Weekly Parsha Review Laced with Humor and Sarcasm from The Oisvorfer Ruv

Shmini 2011

Raboyseyee and Raboyseyetts::

Single and dead/The kosher pig?

This week the Ruv is very upset about the premature deaths of Nodov and Avihu. Who you ask? Who are they? Oy, rachmono litzlon- don’t you remember anything from your years in yeshiva? Nothing at all?  Anyway, when you get done with this week’s toirah, you will not just know them, you’ll never forget them.

And you thought Vayikra would be boring. Many of you were wondering what the Ruv would find to talk about in these otherwise challenging parshiois. Ober, the Ruv does not disappoint. Halt kup (stay tuned) as we discuss the entire kosher gesheft (business) that the RBSO himself created. How He mamish understood that many thousands of Yiddin, otherwise ladigayers (lazy good for nothings) would need a parnosa (job) and how, as always, He came to their rescue by creating a need for  mashgichim and a plethora of organizations and Rabbis that offer hasgochois (at  a hefty  price of course). Yes, it all started right here in Parshas Shimini and you thought Vayikra was all about korbonois; a nechtiger tug (hogwash). Ober, before we get there, let’s learn about the other major highlight in this week’s parsha. Let’s begin.

Bikitzzur (in short), here’s what went down. On the eighth day (hence the Parsha’s name) of the dedication of the Mishkan, Aharoin, his sons, and the entire nation bring various korbanois (offerings) as commanded by Moishe. Nadav and Avihu  (Aharoin’s sons), innovate an offering not commanded by the RBSO. What that means, I have no idea: I was always taught that innovation is good. Anyway, a fire comes and consumes them, they’re dead!  Aharoin is warned to not mourn them publicly. Can you imagine losing a child and not mourning, imagine losing two? Ok, what happened here? One minute Nodov and Avihu are dedicating the Mishkan and bringing korbonois- all is good- the next minute, they themselves are burnt offerings, though seemingly their clothing remains unsinged. This entire episode seems a shtikel shocking and we need to better understand what took place there.

Says the heylige toirah azoy: Now Aharoins sons Nodov and Avihu, each took his fire pan, put fire in it, and laid incense on it; and they offered before the Lord alien fire, which He had not enjoined upon them. And fire came forth from the Lord and consumed them; thus they died at the instance of the Lord. Isn’t that what they were supposed to do, wasn’t that their job? What did they do that was so giferlich (terrible) and that caused instant punishment by death?  Isn’t it emes that you chazerrim (pigs) do things daily that are seemingly much worse and you’re still alive? Aren’t you playing with fire regularly?

Chas v’sholom, cholila v’chas (heavan forbid) would the Ruv ever make light of  the premature death of Aharoin’s sons Nodov and Avehuu: punk farkert (quite the opposite)-  ober….the Medroshim  do have a field day pontificating on various theories, none of which are of course discussed in the heylige toirah. Nu, let’s see what they have to say. After all, it’s my job to teach you toirah, something that your Rebeyim, didn’t do very well- azoy vesyt tzich ois (that’s how it would appear), nebech..

What happened next? Moishe calls two cousins, Misha’el and Eltzafan  to remove the bodies. Why them and not their own brothers? Why not Elazar and Isomar? Can’t a kohain be metapal (involved) in his own brother’s levaya? Ver veyst? Then Moishe said to Aharoin, ‘This is what the Lord meant when He said: Through those near to Me I show Myself holy, and gain glory before all the people.’ Moishe’s words of consolation to Aharoin are met with Aharoin’s silence.  What takah happened here? We don’t really know but guess what? After reading most of the Medroshim, I’m not sure they know either; that did not however stop them from painting Nodov and Avihu in a poor light.

The Midrash Rabba suggests that the brothers were killed because they were not married and did not have children. Is being single a capital offense? And at what age, does this death sentence kick in? Is it only for Koihanim or all singles? Can you imagine what the upper West side would look like if the RBSO wiped out all the singles? Oy vey!!

More from the Medrish: although they were not killed as a result of this situation (meaning avada that they committed other sins), we are told that they felt they were too special to marry just any woman of the community, given their higher status as children of Aharoin, the big Kehunah.  Is snobbery such a sin as to warrant the death sentence? Ver veyst? Do all snobs deserve death or only singles?

Seemingly the medrish could not make up its mind as to actual cause of death and offers yet another possible cause. It says that the words “and it consumed them” do not actually refer to the fire, but to the brothers’ narrow focus of worshiping the RBSO that cut them off from the community. Can too much dedication to the RBSO lead to a death sentence? Are you satisfied with this p’shat? Neither am I.

