Parshas Shemini/Parah - Torah Lessons of Machalos Asuros

By Rabbi Yosef Tropper
Posted on 03/29/19

 1) Four Non-Kosher Animals Lesson

We know the famous simanim of beheimah tehorah versus beheimah temei’ah.  An animal that we’re allowed to eat versus one that we are  not.  And, that’s basically, animals that are kosher, at least from the land animals, not fish, have split hooves and chew their cud.  Those are the two requirements, and the Torah actually outlines four specific animals that do one or the other, but are still not kosher because they need to do both.  And, one of them is the gamal, the camel, which chews its cud, but does not have split hooves.  And, the other one is the shafan, and the arnevet, which many people translate as the hare and the hirex. And, those two, again, chew their cud, but do not have split hooves, and the last one , the most famous one, is the pig, the chazir, which has split hooves, and it likes to show them and put them out, like we talk about the chazir fisalach, the person that pretends to be tahor, but on the inside doesn’t chew its cud, and, therefore, its treif, and it’s kind of like the quintessential treif, which we’ll talk about in a minute, why that one is worse than the other three.

Maaleh Geirah hints to Histapkus

Gra has a very fascinating p’shat, and he says that there’s a lesson here.  There’s a lesson behind the two qualities that a kosher animal has to have.  And, in perek 11, pasuk 3, the pasuk tells us that it has to be maaleh geirah, the beheimah, the animal that chews it’s cud, “oso socheil”, that you could it.  And, then it says it has to have split hooves.  SO, the Gra says that this refers to two specific middos.  What’s that?  Maaleh Geirah that it chews its cud shows that it finds satiation in its food that it eats by making sure that it digests it sslowly.  And, so that shows that it has histapkus.  It has satisfaction with what it has.  That it’s samei’ach b’chelko.  And, of course, the animal doesn’t necessarily have any phsycological construct, but the lesson that the Torah is trying to teach us is that that’s the type of person that we want to be as well.  So, the Gra says that that’s the lesson here. That this animal that we eat, we have to have histapkus with what we have, and work on that.

Split Hooves Not Pouncing

The second thing is that it has split hooves, and it’not a doreis.  It’s not a pouncer.  It’s not an animal that is a predator that tries to destroy and attack other animals, and so this shows us that we have to have good middos and we have to make sure that we are more docile and not aggressive towards other people.  And, so those are the two qualities that wahteve we eat, we try to remind ourselves that that’s what’s kosher.  That we have those good middos.

Three qualities of a Talmid Chacham

So, there’s a very famous Gra that might tie into this.  It’s a famous Gra on the gemara of tanur shel achnai.  And, he brings down the famous machlokes Bava Metzia where Reb Eliezer showed himself to be great in three ways, and the three proofs that he brought, although we don’t pasken like him, we pasken like the chachamim in that machlokes, because we always follow the majority.  But, nonetheless he tried to prove his greatness, which he did through, and the Gra has a whole p’shat there which I’m not going into, but through three qualities that the talmid chacham has, and the Gra explains that the three qualities are limud haTorah,he learns well, histapkus, he is satiated with what he has, and anavah, he is humble.

One Missing

And so, I believe that two out of those three a being mentioned over here, and we need to ask: why only two.  Meaning, the histapkus that a talmid chacham has is what’s being mentioned here as well, that he’s satisfied with what he has.  That corresponds to the chewing of the cud.  Satisfaction with the food.  Satisfaction with whatever we have, and the anavah, the humility of a talmid chacham, that corresponds to not pouncing and being out to get other people.  So, the question is: why is limud haTorah missing?

Limud haTorah Factor

So, it could be that, first of all, the limud haTorah is not shayach to an animal, and so there’s nothing to learn from an animal.  But, it could be that when the animal is being eaten by you in order that you could learn, that is the fulfillment, like it says in Shulchan Aruch 231 that all your actions should be l’sheim Shamayim, so you are elevating this animal.  But, another p’shat could also be that when you bring it as a korban, which again, the mizbei’ach is mechapeir, our table is mechapeir nowadays in lew of the mizbei’ach, then, again, you are elevating it for talmud Torah.


But, finally, the last thing I want to say is that if you think about it, the Gra’s explanation in the gemara in Bava Metzia is describing talmidei chachamim, so that’s what they have.  However, for a regular human being, just any human being, needs to have these qualities that they have: histapkus, that they’re satisfied with their lot, and that they are not predators that are looking to pounce on other people.  So, that’s one lesson.

2) Sins of Bayis Rishon vs. Sheini

We have the camel and other animals that are singled out as not kosher (11:4). We’re told that we can’t eat them.  And, there’s a very interesting gemara.  The gemara in Yoma says a very fascinating thing about these animals.  Rab Yochanan and Rav Elazar were both saying the following drasha.  They said that the original rishonim, the people that lived during the time of the Bayis Rishon, seems to be the p’shat according to Rashi, about the rishonim, the early people.  So, their sin was revealed, and therefore, the end of their galus was also revealed.  But, the latter people, in Bayis Sheini, according to Rashi, their sin was not revealed.  Therefore, the end of their galus was not revealed.  Rav Yochanan says: I’d rather have the nail of the rishonim, than the stomach of the achronim.  This is a gemara in Yoma 9b.  What does this mean?

