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Parshas Shemini

Kosher Animals - A Paradigm for Kedusha

These are the living creatures which you shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth. (Vayikra 11:2)

Rashi: [The word , "living creature"] denotes , "life." [In the context of this passage, which sets out the clean and unclean creatures, the meaning is expounded as follows:] Since the Jews cleave to the Omnipresent and are therefore worthy of being alive, accordingly, God separated them from uncleanness and decreed commandments upon them [so that through these commandments Israel would live]. For the other nations, however, He prohibited nothing. This is comparable to a physician who went to visit a patient [who was incurable] and allowed him to eat anything he wished; whereas when he went to his patient who had the ability to recover, the physician imposed restrictions on his diet that would ensure that the patient would live. So too, the nations and Israel], etc. as is found in the Midrash of Rabbi Tanchuma.

Excerpt from Daas Chochma u'Mussar, v. II p. 53 by Rav Yerucham Levovitz, Mashgiach of Prewar Mirrer Yeshiva

The goyim can eat anything; everything is permitted. None of the food they eat can hurt them. The Alter from Kelm compared this to a dog. His stomach is immune to even the most putrid rotten butter. So when a goy eats treif animals it has no effect on them. Their systems are immune. Not so a Jew.

This is a sign of the the kedusha inherent in Klal Yisroel, which tolerates no spiritual disturbance. This difference in sensitivity between Jews and Goyim is not limited to matters of food, but is affected by all areas related to kedusha. Rav Yerucham relates that when he visited Vilna, he stayed in a house near the university. On several occasions he was witness to incidents that taught him immeasurable lessons. Before the students entered the study halls they stopped and tidied themselves, brushed their hair, and the boys started mingling with the girls. It was a very loose atmosphere. This probably continued during class as well. From this Rav Yerucham drew a conclusion. The goyim see no incongruity between lewdness and academics. How did he know? Well, eventually these same students pass their exams and gain their diplomas. Yidden, however, are exactly the opposite. Immorality and decadence is the most blatant contradiction to Torah.

Lightheadedness impedes a person's ability to learn Torah. The slightest mental distraction or an improper look, disturb the study of Torah. The biggest proof for the sanctity and Divinity of the Torah is the fact that its holiness and purity cannot tolerate even the slightest contradiction to its sanctity. The Ramban (Devorim 23:10) takes this even further. There is a halacha that even the sight of human waste prohibits one from praying or learning; this in spite of the fact that there is no tumah present. Because seeing something repulsive produces a stain in one's soul and spoils focus of a pure heart.

Such is the immense force of the holiness of the fragile and delicate Torah: it tolerates no disturbance.

* * * Excerpt fromAll For the Boss, Pg. 158

Mama took everything in stride. Only on one occasion do I recall Mama losing her composure.

It was the night of Hashana Rabbah. Papa went to shul, where he remained the entire night, learning. It was almost midnight, and Mama was still busy kashering twenty-four chickens in relays of six.

I sat on a high stool watching Mama salt the chickens. It was a work of art. She sprinkled the salt so evenly into every crevice of each chicken that it flowed like silvery raindrops falling from the sky.

The warm, quiet kitchen and the constant motion of Mama's hand almost lulled me to sleep. I emitted a deep yawn.

"Go to sleep, Ruchoma," Mama told me gently. "You've helped enough today." I was happy to obey Mama, and ran off to bed.

In my sleep, I felt a tugging and heard an insistent voice from afar: "Wake up, Ruchoma! Wake up!"

I struggled through to consciousness to see Mama bending over me. "What time is it?" I asked drowsily.

"It's the middle of the night," Mama answered.

I sat up abruptly. "What's the matter, Mama?"

"I was just putting away all the pupiklach of the chickens I had finished kashering, and I noticed that on one pupik there seems to be a shaileh." Mama's words ended in a stifled sob. They're all mixed up now, so if this pupik is treif. all the chickens will be considered..." Mama did not finish the sentence, afraid to voice the horrible thought.

