The Torah Portion of Sh'mini - Isru Chag (Shabbat right after Pesach ends) 5775
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
"...Come near to the sacrificial altar..." (Vayikra 9:7)
The Satan showed Aharon the likeness of a calf, in order to interfere with his
performance of the Divine service, so Moshe said to him, "Come near to the
sacrificial altar" (Vayikra 9:7), don't be afraid. (from the Da'at Z'kainim)
From this we learn that when the Satan comes to prevent us from serving Hashem,
we need to strengthen ourselves. (from Masters of Mussar, i.e. ethical
"And Moshe said to Aharon: Of this did Hashem speak, saying: 'I will besanctified through those who are close to Me'." (Vayikra 10:3)
The death of Nadav and Avihu was by burning of the soul with the physical body
remaining intact. Moshe said, that they were greater Tzadikim (more righteous)
than himself and Aharon.
"And Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aharon, TO SAY TO THEM: Speak to the childrenof Israel, saying, these are the living animals..." (Vayikra 11:1-2)
It is written in Trei Eser, "And your sons and daughters will prophesy", that in
the future to come Hashem will speak with all of Israel. The Sages say that
Moshe Rabeinu did not want to nurse from the Egyptian women because in the
future he would speak with the Shechina, and that is what is emphasized in this
verse (Vayikra 11:1) by the words "TO SAY TO THEM"; that in the future the Holy
One Blessed Be He will speak with all of Israel, and therefore we need to be
very careful in the matter of food and to eat only that which is Kosher, so that
we will be worthy to have Hashem speak with us.
Mussar (Ethical Teachings) from the Chafetz Chaim
The Chafetz Chaim says: just as we are careful not to put into our mouths
forbidden foods, so one also needs to be careful about what he puts out of his
mouth, that is to say, forbidden words.
The Differences between the Mishkan and the First Temple, in comparison to the Second Temple
There were five things missing in the Second Temple: The Aron (Ark), the container of Mannah, the staff of Aharon, the Holy Name which was part of the Urim and Tumim, and the annointing oil. Also, the fire in the Second Temple was not like the fire in the Mishkan and the First Temple. In the Mishkan and the First Temple, the fire came down from Heaven and appeared like a lion, and in the Second Temple the fire didn't come down from Heaven and it looked like a dog. (based on Yoma 21a)
PIRKEI AVOT (Ethics of the Fathers)
We say Pirkei Avot during the summer season, for a total of four cycles. A siman (sign) of when when we usually do that is given by means of Roshei Teivot (initial letters) based on the Hebrew word "Nefesh". The letters which spell the Hebrew word "Nefesh" (in English: "soul") are "Nun", "Pey", and "Shin". "Nun" stands for "Naso", "Pey" stands for "Pinchas", and "Shin" stands for "Shoftim". Usually, the times when we start to say Pirkei Avot -- besides the first time -- are when we read the Torah Portions of Naso, Pinchas, and Shoftim. Also, there is another reason why the Hebrew word "Nefesh" ("soul") is connected to Pirkei Avot -- because Pirkei Avot contains teachings which help us to repair the defects of the soul.
"Moshe received the Torah from Sinai..." (Pirkei Avot 1:1)
Why is it written "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai"? Isn't all of the Torah from Sinai? The reason is that within Pirkei Avot, what is discussed are matters of ethics and proper conduct, and also amongst the other nations of the world there have been people who have published books about proper conduct and ethics. But those people made up their ethical values on their own, and the ethical values of Israel were given at Sinai. (from Rav Ovadia M'Bartenura)
"...the Men of the Great Assembly..." (Pirkei Avot 1:1)
There were 120 Men of the Great Assembly, and there are those who say 85. Amongst them were the prophets Chagai, Zacharia, and Malachi. The last one of them was Shimon HaTzaddik. They returned the crown of the Torah to its place, after the Babylonian exile of 70 years.
"He used to say..." (throughout Pirkei Avot)
It is written in Pirkei Avot a number of times, "he used to say". What does this expression mean? On a simple level this means that the Sage being quoted was accustomed to say those words on a regular basis. And there are those who explain that he himself was an elevated person who lived in accord with the principle that he stated, and not just that he used to say it to other people.
The Days of Sefirat HaOmer (the counting of the Omer)
It is written by the Ramban (23:36) that the days of the counting of the Omer (the 49 days counted from the second day of Pesach until the holiday of Shavuot arrives on the 50th day) are like Chol HaMoed -- the intermediate days of a festival.
The Torah Portion of Sh'mini has 91 verses, 6 positive commandments, and 11 negative commandments.The Haftorah is "V'yosef Od David" (Sh'muel Bait 6)We begin to say Pirkei Avot, Chapter One.
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach
L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772