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Parshas Shemini/Parah - Havdalah

By Reb Eliezer Bulka

Posted on 03/30/19

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
(410) 788-6633

This past Sunday, the 17th of Adar II, marked the yahrtzeit of R' Moshe Fuller, z"l, of Ner Yisroel. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso.



This coming Sunday, 2 Nissan, marks the 13th yahrtzeit of my Bubbie. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.


This week's parsha begins on the eighth day of the proceedings leading up to the final setup of the mishkan. The joy of the day is interrupted by the tragic death of Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu. Later on, the parsha deals with the various signs of kashrus pertaining to animals, fish and birds. This is a rather odd transition at first glance. One usually expects to find some sort of common thread between two juxtaposed passages.



The key is one word.



Following the death of Nadav and Avihu, HaShem commands Aharon that he and his sons (and all kohanim who follow) that they may not drink wine before performing the service or they will be subject to death. The reason for this, as stated in the following pesukim (10:10-11) is ulhavdil, so that they may discern between holy and mundane, tamei and tahor. And so they may teach B'nei Yisrael all the laws that HaShem spoke to them through Moshe.



At the end of the parsha, after the discussion of the laws pertaining to the animal kingdom, we are told the reasoning - or at least some driving force - behind these laws, (11:37lehavdil, so that we may discern between the tamei and tahor, between the animal that is to be eaten and the animal that is not to be eaten. The repetition of lehavdil is the essence of the thread that runs through the parsha. First, we are taught of the great burden that the kohanim carry, the responsibility to judge between holy and mundane and between tamei and tahor. There are certainly many areas where it is only the kohanim who bear this burden. However, lest one think that this task is one reserved only for the kohanim, the Torah impresses upon us that each and every Jew carries this responsibility to a certain extent. This is an essential challenge for all Jews. The world has been created with forces of tum'ah and forces of taharah. Through this parsha we see that we have all been provided with the necessary guidelines to tackle this challenge and accurately discern between the holy and mundane, and the tamei and tahor.



In a leap year, this lesson falls in just the perfect time (although maybe just one week too late.) We just finished the joyous celebration of Purim. A superficial view of the holiday might lead one to refer to it as the "Jewish Halloween." But, of course, we know that it is nothing like that whatsoever and we must strive to make that distinction clear. Also, the lessons regarding responsibility with wine are also most apropos for this time. And as we leave Purim behind (while we finish off all the candy and nosh) and turn our sights to Pesach, we find another similar challenge. The Christian holiday of Easter falls out on Pesach nearly every year - not by coincidence but by design (theirs, not ours. In fact, the only time it does not fall out on Pesach would be on certain leap years when it falls out just after Purim.)  Again, we are given the opportunity to make a clear distinction between the devotion and dedication with which we celebrate our Holy Days and the way others celebrate their holidays.