"Oh, Mama, what are we going to do?" I rushed into the kitchen to look at the pupik. Mama pointed to the soft wet gizzard, which had a very slight swelling and discoloration on one side.

"Run quickly to Papa in Tiferes Yerushalayim and tell him to go right now to Rabbi Skinder to ask a shaileh. Don't forget to tell Papa that I have no idea from which of the twenty-four chickens this pupik comes," Mama cautioned.

I dressed hurriedly. Holding the pupik in a soggy little bag, I sped through the dark, gloomy streets, my footsteps echoing my inner anxiety. (In 1930, Mama had no qualms about sending me, a young teenager, out all alone in the middle of the night. Our East Side streets were completely safe.)

As I neared the brightly illuminated shul, I heard many voices raised in Torah study. I rushed into the corridor and poked my head through the swinging door. Papa was sitting up front with an open sefer before him.

One of the men recognized me and hurried over. "What is it, Ruchoma?" he queried anxiously.

"I have to tell my father something," I answered quickly. He went over, tapped Papa gently on the shoulder, and whispered something to him.

Papa ran over to me with a questioning glance. "Oh, Papa, Mama just finished kashering all the twenty-four chickens, and she mixed up all the pupiklach, and she found a shaileh on one of them, and she doesn't know which chicken it's from, and she says you should go right away to Rabbi Skinder to ask a shaileh." It came out all in one breath.

Papa grabbed his hat, and we both flew through the sleepy, silent streets. We reached Henry Street in a few minutes. Papa looked up to the first floor where Rabbi Skinder lived. There was a light shining from his dining-room window. .

We tiptoed up the stairs, and Papa knocked gently on the door. Rabbi Skinder opened the door himself. "Shalom aleichem, Reb Yaakov Yosef." He clasped Papa's hand warmly.

"My wife was kashering a chicken and found a shaileh on this pupik," Papa said matter-of-factly. I gazed at Papa in amazement and opened my mouth to speak. Papa's warning look choked back the words into my throat.

And so, while Rabbi Skinder poked and probed the defenseless pupik under the light of his lamp, the fate of twenty-four chickens hung in the balance.

I trembled as I stood there. What if it were treif? All Mamas' hard work would have been in vain. What would all of our orchim eat on Yom Tov? It cost so much money. Mama's tired, wan face swam before my eyes and clouded my vision.

Then I glanced at Papa. He stood straight and tall, like a soldier awaiting the verdict of his general. After what seemed an eternity, Rabbi Skinder looked up and announced, "Kosher, kosher." The words of reprieve rang in my ears.

Papa then said, "Rebbe, if you had pronounced the pupik 'treif,' I would have thrown out twenty-four chickens. My wife does not know from which of the chickens this pupik comes,"

Rabbi Skinder looked at Papa reprovingly, "Ach, ach, Reb Yaakov Yosef, why didn't you tell me? When there is a great loss involved, I examine the shaileh differently."

"I never look for heterim," Papa answered with his oft-repeated and oft-practiced maxim.

With the kosher pupik wrapped up again in its wet brown bag, Papa and I rushed down the stairs. "Run home quickly, Ruchoma, and tell Mama that the pupik is one-hundred-percent kosher. See that she gets to bed. I'm going back to shul.

Like a bird in flight, I flew through the tranquil streets, my footsteps in tune with the rhythm of kosher, kosher, kosher.

When I burst into the front hall of our apartment building, I could not control myself and called out loudly, "Mama! Mama! The pupik is kosher! It's kosher!"

Mrs. Friedman, our first-floor neighbor, came running out of her apartment. "Ruchoma, what's the matter with you? Why are you making such an unearthly racket at this time of night, waking everybody?" she asked peevishly.

"The pupik is kosher," I babbled.

Mama heard me and rushed out of our apartment to greet me. I threw myself into her arms and almost threw her off balance. "It's all right, Mama - it's one-hundred-percent kosher!"

Mama burst out crying.

By that time, our other neighbors heard the commotion and hurried into the hall, curious to know what had occurred. Over hot, sweet cocoa and Marna's delicious raisin cinnamon cookies, I told our neighbors the entire episode of the kosher pupik.

