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5 facts about Parashat Shemini

שיעור לפרשת שמיני תשפד

* Translated by Janine Muller Sherr

1) This week’s parsha is Parashat Shemini, the third Parasha in the Book of Vayikra.

2) The Parsha opens with a festive and emotional ceremony: the Inauguration of the Mishkan (sanctuary), the spiritual center of the nation. This ceremony takes place on the Eighth Day, after seven days of preparation, hence the name of the Parasha, Shemini. Aaron the High Priest blesses the people with The Priestly Blessing, and the Divine Presence comes to rest on the Mishkan and on the people.

3) But this festive ceremony soon turns into tragedy: two of Aharon the Priest’s sons are killed for the sin of offering a “strange fire” in the Mishkan, in other words, for violating protocol and what was expected of them. Aharon becomes a bereaved father, and the Torah records his memorable and powerful response to this calamity: “And Aharon was silent.” Faced with overwhelming grief, Aharon responds with silence.

4) The entire nations grieves with Aaron: “And your brothers, the entire House of Israel, may mourn the burning that God has brought about” (Vayikra 10:6), but from this tragedy, Aaron rises up and continues with his holy work in the Mishkan.

5) Towards the end of the Parsha, we have the Laws of Kashrut: animals that we are permitted to eat and those that are forbidden, and how the observance of Kashrut will elevate the people and increase their holiness. Thousands of years later, these words are still impacting the dishes and kitchens of Jews throughout the world.

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