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Parshat Sh'Mini

"On the 8th day" following the 7-day ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests, Moses instructs Aaron to perform sacrifices in front of the entire Israelite community. Aaron "lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them." But suddenly Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, when "the Presence of the Lord appeared to all the people" made a fatal error, the specifics of which have been debated by commentators for centuries: "....(T)hey offered before the Lord alien fire, which He had not enjoined upon them. And fire came forth from the Lord and consumed them; thus they died at the instance of the Lord." Their father's response? "And Aaron was silent." The remainder of the parsha establishes the laws of Kashrut regarding foods that may or may not be eaten. (Kosher restaurants, caterers, and supermarkets take note: nowhere in the text does G-d give you permission to charge more than your non-kosher counterparts! So what gives?) The Lord instructs Moses and Aaron to direct the people:

"'These are the creatures that you may eat from among all the land animals: any animal that has true hoofs, with clefts through the hoofs, and that chews the cud...'" (though not the camel or hare). He continues, "'These you may eat of all that live in the water--anything...that has fins and scales...'" (but no bottom feeders or shellfish). The eagle, the vulture, and the owl are out; but you may enjoy (not that you would) the locust, cricket, and grasshopper. Yet "'All things that swarm upon the earth are an abomination.'" Sh'Mini ends with laws establishing the transference of impurity. Simply touching the carcass of a forbidden animal renders a person (after they wash their clothes) "impure until evening." If the carcass "falls into an earthen vessel" it must be broken and never used again. (See photo: Mr. Plastic Piggy is the closest pork is getting to my Shabbat dinner dishes.) G-d's focus on these food rules--that continue to confound many a rebellious kosher teen, including, I suspect, one or two of my own--is made perfectly clear. "'You shall not make yourselves impure...For I the Lord am He who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your G-d: you shall be holy for I am holy." Shabbat Shalom!

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