Excerpt from All For the Boss, Pg 79

Yom Tov Lipman attended New York University and majored in accounting. He, too, was well versed in the Talmud. His home was filled with an impressive library of religious books.

Papa sent a close friend to talk to the Sterns about their son, Yom Tov Lipman, as a possible suitor for Esther. They were pleased with the proposition, having heard of Papa's reputation.

After a few meetings, Esther was engaged to be married, the first in the Herman household. The wedding was scheduled for December 19, 1922, at the Beethoven Hall on East Fifth Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan.

Every day I rushed home eagerly from public school to be part of all the excitement. Mama busied herself shopping for clothes for the bride, setting up Esther's new apartment, buying the rest of the family new outfits for the wedding, and greeting all the relatives and friends who came to offer their congratulations.

Papa was occupied with the preparations for the wedding itself. The invitations he ordered were different from any Jewish invitations that had been printed before in those days in New York.

"Mr. Herman, are you absolutely sure you want this added to the invitation?" The printer's voice trembled as he read what Papa had written: "Ladies, please come dressed according to Jewish law."

"Print it just as it is. I want no change at all," Papa said decisively. "I also want separate cards printed with the following wording: 'Men and women are asked to dance separately.'"

The printer shook his head disapprovingly. "People will laugh at you."

"Let them laugh." Papa was unabashed. "I want to follow the Torah's commandments. And I also want to order a large cardboard sign," he went on, "with these words." Papa wrote the wording in bold capital letters: ALL THE FOOD BELONGS TO THE LORD; AFTER THE BERACHAH, TO YOU.

From the printer, Papa proceeded to the caterer. "I want to kasher all the pots and pans before my daughter's wedding. I also want all the dishes to be new."

"What's wrong with my pots and pans and dishes?" the caterer asked Papa in amazement. "AIl my religious customers have used them until now without any question."

Papa placed a large bill in the caterer's hand. "This is just a deposit," Papa assured him. "It's your money, Mr. Herman. Everything will be done as you wish."

A few days before the wedding, Papa contacted the caterer once again. "I want to be at the slaughterhouse when the chickens are being slaughtered." This time the caterer clucked his tongue with disapproval, without uttering a word.

And so, the wedding day arrived - a cold, clear wintry day in December. Esther, at seventeen, was a glowing bride. Mama looked lovely, but jittery. I was prettied up in my pink, ruffled dress and new black patent-leather pumps, and my older sisters Frieda and Bessie and my brother Davie were also dressed up in their new finery. Papa was most impressive in his Prince Albert suit and stovepipe hat.

As we rode to the wedding hall, Papa coached me on how to carry the large sign that would remind the guests to recite the proper blessings before the wedding dinner.

We entered the hall with Papa striding ahead, prepared for battle. One of our relatives was stationed at the entrance with the shawls Papa had prepared for any woman coming improperly attired. Another relative handed each guest the card which requested men and women to dance separately.

The invitations and cards caused an uproar among the hundreds of guests. The ladies stood in groups discussing the added requests, which were unheard of at that time. Some were openly hostile. "Where does he get the nerve to tell us what to wear?" one woman asked sarcastically.

"I had to buy a special jacket to wear over my evening gown," another complained. The men's discussions were no less scathing. "Can you imagine? I can't dance with whomever I want!"

Papa was not having an easy time of it. The soft music was inviting, and already some insolent couples were gliding on the polished floor. Papa marched over to each couple. "I must ask you to stop. The Torah prohibits men and women from dancing together."

The sign I proudly displayed also caused some caustic remarks: "I do not have to be told to wash my hands before meals or make the hJessing," an elderly man exclaimed.

We came home from the wedding tired and sleepy, but Papa was elated. "You see, children, when one fulfills the commandments of the Torah, he must act proudly and without shame."

Papa set the precedent, and what he insisted on then has become accepted procedure at religious weddings nowadays.

Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rosh Yeshiva
Yeshiva Shaare Chaim.

Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop ? Lakewood).

If you would like to correspond with Rabbi Parkoff please contact him: or 732-325-1257

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