The Torah Portion of "Sh'mini - Para" - Shabbat Mevorchim Chodesh Nissan 5776
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 teachings)
"And Moshe said to Aharon: Of this did Hashem speak, saying: 'I will be sanctified 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.
"...the sons of Aharon that were left..." (Vayikra 10:16)
The Sages say that one needs to make oneself like a "leftover", and that is why the verse says "the sons of Aharon that were left", that is to say, that they made themselves like "leftovers", lowly in their own eyes, and because of that they merited to survive. (from the Evnei Ezer)
"And Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aharon, TO SAY TO THEM: Speak to the children of 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)
THE TORAH PORTION OF PARA
The reason for the reading of the Torah Portion of Para (the Red Heifer) is that at the time when the Temple existed and they could sacrifice the Passover offering, someone who was impure because of contact with a dead person was not able to bring the offering unless he became purified beforehand by means of the ashes of the red heifer. It was necessary to remind and announce to everyone who had become impure from contact with a dead person to purify himself from that impurity, so that he could bring the Passover offering at the right time.
Therefore they began early to encourage people about it before the month of Nissan, so that those who lived far away from Jerusalem would already start to leave their cities on Rosh Chodesh Nissan in order to go up to Jerusalem, and while the people were still at home in their cities, they would remind them that if someone had become impure from contact with a dead person, he first needed to purify himself. And even though, in our many sins, the Temple has been destroyed and we cannot bring the Passover offering and we cannot perform the procedure of purifying ourselves from contact with a dead person in order to eat from the holy flesh of the Korbanot (sacrificial offerings), in any event we learn about these commandments and laws and pray before Hashem, may His name be blessed, that also upon us will be cast the purifying waters, in the near future. And by means of learning these laws may it be considered as if we have purified ourselves from our impurity.
There are those that say that also the reading of the Torah Portion of Para is a Mitzvah D'Oraita (a commandment from the Torah), but the opinion of most of the Halachic authorities is that this reading is a Mitzvah D'Rabanan (a commandment from the Rabbis). In the Sefer Aruch HaShulchan, and in the Sefer Dovev Meisharim, there are sources brought about this. And it is written in the Mishna Brura (Section 685, small section 15) that even for a Mitzvah D'Rabanan (a commandment from the Rabbis), it is also necessary to have intention to fulfill the Mitzvah.
"...And they shall take to you..." (Bamidbar 19:2)
The Holy One Blessed Be He said to Moshe that only "to you" I am revealing the reason for the Para Adumah (Red Heifer), and not to anyone else. And even Shlomo HaMelech that Scriptures says about him that he was wiser than all the people, and he was expert in all kinds of wisdom, did not grasp the secret of the Para Adumah, and that is why he said: "I said that I would become wise, but it is distant from me" (Kohelet Chapter 7). That is to say, I though in my heart that I would become wise and succeed to understand the secret of the Para Adumah, and behold, it is distant from me. The words "it is distant" in Hebrew have the same Gematria (numerical value) as "Para Adumah".
The Torah Portion of Sh'mini has 91 verses, 6 positive commandments, and 11 negative commandments.Two Torah Scrolls are taken out: 1) for the weekly Torah portion and 2) for the Torah portion of Para, from the beginning of the Torah Portion of Chukat until the words "Ad Haerev" (in English: until the evening).The Haftorah is "Vayehi Devar Hashem" (Yechezkel 36)
This week we bless the coming of the new month of Nissan. The Molad is Yom Hey 10:15 with 16 Chelekim. Rosh Chodesh Nissan is on Shabbos (of the following week).
We say Borchi Nafshi.
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