Aharoin, under orders grieves in silence. Moishe directs the kohanim as to their behavior during the mourning period, and warns them that they must not drink intoxicating beverages before serving in the Mishkan. What’s the connection between drinking and the untimely death of the two brothers? We shall soon see. For now, let’s move on…that’s what Aharoin the Koihain godol did when he was told that he just lost 2 of his 4 sons. Let’s try another approach.

Rashi quotes Rabbi Eliezer who says that Nadav and Avihu were killed because they rendered a Halachic decision in the presence of Moishe, their teacher. The Ramban, contrary to Rashi’s opinion, says that the mere fact that Nadav and Avihu did not have the proper Kavana when they brought the Ketoires was enough to cause the RBSO to kill them. OMG if lack of kavona is a capital offense, mistama (likely)  I wouldn’t have a readership as you’d all be dead –mamish- and I’d be long gone as well!

Another: They died for  “For drawing near”–because they entered into the innermost precincts of the Sanctuary. “For offering”–because they offered a sacrifice which they had not been commanded to offer. “For the strange fire”–they brought in fire from the kitchen. “And for not having taken counsel from each other”–as it says, “Each of them his censer,” implying that they acted each on his own initiative, not taking counsel from one another. What exactly all that I means, I never quite understood. Let’s try another.

Reb Mani, Reb Yehoshua and Rebbe Yoichanan in the name of Reb Levi said azoy: The sons of Aaroin died on account of four things… Because they had drunk wine, as it says [immediately following the incident], “Drink no wine nor strong drink… that you die not” (VaYikra 10:9). Because they served in the Sanctuary lacking the prescribed number of   priestly garments (maybe they forgot to put on their gotchkis (underwear)  (Shmois 28:43). Because they entered the Sanctuary without washing their hands and feet (Shmois 30:21). Because they had no children… as it says, “And Nadav and Avihu died… and they had no children” (Bamidbar 3:4). Nu, avada many of you can relate to one or more of these logical reasons, I can’t. Zicher (of course) it’s challenging to have children once you’re dead!

Rebi Levi says that they were arrogant. Many women remained unmarried waiting for them. And how was this arrogance manifested? And how many women was each going to marry? They said:  Our father’s brother is a king (Moishe), our mother’s brother is a prince [Nachshon, the Nosi (head of the tribe) of Yihudah], our father is the koihain godol, and we are both Deputy High Priests; what woman is worthy of us?  Another sign of their arrogance… The Gemora in Sanhedrin (52a) teaches that while Moishe and Aharoin were leading the way at Har Seenai, Nodav and Avihu followed behind them and wondered aloud to one another when Moishe and Aharoin might die so that they could assume the mantle of leadership. The RBSO replied, “We’ll see who will bury who.” Rashi explains that the Gemora is coming to teach that it was for this act of seeking power that they died prematurely. Surely you’re astounded by the germorrah as its shver (difficult)  to understand for two reasons. First, the Toirah tells us they died when they brought an offering which they weren’t commanded to bring. Second, nowhere do we find that the pursuit of power is a capital crime. How many power hungry koihanim does your shul have and they’re all still living? Rabbi Yihudah in the name of Reb Aibu said that they uttered this to one another with their mouths, while Reb Pinchas said that they harbored this thought in their hearts. Is this a nice way to talk about the departed?

Others (as quoted by Rashi) say: They already deserved to die at Har Seenai, when they callously feasted their eyes on the Divine (S’hmois 24:9-11). Ober Reb  Eliezer ben Yaakov   stated ( Eruvin 63a; Rashi): The sons of Aharoin died only because they gave a legal decision in the presence of their master Moishe, seemingly also a capital offense.

Rashi in  Devorim( 9:20) states: Nodav and Avihu died because of Aaroin’s making of the Eygel (Golden Calf), as it is written: “And against Aharoin did G-d verily rage to destroy him; and I prayed also for Aharoin at that time.” Moishe’s prayer was halfway effective;  two brothers died and two remained alive.

The Zoihar was a shtikel perplexed with their deaths because according to him both Nodav and Avihu were under the age of twenty when they died. Since their deaths were a punishment by heavenly means, a difficulty arises; their deaths violate the accepted rule that the heavenly court does not mete out punishment to anyone under twenty years of age. Takah shver tzu farshtein (difficult to understand).

Seemingly these two fellows were doomed: ‘dead men walking’ for some time and the Medroshim are mamish full of reasons and as you just read, most portray them as bad people. Did anyone have a nice word to say about these two poor souls? Nu- I found one. Avada you won’t be surprised to hear that they were Tzadikim (righteous) mamish.