Hints to Past and Current Galus

So, the Gra says: Obviously, the stomache and the nails are referring to the two qualities of the animal that chews it’s cud and has split hooves.  What does this mean?  So, he says: There are three animals that have simanei tumah on the outside.  Meaning, on the inside they seem like they’re kosher because they chew their cud.  The gamal, shafan and arnevet.  The camel, hyrax and the hare they all seem to be kosher on the inside, but on the outside they’re treif.  They don’t have split hooves.  So, that’s like the rishonim, the original people, they did all types of aveiros, but they admitted that they did aveiros in Bayis Rishon.  And, since they admitted it, therefore, they were able to fix it.  And, that’s the remex to those three animals which correspond to the first three galiyos.  And, that’s the remez here that I’d rather have their nails which show me clearly that they’re treif on the outside because they don’t have split hooves, the camel, the shafan and arnevet, then have the last galus which is the pig which is the one whose stomach is what’s treif.  It doesn’t chew its cud, but on the outside it pretends to be kosher, and, therefore, there’s no revelation and no confession of the sin, and therefore, we don’t know when Bayis Sheini will be rebuilt and we’ll have Bayis Shlishi and have Mashiach, and, so, that’s why the first galus it was very clear.  Hashem said it’s going to be seventy years because they were able to work on themselves and fix themselves and they did, but for the second galus it’s a long and discoraging galus because our aveiros are  on the inside and we’re not modeh on them and we don’t work on them and we don’t fix them.  And, so this teaches us the importance of really looking into ourselves and finding out what we could do to make ourselves better.

3) Self-deceit

There’s a fascinating gemara in Eiruvin 13b, and we’re going to do it partial justice today in explaining some of this enigmatic gemara.  It says there was young talmid that was in Yavneh that he had way to be metaheir the sheretz.  He was able to darshen ways to explain that even though we know that the shemoneh sheratizim, the eight creepy-crawly things which might be a frog and lizards and other things that the Torah lists by name and it’s a machlokes what they are, they’re all tamei.  They’re all mekabeil tumah, but he found a hundred and fifty ways to be metaheir the sheretz.  Now, of course we know the halacha is that they’re really tamei, but the point he was trying to show is that one could take his Torah knowledge and pervert it and use it to be metaheir.  And, we know that one of the kal v’chomeirs that he made is: Just like we find a snake, which is not one of the shemoneh shratzim, yet it brought death to the whole world, [that’s what the snake did when it ate from the Eitz HaDaas and it said lashon harah and it got Adam and Chava to sin], yet it’s not mekabeil tumah, so certainly any of the other shemoneh sheratzim which did not bring death to the world, certainly they shouldn’t be mekabeil tumah.  But, again, the halacha is that it is mekabeil tumah.

Torah Wisdom

In this context of the gemara, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz explains, as do many other baalei mussar as well, the p’shat here is that we have to know the power that a person when he learns Torah, akmimus goes into him, like the gemara in Sotah says.  He becomes very cunning, and if he doesn’t use his Torah properly, he will, G-d forbid abuse it and misuse it, and take advantage of his knowledge.  And, so  aperson needs to know that this is the way to get onto the Sanhedrin.  You have to know how to be metaheir the sheretz with a hundred and fifty reason of logic that are convoluted because then you have to know to stay away from that by having a good rebbe, by being accountable and working on your own integrity.  And, that is how powerful it is.

4) The Snakes Attempt

So, the Gra says that there’s a very, very deep remez here in this gemara.  He has a lot of kashas on that gemara and I’m not going to go into the exact conversation, but, basically, he brings down a very fascinating trop d’var Torah which is like this:  That we find in Parshas Shemos, perek 27, when it talks about the Mishkan it says, “Oreich hachatzeir,” the length of the chatzeir was a hundred amos, and rochav was fifty by fifty, and the trop on the words “mei’ah b’amah” is the kadmah v’azlah which hints to, kadmah v’azlah means standing and walking which hints to the snake.  That hundred and fifty over here is the snake.  That why?  Because “leikah d’lo rimizei b’Oraisa”.  Everything is hinted.  So, the snake is that hundred and fifty.  Just like there are a hundred and fifty ways to be metaheir it, and the snake tries to permeate the entire kedushah of the Beis Hamikdash with its cunningness, and so it is kadmah v’azlah.  It walks.  It’s funny because we’ve used kadmah v’azlah in other contexts in Shemos to mean to go out early, but you see that d’vrei Torah is “k’patish yipoteitz selah”.  It splits in all different directions, and it also means to walk.  And, we know that the original snake walked.  But, then we know that after it sinned, it lost it and the trop of the next words are munach revii.  It got pushed down to being on all all four, to being pushed down and and actually slithering and it lost it’s feet, so it lost them.  That’s what it’s referring to.  And, again, this is a very, very complex topic, but the point that I’m trying to gather from the Gra and the lesson we could learn is that when a person learns Torah he becomes engrossed in Torah and he connects to Hashem.  But, he has to be very, very careful to make sure the Torah he learns has integrity and truth to it, and does not have manipulation and cunning.  And, therefore, it’s important to be part of a chabura, and to have a rebbe and to be accountable to the right people who are healthy and make sure that he is not metaheir the sheretz in ways that he could literally make a kal v’chomeir and use the Torah itself, but, yet, it’s not ratzon Hashem at the least bit.

