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The Weekly Share – 23 Adar 2

The Weekly Share – 23 Adar 2

Food For the Soul

Keeping Kosher

The parshah Shemini introduces the Torah’s dietary laws. Animals must chew their cud and have split hooves to be kosher; fish need fins and scales, and a list of forbidden fowl is enumerated. Although the Torah records no official reason for these laws,  rabbis and philosophers have speculated on their purpose. 

Writes Rabbi Yossy Goldman: “They act as a bulwark against assimilation, we are taught. On a simple level, if we keep kosher, inexorably, we will shop with fellow Jews, socialize with fellow Jews and remain close to Jewish communal life.” 

Another explanation – offered by the Ramban, writes Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz, “is that what one eats becomes part and parcel with their entire being, affecting not only their flesh and blood but even their personality. Since [certain] animals have negative traits, G-d did not want us to eat them, lest we take on those negative traits.”Adds Rabbi Goldman, “To those of us in Jewish education, it is a continuing source of disappointment that so many Jews still believe the kosher laws to be outdated. After all, they reckon, in the desert our ancestors needed to protect themselves from trichinosis and all sorts of diabolical diseases so some kind of dietary system was needed. But today, they argue, in an age of refrigeration, government inspection and modern hygiene standards, the kosher laws are archaic, anachronistic and quite dispensable. How sad. The fact is that the kosher laws were never given to us for health reasons. If they happen to be healthy or provide good hygiene that is purely a fringe benefit. It may well be one of the perks but it has never been the reason. So let it be stated categorically: kosher is not for our physical health but for our spiritual health. It is not for our bodies but for our souls. It is a Jewish diet to help Jews remain spiritually sensitive to their innate Jewishness.”

Shabbat Shalom

More than meets the eye

Right down to the very foods that are eaten on the Sabbath, everything in Judaism has meaning. In the Kabbalistic tradition, gematria, or numerology, is used to gain insight into the essence of words and concepts and see how they relate to one another. Words or phrases that share numeric values often contain an essential similarity as well. The Vilna Gaon reveals a fascinating insight about the items present on a traditional Sabbath table. He writes that everything connected with the traditional Sabbath table adds up to the number 7, symbolizing an intrinsic connection with the Sabbath, the seventh day. 

It becomes apparent that there is a lot more to the Sabbath meal than may meet the eye. Each of the pieces of the traditional Sabbath table is meant to be there and the mystics give great esoteric meaning to each and every food traditionally upon it. The more one embraces the depth within each meal, the more one opens up to that special energy present on the Sabbath day and reaps its benefits. 

From an article by Rabbi Pinchas Taylor

Mind Over Matter

Do Not Fear

Our Torah tells you that you must not fear. Even if an army is charging towards you, you must not fear. For there is no danger worse than fear. But you are only human. Do you truly have control over the dread and panic pounding in your heart?

Yes. Not directly, but through the power of your mind. If you will choose not to dwell on those things that instill panic and dread, those emotions will wither and fade. And the choice is yours. What do you want to speak about? What do you want to think about? For the thoughts of your mind are the conduit of life for the emotions of your heart.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

Moshiach Thoughts

Vayehi bayom hashemini –  On the eighth day… Moses said… this day G-d shall appear to you (Shemini 9:1-4)

This verse relates to the consecration of the Sanctuary in the desert, which resulted in a manifestation of G-dliness: the Shechinah “dwelled” in the Sanctuary. This happened on the first day of Nissan, which is referred to as the “eighth day” because it followed the “seven days of induction” of consecrating the priests, offering various sacrifices and setting up and dismantling the Sanctuary…The Messianic era is related to the number “eight,” as it is said, “The harp of the Sanctuary had seven cords… the harp of the Messianic days has eight cords” (Arachin 13b). Our service of G-d in these constraining days of the galut (exile) is like the seven days of preparation that prepare the world for the “eighth day” of the Messianic era. 

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet

Have I Got A Story

Don’t blame yourself

When rabble-rousers approached Aaron with the demand for an idol to replace Moses, he invited them to bring their gold. His intentions were noble. He didn’t believe the people would part with their gold. But his plans backfired when the people delivered the gold. Then Aaron built a fire, hoping to melt the gold, but a calf pranced out of the fire.

Aaron insisted that as High Priest, only he could build an altar for the calf. Aaron tarried all night, hoping and praying that Moses would return before the altar was complete. Yet the altar was finished before dawn. By the time Moses returned from Sinai, the pagan celebrations were in full swing. Aaron couldn’t forgive himself for enabling the sin. Though his intentions were pure, his efforts had backfired, and he felt responsible. 

How surprised Aaron was several months later when Moses declared that G-d had forgiven the sin and invited the nation to build a Tabernacle, and that Aaron would be High Priest! Aaron was certain that Moses was mistaken. How could he have been granted such an honor? When the inauguration day arrived, Aaron was meant to offer his first sacrifice, but he hesitated, doubting that his efforts would please G-d. Moses proclaimed, “This is G-d’s commandment, perform it and G-d will reveal His glory. Approach the altar, carry out your sin offering and burnt offering, and you will atone for yourself and for the nation.”

Our sages explain that Aaron saw the image of a bull standing atop the altar and was both afraid and ashamed. Moses said to him, “Aaron, why are you afraid? You were chosen for this.” A careful reading will yield a question. Aaron was afraid and ashamed, yet Moses only addressed his fear. He told Aaron not to be afraid because G-d chose him to be High Priest. Why didn’t Moses address Aaron’s shame?

Perhaps he did. The fear is clearly addressed by the words “why are you afraid,” and perhaps the shame is addressed by the words “you were chosen for this.” Moses was saying, “Aaron, don’t be ashamed about your role in the sin of the Golden Calf. It was precisely because of that role that you were chosen. You shielded the nation from greater spiritual harm. You didn’t succeed in preventing the sin entirely, but that isn’t your fault. They were dead-set on committing the sin. But if not for your actions, they might have begun their celebrations much earlier, and by the time I arrived, the damage would have been irreparable. “G-d consented to forgive the Jews and invite them to build His Tabernacle because you managed to contain their sin. G-d is not mad at you. On the contrary, He is proud of you. He appointed you High Priest to reward you.”

Aaron blamed himself for the sin of the Jews because his efforts backfired and failed to stop them. Further, he believed that his actions triggered the sin. In truth, Aaron was not held to task for the sins of the people and, on the contrary, was rewarded for his role since his efforts did in fact succeed in subtle ways—they made it possible for G-d to forgive the people.

So when you struggle to help another make the right choice and he or she ends up making the wrong one, don’t blame yourself. If your words were sincere, they are sure to have a positive impact in the long term. For when words come from the heart, sooner or later, they will enter the heart of the other.

From an article by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow

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