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Torah Commentary Blog

Parashat Sh'mini (April 6, 2013)
by Abra Lee

LESSONS FROM MY Italian-Catholic grandmother and Parashat Sh’mini…who knew?

This week’s Torah portion, Sh’mini, begins on the eighth day of the ceremonies consecrating the Tabernacle and the ordination of the High Priests. As part of the ordination, Moses directs Aaron in the offerings and sacrifices, and then together they enter the Tent of Meeting. When they come out, Moses and Aaron bless the people, and the Presence of God is with them. Afterward, in their zeal, Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, bring forth a burnt offering on their own, and the fire consumes them. Upon their tragic and unexpected deaths, Moses explains God’s actions and teaches the priestly responsibility to act only in the ways commanded by God. Moses instructs the removal of their bodies and cautions the people against mourning their loss. Moses gives additional explanation of the priestly duties of sacrifice to Aaron and his remaining sons, followed by God’s instructions regarding the laws of kashrut. Dietary restrictions are detailed, along with a description of the laws of ritual defilement regarding animal carcasses. Finally, the parashah closes with an affirmation of the special relationship between God and the Jewish people:

“For I am Adonai, your God… who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God. Thus you shall be holy because I am holy.”

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