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Parshat Shmini-Importance of Kosher

Written by Debbie Bornstein, Director of Judaics Studies EC-8th

 

In this week’s parsha, Shmini, we are taught about kosher animals and non-kosher animals.

ג. כֹּל מַפְרֶסֶת פַּרְסָה וְשֹׁסַעַת שֶׁסַע פְּרָסֹת מַעֲלַת גֵּרָה בַּבְּהֵמָה אֹתָהּ תֹּאכֵלוּ:

Any animal that has a cloven hoof that is completely split into double hooves, and which brings up its cud, is one you may eat. The Torah then goes on to identify a few animals that are not kosher – the camel, rabbit and pig, for example. But look at how the Torah mentions their non-kosher status!

ד אַךְ אֶת-זֶה, לֹא תֹאכְלוּ, מִמַּעֲלֵי הַגֵּרָה, וּמִמַּפְרִסֵי הַפַּרְסָה: אֶת-הַגָּמָל כִּי-מַעֲלֵה גֵרָה הוּא, וּפַרְסָה אֵינֶנּוּ מַפְרִיס--טָמֵא הוּא, לָכֶם. ה וְאֶת-הַשָּׁפָן, כִּי-מַעֲלֵה גֵרָה הוּא, וּפַרְסָה, לֹא יַפְרִיס; טָמֵא הוּא, לָכֶם. ו וְאֶת-הָאַרְנֶבֶת, כִּי-מַעֲלַת גֵּרָה הִוא, וּפַרְסָה, לֹא הִפְרִיסָה; טְמֵאָה הִוא, לָכֶם. ז וְאֶת-הַחֲזִיר כִּי-מַפְרִיס פַּרְסָה הוּא, וְשֹׁסַע שֶׁסַע פַּרְסָה, וְהוּא, גֵּרָה לֹא-יִגָּר; טָמֵא הוּא, לָכֶם.

 

In each passuk, 11: 4-7, Hashem states what they have that might qualify them as kosher animals, but then the Torah says what they don’t have. Why say it like that? If it’s unkosher, just say it’s unkosher. Why state the kosher sign – it’s not meaningful or relevant at all…or is it? What can be learned from that?

The Midrash says that here the Torah is teaching us a lesson. That even if you have to say something negative about something or someone and disqualify him/her or it, one should always make sure to isolate and stipulate the positive. There is a positive element in everything and everyone.


Shabbat Shalom

 

 

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Parshat Shmini- Kosher Laws

Written by Rabbi Noach Muroff, Upper School Judaics Studies Instructor

 

In this week's Torah reading, we are taught about kosher dietary laws. We are taught that all land animals must both chew their cud and have split hooves in order to be kosher. Fish must have both fins and scales. When it comes to birds, the Torah does not tell us any specifications, but it lists 24 types of birds which are not kosher.  The Talmud tells us that kosher birds cannot be birds of prey.

 

After telling us the requirements of land animals, the Torah then specifies four animals that are not kosher: the camel, the hyrax, the hare, and the pig. The reason that these four are singled out from all of the non-kosher animals is because each of these animals possesses one of the two required kosher signs. The pig, however, is the only animal which has the external sign of having split hooves, but is lacking the internal sign of chewing its cud.  This is, perhaps, why the pig has become "the worst" of the non-kosher animals. The pig is giving the message of being fit outwardly, but internally, it is not fit at all.  

 

We are right now in the period of Sefirat Haomer. It was during this period of time that 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva's students died for not showing proper respect to each other. These students were all great Torah scholars; however, they did not act in a way which represented the Torah that they studied. Their internal actions did not match their external actions of piety. If you can't walk the walk, then don't talk the talk.  

 

We could all learn from this message that the Torah is teaching us and work on improving our internal actions to match or even supersede our external actions.

 

Rabbi Noach Muroff

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Peseach- The Four Questions

Written by: 8th graders Gefen Beldie & Shayna Shapiro


As you all know, Pesach is in a couple of days. We are pretty sure most of you are familiar with the different personalities of the four sons, the questions they ask, and how their parents answer them. When we compare the answers from the Torah and the Haggada, it is clear that they are interpreted differently. Why? The easiest way to answer is to say that the answers were just translated incorrectly, it was a misconception. But no, within this drash there is a reasoning beyond the thought of a mistranslation.