Says the Ohr Hachaim: They came close to G-d and died–they approached the supernal light out of their great love of the Holy, and thereby died. Thus they died by “divine kiss” such as experienced by the perfectly righteous; it is only that the righteous die when the divine kiss approaches them, while they died by their approaching it… Although they sensed their own demise, this did not prevent them from drawing near to G-d in attachment, delight, delectability, fellowship, love, kiss and sweetness, to the point that their souls ceased from them.

And for some final confusion on this topic: After Nodav and Avihu are killed,  Aharoin and the other two brothers are instructed not to observe public signs of mourning such as letting their hair grow or rending their clothing.  At the end of that same pasuk (10,6), the rest of the BNY (Jews) are told that they should weep and openly mourn the loss of Nodav and Avihu. So the family that lost their kids nebech, can’t mourn but the rest of the BNY should? And between these two sets of instructions are four words that seem to dangle: V’AL KOL HA’EIDA YIKTZOF,” (And G-d will get angry at the entire congregation).” Is that a warning to the kohanim for violating their rule and openly mourning, or the rest of the BNY for failing to do so? What’s p’shat? Ober says The Ohr HaChayim mamish gevaldig: it’s referring to the latter. The only reason that Aharoin and his sons couldn’t’ openly mourn was because they were told not to. But the rest of the nation must show proper appreciation for Nodav and Avihu, who the heylige gemorrah  says were greater than Moishe and Aharoin. Now if the other midroshim are correct about Nodov and Avihu and if according to the Gemorrah, Nodov and Avihu were greater than Moishe and Aharoin- can you just imagine (cholila) heaven forbid, how bad Moishe and Aharoin were? Yikes!! Let’s then learn p’shat like the Ohr Hacahim: Gevaldig mamish and also settled. Nodov and Avihu were takah good guys after all. Maybe the previous medrosim confused them with another set of brothers or hoodlums – hey didn’t you see ‘my cousin Vinnie’?

Almost in reaction to the terrible tragedy, the toirah next sets down several rules (mitzvois) for kohanim to save them from endangering their lives. Kohanim may not enter the Mikdash with long hair (a monthly trim was required), nor with no tzirissene hoizen (torn garments)  They may not leave the Mikdash while performing their sacred work (no coffee or bathroom breaks)]. Furthermore, kohanim may not enter the Mikdash while under the influence of wine. Suddenly, being a Levi or a Yisroel doesn’t sound too terrible.

The written words of the heylige toirah forbid a Kohain from doing sacred service while having recently drunk wine. Sefer HaChinuch gives a second definition for the mitzva, based on the toirah she-bal-peh (the Oral Law, my favorite). Namely, a halachic authority may not render a decision (psak) while under the influence of alcohol. Avada you’re wondering if many of today’s chumra’s and decrees are takah the result of the self appointed halachic decisors imbibing a  bit too much before dreaming up the chumra of the day.

Let’s chazir (review): may a p’sak halacha be rendered by someone who has drunk wine? The correct answer is: No, and it is TOIRAH LAW. But where does it say that? It’s talking about a kohain in the Mikdash? The answer comes from the Oral Law. Got all that? Written is good, oral as you well know, also good- sometimes better: life is beautiful!

The Chinuch, in his last paragraph of this mitzvah (not to drink), says that the first definition applies in the time of the Mikdash, to men and women – no one may enter the Mikdash under the influence. The second definition of the mitzvah (about not issuing a p’sak halacho under the influence), he says, applies to men AND WOMEN WHO ARE QUALIFIED TO ISSUE HALACHIC RULINGS. You hear this Raboyseyee and Raboyseyetts? It seems to be the opinion of the Sefer HaChinuch, written almost 800 years ago, that there can be women poskim (poskot). So when in our own time we see this radical concept of YO’ETZET HALACHA (women putting forth Halachot), that this isn’t such a chiddush (new-fangled thing) after all. Why did so many Rabbi’s and organizations get bent out of shape over this issue? Nu, we can suggest that efsher maybe they’re worried that women will stick their hands into their pockets (so to speak) and it all comes down to money. Ok- let’s go veyter: the parsha has more- let’s learn about kosher food.

Also, in this week’s parsha, and after two and a half sedras (parshois) devoted to sacred meat (korbanois), now we have the presentation of the animals we may and may not eat. The RBSO created what has become the single largest industry for Yiddin: kosher and avada glatt kosher. A gisheft (business) that continues to grow thousands of years after Har Seenai and now even the goyim are either selling or eating kosher. According to Lubicom Kosher, a marketing firm for the kosher industry (yet another beneficiary of these halochois), there are approximately 10,500,000 kosher consumers in the U.S. alone. These are people who purchase kosher food for any reason–including the 21% who buy it for religious reasons and another 15% who just like to pay more for everything. A report the Ruv has seen for free, analyzes the $3.5-billion U.S. market for core kosher products and the $35-billion overall market for kosher-certified products. Avada,  a free report was only valid thru 2002. A more current one is zicher not free and zicher the Ruv wasn’t going out of pocket to provide you oisvorfs with more updated information. In any event, 3.5 billion isn’t big enough for you?

