Shemini 5762

Posted on March 23, 2011

by Brad Greenspan

This parsha starts out with Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, offering a sacrifice to God that isn’t commanded. As a result, God punishes them by killing them with fire. There is a suspicion that Aaron’s sons were drunk at the time they offered the sacrifices. Moses orders the entire congregation of Israel to mourn the loss of the two sons. Moses also tells Aaron and his sons that they are not to cut their clothes or hair, nor are they to drink any alcohol. Restrictions are also put on the Kohanim, such that they are not allowed to be in contact with the dead. The next part of the parsha deals with kashrut. God starts out by telling us that the only land animals we can eat have to have split hooves and chew their cud. There are explicit instructions prohibiting the eating of animals that only do one of the two things necessary for an animal to be kosher. The Torah even goes so far as to say that we are not allowed to even touch the dead bodies of non-kosher animals. Next, fish are covered. They have to have fins and scales to be kosher. Anything else in the water is not kosher. The Torah gives a specific list of birds that are treif. These include hawks, vultures, falcons, ravens, ostriches, owls, storks, and pelicans. The Torah then says that almost all bugs are treif. The only ones that aren’t are ones that have jointed legs above their feet, all locusts, and all grasshoppers.

The final part of the parsha deals with purity. First, people who touch the carcasses of treif animals must wash their clothes, and are considered impure until the end of the day. If someone touches the person who came in contact with the treif animals, they, too become impure for the day.

Today, this parsha has relevance. It shows, first of all, that getting drunk has its consequences. It isn’t necessarily death, but it can get people into trouble, as it keeps them from thinking straight. Kashrut also has meaning today. However, with refrigeration, the ability to preserve stuff, and the advances of medicine and the cure of many animal diseases, what is the reason to still keep kashrut today? Well, for one, killing stuff in the kosher manner is the most humane way of killing animals. There is no suffering. Another reason to keep kashrut is that the habits of the animals that are kosher are cleaner than those of non kosher animals. Also, kosher animals have been raised humanely and haven’t been harmed physically. Purity today is important. We live in a society where almost everything is impure. By being pure, we keep ourselves clean, out of trouble, and put ourselves in a position to be able to do whatever we want.