Parshas Shmini | HaChodesh

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By Rabbi Shloimie Lindenbaum

ותקראנה אתי כאלה (פרק י פסוק יט)

אהרן and his sons had three קרבנות to eat on the first day of the appointment of the משכן. In the end they lost נדב ואביהוא, their sons and brothers, which gave them a status of אוננים. Therefore, they correctly believed that they should only eat two of the קרבנות, leaving the שעיר of ראש חדש to be burned. משה got angry at them for burning it, momentarily forgetting the הלכה. אהרן responded, “now that things happened to me like these (the death of his sons), would Hashem approve of my eating the חטאת”? R’ Eliezer Gordon asked, why does the פסוק use the term “like these”, he could have just said, “now that this happened to me”? R’ Gordon answered based on the הלכה that if one’s father errs in a הלכה, it is considered disrespectful to correct him directly. On the other hand, the son must prevent his father from sinning. The proper approach is to ask his father a seemingly innocuous Torah question that relates to the mistake, and hopefully his father will realize his error. אהרן, out of his tremendous respect for his brother, treated him the same way. He asked him a הלכה in a similar case- “like this”- and through that משה realized his mistake and admitted to forgetting the הלכה.

טמאים הם לכם (פרק יא פסוק ח)

The Vilna Gaon lived during a period when the movement of Chasidism was just developing, and he was known to be averse to their approach. A well-known Torah figure once approached him and wanted to tell him some unfavorable information about the Chasidim that he had recently heard. The Gaon forcefully refused to listen to a word and told him off for even offering the report. The person asked him, “we know that you are against them, why don’t you want to hear bad things about them?” He responded using a lesson from our Parsha. The Torah lists off various animals which may not be eaten and ends off that “they are טמא for you”. The Gemara in Pesachim says that the Torah is careful to only speak with pure and clean language, for example when describing the animals that came to Noach’s ark, it refers to the non-kosher ones as being “not טהור” instead of calling them “טמא”. If so, why in our Parsha does the Torah change its approach and refer to the animals as being טמא? He answered that when there is a lesson to be learned from a more intense language then the Torah will not refrain from using it. Here, the Torah tries to convey the terrible lowliness of eating non-kosher, therefore it uses the more intense, albeit less proper, expression of טמא. By Noach, however, the Torah was just informing us of which animals came to the ark, then there is no reason to stress their status and so it uses the cleanest of expressions. So too, when one must make a point and take a stand against something incorrect, they must often use strong expressions, conveying the message in a harsh way. Once the point is made, however, they must revert to speaking gently and positively about all people.

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