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PARASHAT SHMINI

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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“In the spiritual realm, celestial content is revealed in sudden starts, in no systematic order, and without causal revelation. Then comes understanding, engaging in clarification, making sense of the various types of information, investigating causal connections. And the wise man is preferable to the prophet…”

(Orot HaKodesh 1, 75)


Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir


Message for Today:
“G-d’s Glory will be Revealed to you”


The eighth day of the installation of the kohanim, the first day of the month of Nissan, claimed ten crowns.
1)It fell out on Sunday, the first day of Creation.
2)It was the first day of the tribal princes bringing their offerings of the Tabernacle dedication.
3)It was the first day on which the Divine Presence rested on Israel.
4)It was the first day on which it was forbidden to Israel to bring offerings outside the Tabernacle or Temple.
5)It was the first day of the priesthood. From that day on, the Tabernacle service was performed by Aaron and his sons. Previously it had been performed by the firstborn.
6)It was the first day on which the priestly blessing was offered.
7)It was the first day on which the Tamid offerings were brought.
8)It was the start of Nissan, the first month.
9)It was the first day on which kodshim, holy meat, had to be eaten within the Tabernacle perimeter.
10)It was the first time that fire descended: “Fire came forth from before G-d and consumed the burnt offering and the choice parts on the altar” (Leviticus 9:24).

At the height of that eighth day, Aaron blessed the people, as it says, “Aaron lifted his hands towards the people and blessed them” (9:22).
And then, at this climactic moment, when the entire nation was waiting to see how the Divine Presence would descend to Israel, it did not happen. Aaron “was sorrowful”. He said, ‘I know that G-d is angry at me, and that it is because of me that the Divine Presence did not descend to Israel.’ He said to Moses, ‘Moses, my brother, look what you did to me. I went in to the Tabernacle and brought embarrassment on myself.’ Moses immediately went in with him and they begged for mercy, and the Divine Presence descended to Israel.” (see Rashi, Leviticus 9:23)

Thus it says, “Moses and Aaron went into the Communion Tent, and when they came out, they blessed the people. G-d’s glory was then revealed to all the people. Fire came forth from before G-d and consumed the burnt offering and the choice parts on the altar. When the people saw this, they raised their voices in praise and threw themselves on their faces” (9:23-24).
And what was the blessing that Moses and Aaron offered? “May Your favor, Hashem our G-d, rest upon us. May it be Your will that the Divine Presence should rest on the work of your hands.”

Indeed, the people merited to have the Divine Presence descend to them. As a result, their mood changed: “When the people saw this, they raised their voices in praise and threw themselves on their faces.” In other words, they praised and extolled G-d.

The purpose of the Tabernacle’s being erected and of the service therein on that eighth day was the revelation of the Divine Presence to Israel, in other words, the revelation of the light of G-d and of His goodness in our world. G-d desired to place His abode here on earth. Israel were chosen for that purpose by G-d, as we recite, blessing G-d who “chose us from among all nations and gave us His Torah” (blessing before the Torah reading). In the blessing after the Torah reading we further say, “G-d planted everlasting life within us.”

Yet the process of the Divine Presence descending and being revealed is complex and prolonged, just as the erecting of the Tabernacle and its dedication were a complex, prolonged process. Only at the end of the process did we merit, and shall we merit in the future, “G-d’s glory appearing to all the nation” (Leviticus 9:23).

We must become stronger in our faith, and we must arm ourselves with patience, praying and beseeching mercy from G-d, and hoping every day for complete salvation. By such means we will all merit to see a new light over Zion – speedily in our day, amen. And may through us be fulfilled, “G-d’s glory will be revealed to you.”
Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.


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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Bet El

The White Ethiopian

Listen and listen well. I’ve got a big scoop to share about an enormous marvel, a gargantuan scientific achievement: a white Ethiopian Jew! (not a white Ethiopian non-Jew, but a Jew). It sounds like a joke, “a white Ethiopian”, an internal contradiction, but it’s true, and when we stop laughing, we’ll have to admit that for that same white Ethiopian Jew a lot of problems will be solved, for to our great misfortune, there are fools who view Ethiopian Jews with an arrogant gaze and sometimes even insult them with Hebrew equivalents of the English word “nigger”. For the white Ethiopian Jew, the problem is solved once and for all. After all, apart from skin color, there are no other differences between Ethiopian Jews and other Jews.

