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Shemini ~ 5774 ~ שמיני / Shabbat Parah ~ שבת פרה
On the very first day after the week of celebration that consecrated Aaron and his sons as the Priests, the newly installed Priesthood are commanded to bring their first sacrifices: A sin-offering and a burnt offering for themselves, and a sin-offering and burnt-offering for the Israelites, as well. Aaron brings the Meal offerings and the Peace offerings complete with all the myriad’s of ritual wavings, blood dashings, and fat burnings as commanded in earlier chapters of Leviticus. Afterwards Aaron blesses the people with the Kohanic Benediction, and G-d’s presence rested upon all Israel. The Fire to consume these sacrifices came directly from G-d so startling, the People they fell and trembled before G-d. Nadav and Avihu, Aaron’s two eldest sons commit a most grievous sin and G-d executes them. Aaron and his family are forbidden to mourn them. The Priests are warned never to attempt to officiate their office when intoxicated. The place of eating the various offerings and sacrifices are given by G-d through Moshe. The Breasts of the Wave offering and the Thigh of the Heave offerings were to be eaten in a “clean place”.
Moses severely rebukes Eleazar and Itamar, the officiating sons of Aaron, for not eating the sin-offering. Aaron defends their actions as an act of piety and humility. So appropriate were their motives that Moses was more than satisfied. The permitted Kosher animals are enumerated here. Land animals must have split hooves and chew their cud, fish must have fins and scales. Fowl cannot be predators or carrion eaters, insects must have jointed legs above the feet. Furthermore, the dead carcasses of these animals impart ritual impurity to those who touch them. If the carcass (or any part thereof) falls into an earthen pot with Kosher food, the pot must be broken and the food not eaten. Water can transfer this impurity. If the volume of water is great (in excess of 24 cubic feet) and naturally collected, a forbidden carcass does not affect it. These Laws are to make the Israelites Holy.
MAFTIR Shabbat Parah Bamidbar 19:1-22~page 652-655
Read on the Shabbat before Nissan as part of preparing to go to Jerusalem for the Passover offering. The laws of Parah Adumah recount the preparing of the potion from the ashes of the Red Heifer, the general mitzvah of the concept of ritual impurity from contact with a corpse, and the law of purifying oneself with the Parah Aduma potion PARAH is considered by some to be a Torah requirement, similar to Parashat Zachor.
HAFTARAH Shabbat Parah Ezekiel 36:16-38 ~ page 999
During a severe drought, Elijah tells Obadiah (who secretly saved 100 prophets from Jezebel’s persecution) to inform Ahad of his presence. Elijah confronts Ahad and challenges 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the goddess Astarte at Mount Carmel. In front of the amassed crowd of people, the false prophets work themselves into a frenzy and gash themselves, calling in vain upon Baal to send down fire and consume their sacrifice. Elijah prepares his sacrifice on an altar of twelve stones, drenches it in water and utters a simple prayer to G-d. Fire consumes the sacrifice and the people witnessing the miracle, exclaim “The Lord, He is G-d! The Lord He is G-d!” A thunderstorm ends the drought.
Parashah Study Questions
1. “Shmini” means “8th”. How many Jewish concepts are associated with the number eight and what does it mean?
2. Rashi offers 2 reasons for the death of Nadav & Avihu:
a) they rendered a halachic ruling in Moshe’s presence OR
b) they entered the Mishkan intoxicated
What arguments supported their defense?
3. According to Rabbinic law, what 3 prohibitions apply to a person who is intoxicated?
4. How many non-kosher animals display only one sign of kashrut? What are they (11:4-7)? Why is this significant?
5. If a fish sheds its fins and scales when out of the water, is it kosher (11:12)? How does this relate to the famous sturgeon and swordfish controversy?