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Haftarah: Yehezkel 36:16-36

March 25-26, 2011 20 Adar II 5771


"Any one among the animal that has a split hoof, which is separated with a split hoof, and that brings up its cud - that one you may eat." ?(Vayikra 11:3)?

As we know, there are two signs of kashrut that an animal must have in order for us to eat its meat - a split hoof and the chewing of its cud. The commentaries see in this a hint to kashrut externally (split hoof) and internally (chewing the cud). This concepts reflects of the kashrut, or goodness, of people as well. Some people feel that they are believing Jews and are faithful to the Torah and our traditions, but these feelings are limited to feelings in their hearts and they do not practice the misvot outwardly. They are like the animal which chews its cud, but does not have split hooves, like the camel. Some people do the misvot but internally their hearts are not into it, sometimes seeking lust and honor. This person has a split hoof but does not chew the cud, like the pig. Is it better to be like a camel or like a pig?

Rabenu Bahya quotes our Sages and says that the pig in Hebrew is called the "hazir." Why is it called a "hazir"? "Hazir" means to return and it means Hashem will return and bring back the pig and it will be kosher. Now this doesn't mean we will be eating ham sandwiches made of the pig of today. It means that the pig will be changed and will acquire the internal holiness that it lacks today. However, the camel will not return. This means, continuing our analogy, people who are like a camel will not be as fortunate as those that are like a pig.

The person who doesn't do the misvot, doesn't observe the Shabbat or doesn't put on tefillin, but values them and even speaks highly of them, will not receive rewards for these thoughts. A person who feels bad for people's sufferings but doesn't try to help, will not be rewarded for those feelings. However, one who performs the misvot for honor and gain is said to be doing misvot "lo lishma," which means for ulterior motives. Our Sages teach us that one should do misvot even "lo lishma," for eventually he might be influenced by these good deeds and perform them for pure motives. Even if he doesn't reach this level in this world, these deeds that are faulty can be purified when the person undergoes purification in the next world for his evil intent. At the end of the day he will have those deeds that will be pure. It's not great to be a "pig," but it is better than being a camel. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And do not defile your souls with any vermin which crawls on the earth, for I am Hashem Who brought you up from the land of Egypt" (Vayikra 11:44-45)

Normally, when the Torah reminds us that Hashem freed us from Egyptian servitude, it uses the term "hamosee - Who brought you out." Here, however, the Torah says "hama'aleh - Who brought you up," to teach us that abstaining from forbidden foods, and especially from the forbidden species of vermin, has an uplifting effect on a Jew.

The Sages (Yoma 39a) gave a homiletic interpretation of the previous verse "v'nitmetem bam - and you will be defiled by them [if you eat them]." The defilement referred to is that the heart would be blocked, as it were, resulting in insensitivity to spiritual concerns.

On the other hand, someone who is careful about what he eats will have an open heart and find it easier to develop a benevolent outlook toward his fellow man. This is the "bringing up" that Hashem spoke of in our verse, an elevation of the spirit from the pride, selfishness and cruelty that characterized the Egyptian mentality. May we be privileged to carefully watch what we eat so that our souls are elevated to get closer to Hashem. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"The camel, because it chews the cud, but its hoof is not split, it is unclean to you…the pig, because its hoof is split…but chews not its cud, it is unclean to you." (Vayikra 11:4,7)

The Midrash notes that even when Hashem describes the impure characteristics of the unclean animals, He first identifies their pure features before mentioning the reason for their uncleanliness. This seems enigmatic! The Torah is listing the various unclean animals, such as the camel and the pig. Why does the Torah specify their pure characteristics altogether? What purpose can be served by this?

Rav Yerachmiel Shulman z"l derives an important lesson from this seeming verbosity. The Torah teaches that when we are about to render the pig, camel, or any other unclean animal unacceptable for Jewish consumption, we must be considerate not to "embarrass" them more than absolutely necessary. If we must cite their apparent unclean characteristics, it must be preceded by mention of their clean characteristics.

This is the Torah's way of demonstrating sensitivity for an unclean animal. How much more so are we obligated to show concern in dealing with human frailties and shortcomings! Man is created in the image of Hashem. Inasmuch as he can deviate from his observance of Torah and misvot, we must be extremely prudent in dealing with his imperfection. When we prepare to judge our fellow man, we should take note of his virtues prior to reflecting upon his shortcomings. (Peninim on the Torah)


"What you see is what you get!" seems harmless and even true. But, in actuality, "WYSIWYG" is contrary to the way Jews should look at the events that happen around them and in the world at large.

We live in a time when the Master Puppeteer is truly hiding from us. He is pulling the strings, and we children think that the puppets are actually living, breathing, independent individuals who can affect what takes place in our lives and in the politics of the world.

More times than not, when something happens - an accident, an illness, victory, defeat - we are quick to analyze the causes of the event. What we see makes us believe that we understand exactly the way events followed one another, leading to the result. The story of Yosef and his brothers and the Purim story are classic examples of "what you see is probably incorrect." And our Sages teach that the mighty Nebuchadnezzar and his armies were not the destroyers of the bet Hamikdash; the sins of the Jews actually brought the destruction.

The lesson is not to accept things at face value. First impressions are usually wrong. This world, Olam Hazeh, was created in such a way that the truth about most things is hidden from us. The agents of concealment are our eyes. Wee believe we see with them, but actually what we see blocks the truth and the true essence of what we are looking at.

When you see something happen, don't jump to conclusions. Ask, analyze, and think of all the possibilities - reasonable and unreasonable, physical and spiritual - that could make it happen. It may take more than a minute, but it will lead you away from making incorrect, superficial judgments and guide you towards deliberate, correct conclusions. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

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A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

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