Both have a heart. Both have a brain. Both have Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem. Both have Rachel’s Tomb at Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs at Hebron. Both have the same G-d and the same soul, part of G-d above. As we know, the soul has no color, neither white nor black, brown nor yellow.

Only the paper-thin black skin distinguishes between them, but before I reveal to you the secret of the white Ethiopian, I will tell you a story that happened, if not with the precise details than at least approximately. One day in our yeshiva, a student told me that he had gotten engaged. “Mazel Tov! I am happy to hear!” I said. “There is one problem, however,” he added. “She is Ethiopian and I am a kohen.”

“Why did you get yourself involved in a complication like that?” I asked.
“I didn’t think about it,” he replied. “I appreciate her and I love her. I didn’t notice her color.” I was very happy that he hadn’t thought about it or noticed it.
“Give me three days,” I answered him.
I pored over the great halachic authorities. I argued with rabbis and finally told him, “It’s all right. But we need the validation of a great rabbi. Go to Rabbis X and Y.” He went, and then he came back and he said, “They’re afraid.”
“Fine,” I said, “Give me three more days.” On the third day I informed him, “I have a note for you that is worth more than a million dollars.” It was a responsa from HaGaon HaRav Ovadia Yosef in his own handwriting, and it said, “A Kohen is allowed to marry an Ethiopian girl, and the son remains a kohen in every sense of the word. Respectfully yours, and with great love, Ovadia Yosef.”

Resuming where we left off, where is the white skinned Ethiopian? Very simple. It’s me! And millions of other Jews. After all, we said that there is no difference between an Ethiopian Jew and any other Jew but skin color. If so, we are all Ethiopians, with thousands of shared traits, apart from one slim (less than a millimeter thick), negligible external. I didn’t invent this idea. Rather, when Dr. Yosef HaLevi first met the Ethiopian Jews 150 years ago, they thout they were the only Jews on earth. Then he informed them that he was an Ethiopian just like them. That great man was a “White-skinned Ethiopian”.

“So,” you say. “You were just teasing us.” No I wasn’t. I was being very serious. Indeed, it really is a gargantuan scientific achievement. Such is the greatness of science, that it focuses on the general and ignores negligible, insignificant details.

And if it is so with secular science [Hebrew “mada”], all the more so with holy “science”, such as Rambam’s “Sefer HaMada”, literally, “the Book of Science”. If you take a look there you will see that he said we should love every Jew, and he did not distinguish between “light and dark”, but between “darkness and light”.

 


Rabbi Azriel Ariel

“I will be Sanctified Among Those Close to Me”


An unbearable tragedy befell Aaron. Following what King Solomon called Aaron’s “wedding day” (Song of Songs 3:11), which our sages associate with the Sinai Revelation, and immediately after “the day of his heart’s rejoicing” (ibid.) – the Tabernacle’s construction, his two sons, Nadav and Avihu, died.

Aaron wondered, and so do we all, why this evil befell him. He probably wanted to know what sin he had committed. How had his sons sinned so gravely as to incur a death sentence from G-d?
Yet as opposed to what we might have expected, he received no answer to this question. All we have is Moses’s brief, oblique comment, “‘This is exactly what God meant when he said, `I will be sanctified among those close to Me, and I will thus be glorified before the entire people'” (Leviticus 10:3).
Aaron heard these words and “he remained silent” (ibid.). We, who learn these words from a distance of thousands of years, strive to understand their meaning. After all, one cannot argue that G-d was seeking “human sacrifices” in order to hallow the Temple with their blood. That approach, rampant in the pagan world, is exceedingly foreign to the Torah of Israel, and we cannot consider it.

In order to understand properly the meaning of the expressions “I will be sanctified” [ekadesh] and “I will be gloried” [ekaved], we must seek them out elsewhere in the Bible. Rabbi Shimshon Refael Hirsch refers us to the prophecy of Ezekiel (28:22) regarding Sidon’s downfall: “Behold, I am against you, O Sidon, and I will be glorified [venichbad’ti] in your midst. They shall know that I am the L-rd, when I shall have executed judgments in her, and shall be sanctified [venikdashti] in her.”

