reason. In fact, citing another Toras Kohanim, which permits them to enter in order to remove Tum'ah or to effect repairs, he explains that if no Kohanim are available (as was the case here, where, due to the special status of Elazar and Isamar, the only Kohanim other than Aharon - on the first day of their service), then even Levi'im are permitted to enter. In fact, he explains, even Kohanim who are Tamei or blemished are permitted if need be. Nevertheless, Mishael and Eltzafan did not enter the holy area, since it was possible to drag the bodies out in the way that they did, and Tum'ah is not openly permitted (Hutrah) under such circumstances, only pushed aside (Dechuyah), where there is no other alternative.


What is Sheichar

"And G-d spoke to Aharon saying. Do not drink wine or Sheichar you or your sons when you come to the Ohel Mo'ed " (10:8/9).


The Ramban agrees with Rashi, who translates "Sheichar" as 'intoxicating' (an adjective), in which case what the Pasuk means is that a Kohen is forbidden to drink wine in a way that intoxicates (e.g. that does not contain water). Based on a similar expression in connection with a Nazir, he explains, the prohibition is confined to wine. He cites the Rambam however, who translates "sheichar" as a noun - 'an intoxicating drink', in which case it would incorporate whiskey and other strong liqueurs.


Not to Drink Wine or Sheichar


Chazal learn from the proximity of these Pesukim to the death of Nadav and Avihu that one of the reasons that they died was because they drank wine before performing the Avodah.


This is problematic however, since the prohibition to drink wine was only instituted after they died!

The Ramban therefore explains that the Chachamim did not mean that drinking wine was a direct cause of their death. What they did mean was that the wine that they drank blurred their minds and they therefore erred in their Kavanah when they brought the Ketores. Indeed, he explains further, that is the underlying reason behind the prohibition.

Their error, he explained earlier (in Pasuk 2) was that they brought the Ketores to curb the Midas ha'Din, whereas Korbanos must be brought to the Midas ha'Rachcamim. This is why the Torah always uses the Name 'Havayah' in connection with the Korbanos. As a result, he adds, the Midas ha'Din struck them down.

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