Nu, while preparing this shiur, the Ruv had to surf the treife Internet for information and after visiting a few other sites that takah weren’t so kosher but definitely very enjoyable, chas v’sholom-loi olanu, he found a fascinating portrait of the kosher-food industry in the United States. Did you know that an estimated 40 percent of the country’s annual $500 billion in food sales are of kosher-certified products? Shtlet zich di shaylo (the question then arises), since most American Jews, who make up less than 2 percent of the population, don’t even keep kosher, doesn’t this number and the size of the industry sound epes incredibly inflated (like some the pictures I saw on the net- oy vey)? Ober rasboyseyee: mir dafrin farshtein (we need to understand) that with the growing sophistication and globalization of food production, and considering that even to goyim, kashrus certification on a product – to the extent they’re actually aware of it – is perceived as a guarantee of quality, that more and more food purveyors and manufacturers believe the supervision is worth the cost. Mamish gelvaldige news, especially for the Masgichim and various kashrus organizations that rip off the vendors, the restaurants, the manufacturers and the RBSO. What a gesheft (business)! Mamish you look at the cow and it’s cholov             yisroel? C’mon give me a break!

Nu, while venting, let’s talk kosher: avada we all know that these laws have evolved through history into a complex set of gastronomical do’s and don’ts, mostly don’ts. What was kosher for your parents and maybe even for us a few years back is treif today and if your kids eat that tarfus, they can’t marry my kids. However in the heylige toirah, these halochois only fall into three basic guidelines: Do not consume blood, do not mix milk and meat, and eat only the permitted animals. This third area, permitted (and forbidden) animals, fish and birds and even flying insects, are described in this week’s parsha.

The RBSO in his wisdom gave us mamish clear directions and here they are in short, no mashgiach required. For land and water animals, we are given physical characteristics to determine permissibility. Avada most of you love checking out physical characteristics, you chazerrim that you are.

It is avada Osur (forbidden) to eat of animals that lack one of the signs of kashrus (split hoof and cud chewing), and of course, those that lack both. The Toirah names three animals that chew their cud but do not have split hooves – the camel, shafan, arnevet, and one that has a split hoof but is not a ruminent – the pig. We may not eat their meat, and handling their carcasses renders one TOMEI, ritually unclean. Likewise, one is required to examine fish for scales and fins and it’s forbidden to eat non-kosher fish. With birds, the Toirah lists 20 kinds of birds (not species, families, genus, etc. – but kinds) that are not kosher. All the rest of the birds are kosher. How do we  know if a particular bird is in one of the forbidden families or not? Usually, the answer is TRADITION, think Fiddler. Yes, we eat chicken etc. because we have an unbroken tradition of its kashrus; see how simple it is? And did you know that the heylige toirah specifies four types (8 families) of locust that we may eat. All other insects are not permitted to us. Identifying kosher locusts is nebech a lost art and bazman hazeh (in our times) we don’t eat any of them.  Seemingly, none of these rules are important because in recent years, most yiddin have forgotten all about locusts and many don’t eat meat altogether. Why? Because the gantze frumeh oilom (religious world) has become mishuga and now all they eat is farkakte sushi. Sushi has become so popular that it’s mamish hard to find an establishment that doesn’t offer it. Locally here in the heylige 5 towns, rumor has it that very shortly even the banks will be offering it so that the oilom shouldn’t have to go too long without. And why not, why should they be the only storefront without?

Finally, in this week’s parsha we meet the chazir (pig) as treif for the first time. Says the Ohr Hachaim that the wording and positioning of the pig’s posuk “loi yegar”  (its cud it will not chew) may be a hint to a Midrash. The pig’s name is “chazzir “ which means to return. There is a Midrash that states that the pig will someday return to us to be edible and kosher again, as he was before the giving of the heylige toirah. Avada this is no excuse for  you getting a head start by eating tarfus now before the Moshiach arrives; certainly you are not in a position to decide that it’s ok to eat chazir now just because the Medrish suggests that one day it will be kosher again. The Ohr Hachaim looks at the wording of the “pig posuk” as if it’s making a condition: the chazzir is only a problem when he doesn’t chew.  When he does decide to chew in the future,  he’ll be okay.


A giten shabbis…


Yitz Grossman

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