March 24, 2019 ~ Shabbat SHEMINI. Maqam NAHWAND.

Shabbat Shemini - שבת שמיני

Yourself First

וכפר בעדך ובעד העם - When on an airplane, many instructions are provided of what to do in case of an emergency. A common example is in the case where oxygen masks are needed, one is directed to secure their own mask prior to helping with that of another. Even if the person next to you is a loved one, the instruction is to save yourself first and then go on to save the other. When it comes to the process of repentance, we read in Leviticus 9:7 that Moses instructs Aaron, the High Priest, to bring his sin offering first and then the sin offering of the nation (and not the other way around). Although Aaron spends his entire life in the service of the nation, he is instructed to take care of his own personal affairs first prior to those of the people. The same concept holds true for each of us whether it be in relation to our families, our friends, or our careers. Prior to helping others, it is of utmost importance that we put ourselves first so that we are in a better position to help others (Beth Torah Bulletin, April 14, 2018).

Dietary Guidelines

אל תשקצו את נפשתיכם - What we choose to eat is a reflection of who we are and the values we espouse. In the beginning, God wanted humans to practice a vegetarian diet of only fruits and vegetables (Genesis 1:29). This type of diet, in the words of Rabbi Moshe Shamah, "reflects a deep reverence for all forms of life" (Recalling the Covenant, page 564). Realizing that we were falling short of this ideal, God, in Genesis 9:3, permits the eating of meat (with the exception of the blood). To further differentiate and sanctify the people of Israel from the rest of the world and to help achieve a higher level of holiness and cleanliness, Leviticus 11 comes to limit Israel to a few select animals; namely "pure" herbivores that possess specific signs and characteristics. Despite this concession, God awaits for the day when "the wolf lives with the lamb" (Isaiah 11:6), and when all living things exist together in peace (Beth Torah Bulletin, April 22, 2017).