5) Order Switched

Finally, the last p’shat which today has been a very abstract day.  Some people are going to like it and some people are going to find a different style more preferable.  Perek 11, pasuk 47.  There’s a very enigmatic pasuk.  The pasuk doesn’t line up, seemingly.  The pasuk says, l’havdil.  So, now we went through all the laws of kashrus, and the reason that we went through it is, the pasuk says, l’havdil, I want to differentiate “bein hatamei u’bein hatahor”, to tell you what is tamei, meaning, I’m going to translate: the animals that you can’t eat “bein hatahor”, and the animals that you can eat.  So, notice that the tamei is mentioned first.  “U’bein hachayah hane’echeles”, between the wild animals that you’re allowed to eat, like the Ayal, Tzvi v’Achmor.  The deer, gazelle, etc.  “U’bein hachayah asheir lo tei’achal”, and the ones that you’re not allowed to eat.  So, there’s a reverse here because first it says: I’m going to tell you the tamei animals and then the tahor ones, and here it says the opposite.  It says: If it was going to be congruent it should have said: tamei, tahor, and then non-edible, edible, but instead it flips it and tells you the one that you can eat.

Yom Kippur Control

So, says the Gra: This is actually hinting to a gemara in Yoma, and no one should take it halacha l’maaseh from this, but there’s a hashkafak l’maaseh.  The gemara in Yoma says that if a woman is pregnant on Yom Kippur, the gemara is on 82b, and she smells, a famous sugya of ubra d’richa, if she smells some good food and she needs to eat it, so we whisper in her ear, to try to calm her down, that it’s Yom Kippur, and if she listens, the gemara seems to attribute this to the baby itself.  And, again, this is certainly not halacha l’maaseh.  One should not, G-d forbid, suspect anything, and we know that many mothers have eaten on Yom Kippur and have had great children, and many mothers have fasted on Yom Kippur, and their kids didn’t necessarily turn out the way they wanted them.  And, the point is that you have to do what’s healthy for you.  But, in their time they were more sensitive to the spiritual aspect, and the gemara felt that at times one was able to tell what type of baby was in the stomach.  So, if the baby would calm down, and not demand the mother to eat, then the baby would be a tzaddik, and if the baby would demand the mother to eat after whispering to her, and she would still eat, then we would say that something bad, G-d forbid, would happen.  The baby would not be a very, very good child.  And, the gemara says that there was one that she was a pregnant woman and she was hungry and they whispered to her: It’s Yom Kippur and she calmed down, and she had a baby who was a tzaddik: Rav Yochanan.  That was Rav Yochanan’s mother.  They said, “B’terem yatzarcha b’beten y’liditichah.”  I already knew that you were a tzaddik before you came out.  That’s a pasuk in Yirmiyah, perek 1.  But, then there was another story that a woman smelled the fragrant scent of food and wanted to eat, and they whispered to her, but it did n’t help, and she ate the food, and then she had Shabsai Otzar Peri.  Shabsai, who was a big rasha who would rig the market back then.  And, they said about him, “Zo harasha m’rechem.”  The pasuk in Tehillim 58 that we saw the evil person from in his stomach.  So, says the Gra, this pasuk is merameiz to it.  Why?  Because, “Bein hachayah hane’echeles”, that’s talking about a woman who ate, so that’s a tamei.  That’s congruent with the first words.  The tamei came out of her.  “U’bein hachaya asheir lo tei’acheil”, but the pregnant woman who did not eat, so she had tahor.  That’s what she had.

Kedusha from Birth

Now, you could ask: Why it’s in this order?  It’s usually not in this order.  And, that is something that needs to be explained.  I’m curious what you have to say about that.  But, again, any pregnant woman should do what’s best for her medically, and not worry about these things.  I think that people were on a higher spiritual plain back then, so this was more of a concern.  But, the point is that we want to instill kedusha and tehara into our children from the time of birth, and in utero always working on our shalom bayis and our avodas Hashem and our bitachon because that is the atmosphere that we raise a child and bring this child.  “Ashrei yoladito”, like the mishna says.  Praiseworthy is the mother that gave birth to this child because the younger we start with chinuch, the better we have the opportunity to instill in our children the greatest ideals that will carry them through life.


Rabbi Yosef Tropper is a rabbi and psychotherapist. Subscribe at