Shemini – Leviticus 9:1-11:47

Facebook_CoverDesign_SheminiYou are what you eat, so they say. But more importantly, as Jews, we eat only in the context of creation.

In this week’s reading, Shemini, aside from Aaron’s mysterious silence in the face of his sons’ immolation, we are drawn into the distinctions conveyed through our dietary laws. The laws of kashrut are commanded, identifying permissible and forbidden animals for consumption, including: (1) land animals only with a split hoof and that chew their cud; (2) fish with scales and fins; and (3) appropriately listed birds and insects.

As we read in Leviticus 11:1-2, the divine imperative for conscious consumption brings awareness that "you may eat out of all the domestic beasts that are on the earth." This phrase "on the earth" appears seven times in this chapter (11:2, 21, 29, 41, 42, 44, 46) – why? It is a reminder taking us back to the sixth day of Creation, when the Earth was first covered with plants and mobile creatures, and the humans were blessed as stewards of "every animal that creeps on the earth." (Genesis 1:28).

Finally, distinctions relating to ritual readiness are recounted, including the laws relating to the immersion pool known as the mikveh. All these rituals are based on the ancient wisdom of distinction(s); while they continue to evolve, they still have resonance today.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week’s illustration is inspired by fire's central and ambivalent role in Shemini. It goes "forth from before the Lord and consume[s] the burnt offering" (Leviticus 9:24) and also "forth from before the Lord and consume[s]...Nadav and Avihu" (Leviticus 10:2). It is difficult to read of the horrible fate of Aaron's sons without considering the English name for the Shoah – "holocaust n 1. a burnt sacrifice: a sacrificial offering wholly consumed by fire 2. a complete or thorough sacrifice or destruction esp. by fire." Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Aliyah Baruch's Bat Mitzvah

AliyahBaruchMy name is Aliyah Baruch. I attend Aptos Middle School and I am in the seventh grade. I like playing soccer, hanging out with my friends and family, taking care of animals, and traveling.

On April 22, I will have my bat mitzvah. It is a big milestone in my life that I will be sharing with people from many parts of the world, including San Francisco, Israel, Las Vegas, and New York. No matter how near or far away my guests travel from, I am so thankful that they will share this important day with me.

I think that your bat mitzvah will stay with you for your whole life; it won’t just be forgotten the day after you’re called to the Torah. My parsha talks about how Aaron’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu, set an alien fire and got struck down because G-d did not instruct them to make the fire. Some rabbis have other opinions about why G-d struck them down; perhaps "they wanted to rise within the priestly rankings and overthrow Moses and Aaron." But I don’t think that is the case. I think the story of Nadav and Avihu is an example of good intentions that backfired because they wanted to be more involved but went about it in the wrong way.

I want to thank my mom and my dad, my brother Myles, my grandparents, and all my cousins, aunts, and uncles for all the love and support they have shown me. I also want to give a special thanks to Rabbi Aubrey Glazer for his help and Noa Bar for giving me the gift of Torah and teaching me how it relates to everyday life. Finally, I want to thank Congregation Beth Sholom for teaching me Hebrew and Jewish learning as well as being the place where I made so many great friendships.