If we examine these four questions, we should be able to see how each related to the personality of each son. However, we do not. Instead, we find that each son is plainly asking a question about a different topic. For example, the wise son asks, “What are the laws that G-d has commanded us?” This is also understood as, “What is the reasoning behind the laws that G-d commanded us and why?” Perhaps each son is asking the question specifically in regards for Pesach. Although we know that is not possible because as we just saw, the wise son asked a question that is not related to Pesach at all but about Judaism and the Torah as a whole.

To further prove that the personalities of each child have no part in what questions they asked, we can see that it’s almost as though the Torah  is expecting or wanting all children to ask all these questions. Does the Torah really want to identify someone as wicked based on the question he asked? Aren't we encouraged to ask questions? Instead of looking at the description of the 'sons', we need to look at the questions themselves. Every question deserves to be answered in a respectful manner, taking into account the personality of the person who asks it.  

One of the mitzvot of the seder night is והגדת לבנך ביום ההוא לאמר - to tell the story of the exodus to your children, each child in his own way to further his understanding and love of all that we do.

Thank you,

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach

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The Meaning of Matzah at Pesach

Written by: Zach Mainzer, AJA 9th Grader

 

 

In a few short days, the Jewish nation will start celebrating their miraculous escape from the Land of Egypt after 210 years spent in exile. Of course, one of the famous stories that is told on Pesach is of the Matzah our ancestors baked on their way out because the dough didn’t have time to rise. The Hagaddah even tells us:

מצה זו שאנו אוכלים על שום שלא הספיק בצקם של אבותינו להחמיץ

This Matzah that we eat is because the dough of our ancestors didn’t have enough time to leaven. However, the Vilna Gaon points out that this is not the only reason for the Matzah. Earlier in the Haggadah, we establish:

הא לחמא עניא די אכלו אבהתנא בארעא דמצרים.

This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the Land of Egypt. In contrast to the above statement, which implies that we were already on our way out of Egypt when we made Matzah, this statement seems to say quite clearly that our ancestors ate the Matzah while they were still slaves in Egypt. So how can we reconcile these two statements? One seems to clearly say that Matzah is the bread of freedom; we were baking it as we left the burden of slavery behind us. But we open our Seder every single year with the phrase “This is the bread of affliction,” bread which is supposed to remind us of the hardships of slavery. How can we say both are true?

 

There is a concept mentioned in Mishnah Pesachim that on Pesach, we start with the distressing times and end with praises of Hashem. The distress is represented by Matzah being the לחמא עניא, the bread of affliction. It was the only food that our ancestors could manage to make while they were laboring in Egypt. But how does the bread of freedom relate to the praises of Hashem with which we end our Seder? We can say that Matzah does represent our freedom, as it commemorates the time when we were no longer slaves. However, it was not pure freedom to do absolutely whatever we wanted. We were free to create our own schedules and could eat and sleep whenever we wanted, but we were not as free as the Egyptians, who were known for their corruption and immorality. It was important for the Jewish nation to realize that while we were no longer slaves in Egypt, we were still ‘עבדי ה, servants to Hashem, and were not free to wander into the ways of Egypt. We are free to choose to be Hashem’s servants; this servitude is the ultimate freedom, which we celebrate on Pesach.

 

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,


Zach Mainzer

 

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Vayikra - The Sacrifices

Written by: Rebecca Hatami, AJA 3rd Grader

In this week's parasha, Vayikra, we talk about sacrifices. G-d was asking the Jews to bring sacrifices during different occasions in their lives. When they were happy, when they were sad, when they sinned, etc. Why would the Jews sacrifice in the first place? The shoresh (root) of the word קרבן is קרוב which means 'close'. The Jews would make sacrifices to get closer to G-d. However, after the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash the Jews didn't have a place to bring their sacrifices. Because of this, they started to pray instead of bringing sacrifices. They prayed when they were happy, sad or when they had sinned. Now, we use our prayers to get closer to G-d instead of קרבנות. This shows that we always find our way to practice our beliefs even when there are obstacles in our way. Every morning at school the first thing we do is Tefillah. I am very fortunate to be able to start my day by thanking G-d for life and to be able to have that special connection with my religion and G-d.


Shabbat Shalom.   

 

                   

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