G-d is sanctified for mankind to see by way of His bringing a harsh event upon a portion of them. Sometimes this is preceded by a prophecy about punishment, and sometimes by a prophecy about redemption. Thus, the same chapter (verse 25) states: “When I shall have gathered the House of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, I shall be sanctified [venikdashti] through them in the sight of the nations.” The same idea appears in many other places in Ezekiel.

Moses tells Aaron, “This is exactly what G-d meant when he said…” Moses is not necessarily referring to prophetic information he had received from G-d in the past (and even according to those who comment that the idea had been alluded to by Exodus 29:43, which can be rendered to mean, “I shall be sanctified through My honored ones,” that is an exceedingly obscure allusion). Rather, he is referring to a lesson that we can learn from G-d by pondering the present event (Ramban).

G-d has three important lessons for us from what happened to Aaron’s sons (Netziv): First, “To indicate the gravity with which we must relate to G-d’s Temple and everything holy”; second, “to admonish the kohanim for all times that they must be exceedingly careful with everything holy”; and third, “that the entire people should realize through this that the Tabernacle is the King’s palace and that the Divine Presence resides therein. That, after all, is why Strict Judgment responded so angrily.”

G-d’s bringing harsh punishments in this way on those close to Him imparts essential lessons to the entire people. It is true that we would naturally want to seek the reason for that punishment. Yet this is among the mysteries of Divine conduct. Yes, we are allowed to ask questions, and we are even allowed to venture answers. Yet in any event the answer is irrelevant for us and offers us no real benefit. We must seek out the purpose of that punishment where we are concerned. That is very relevant and beneficial for each and every one of us. That is why the entire nation was required to mourn for Aaron’s sons: “Let the entire family of Israel mourn for the ones whom G-d burned” (Leviticus 10:6). When Aaron understood that his sons’ death had meaning, he accepted the punishment in silence, even if he did not understand the reason for it: “Aaron remained silent” (10:3).

Here we derive a major lesson regarding looking for meaning in G-d’s conduct on earth. It is true that everything G-d does has a cause to justify it. Yet we need to look for precisely its ultimate purpose. The cause has no meaning for us. It belongs to the past, which was and is no more. The ultimate purpose is exceedingly meaningful. Even if the cause has meaning too, it has value only if we know the true cause, and that we lack. Yet if we are dealing with the ultimate purpose, then any possible positive answer can have tangible meaning. Just as the death of Aaron’s sons included within it several lessons, each relating to different groups within the Jewish People, so, too, everything that happens in life can be interpreted in different ways and can convey different messages to different people. That is our task. That is the responsibility of every person when a sorrowful, shocking event occurs in his vicinity. As recommended in Ecclesiastes 7:2, one must “give it thought”.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook taught:
“Nothing G-d does either in regard to the world or the individual is necessarily predictable, but everything is with intent for the good. And since it has been revealed that G-d’s power is infinite…. it becomes clear that nothing happens in the world without being intended to attain goodness…
“The spiritual elite must ponder everything as it relates most personally to themselves, seeking for the best result to ensue from everything that occurs to them. By such means they will transform G-d’s intent into tangible terms to the extent that this is appropriate.” (Ein Aya, Berachot 9, 2-3).
“Every event we encounter has a purpose from G-d. G-d’s intent is interwoven with man’s free will, in the expectation that man will transform G-d’s intent into tangible terms with the best result. Therefore, if someone ignores what occurs and does not ascribe to it a purpose, he is destroying the good that could have been wrought by him from that event.” (Ein Aya, Berachot 1, 167).
“Nothing affecting man is abandoned to chance. Its spiritual kernel is always good, and all background circumstances, even the most seemingly happenstance, are all woven together in the mysterious fabric of Divine Intervention. That spiritual kernel will result in goodness and kindness… for so did man’s Creator create man in His wisdom. Man, by making use of all his natural proclivities for good, penetrates the secret of Divine Intervention and G-d’s intentions for those proclivities.



Translation: R. Blumberg


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