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   by Jacob Solomon

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PARSHAT SHEMINI 5769: D'VAR TORAH


For I am G-d - you are to sanctify yourselves and become holy and distinguish between the impure and the pure, and between the creature that may be eaten and the creature that may not be eaten (11:44,47)

These words conclude the Torah's lengthy exposition of what the Israelites are allowed to eat, and forbidden to eat. These are repeated in a shorter version in Deut. 14:3-21)

However, one law of forbidden foods is absent from this week's parasha. That is the prohibition of cooking a young goat in its mother's milk. It is the finale of the parallel version in Deuteronomy (14:21), but does not even get a mention in this parasha. This is all the more surprising as the extremely powerful tradition of mixing meat and milk is associated with this prohibition. Indeed Onkelos renders this prohibition as: 'You may not eat meat with milk'.

A suggested reason for this omission may be implied in Rashi's explanation as to why in the parallel passage, the prohibition of cooking a young goat in its mother's milk is immediately followed by the command to give tithes to the Levite (Deut. 14:22 ff.). He quotes the Midrash saying that if a person fails to give the required tithes, G-d will bring forth the hot, dry east wind to 'cook' the tender kernels of grain (the 'kids') whilst they are still attached to the stalk (the 'mother').

But that actually happened earlier in this week's parasha. The holiness of the Tabernacle, which was the spiritual spring of the Israelites' strength (the 'mother's milk'), actually became the source of the death of the two 'kids' - Nadav and Avihu, Aaron's eldest sons. At the inauguration of the Tabernacle, they offered a 'strange fire which G-d did not command. Fire came forth from G-d and consumed them' (10:1-2). Thus G-d had figuratively, and very drastically, 'cooked the young goats in their mother's milk'...

The situation may be compared to a parent who needs to take certain substances for his health - for example the valium drug. His teenage son sees that valium produces desirable effects and wishes to take some as well. His rather horrified father forbids him with: 'Do as I say, not as I do'. But though the son might obey in the short run, he sees his father's behavior as hypocritical. His gut feelings if that if valium is dangerous, why is his father taking it in the first place?

Thus G-d's forbidding the cooking of a kid in its mother's milk so soon after circumstances caused Him to do something on the same lines, would have seemed hypocritical to the Israelites. So forty years passed before Moses reminded them of that law again (Deut 14: 3-21), before their entry into the Promised Land.

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: jacobsol@netvision.net.il for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers

e-mail: jacobsol@netvision.net.il

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