Thursday, March 24, 2011

The CHATAM SOFER and further Rabbis on Parashat SHEMINI


Parashat Shemini

Photo: Miriam Woelke

 Parashat Shemini 5771 / 2011

This week’s Torah Parasha “Shemini” talks, among other topics, about sacrifices in the two Temples. In Vayikra (Leviticus) 9:6 it says:

“And Moshe said: "This is the thing that G - d has commanded you to do; then the glory of G - d will appear to you."

On this particular day Parashat Shemini is describing, G - d was planning to show His "Shechinah - Presence" in a very unique form. The Mishkan (Tabernacle) had its opening celebration and the "Shechina" wanted to have its earthly abode inside the Mishkan (see Rashi – Commentary or Sifte’i Chachamim). 

The “Me’am Lo’ez”, Rabbi Yaakov Chuli (17th / 18th century) explains how the Jews in the desert were supposed to experience the "glory of G - d". The answer is: Doing "Teshuva - Repentance" ! The Jews in the desert as well as the Jews today should refrain from anything negative and rather concentrate their minds and actions on the positive: On serving G - d. At the same moment we forget about out "Yetzer HaRah - evil side in each of us", G - d's Shechinah is coming upon us. This happened in the times of the Mishkan in the desert when the Jews kept the Torah and thus, fulfilled G - d's will. This was the reason why G - d was able to dwell among them. Not literally dwelling in the physical world but being closer to the Jews in a symbolic sense. As soon as G - d is closer to His people, no other nation is able to harm the Jews, as He is protecting them. Moreover, look at all the miracles happening when G - d was dwelling in the Mishkan: Be'er Miriam (Miriam's Well) or the Man.

The famous Chatam Sofer commentates on Moshe's saying

“This is the thing that G - d has commanded you to do!” 

What exactly is happening when we Jews don't follow G - d's will and act against the Torah ? Let alone the Jews in the desert acting against the Torah because they were on a much much higher level than we are today. Doesn't G - d already give a hint to this question right at the beginning of Parashat Shemini ? That the Jews have to do what G - d has commanded them to do. "Commanded" and "doing", meaning that G - d commands and we carry out what He commanded. Did He command Nadav and Avihu to bring a sacrifice (the Ketoret of each of the brothers) ? G - d didn't command them and the brothers did exactly the opposite of what Moshe had told the Jews shortly before.

Thora commenatry of the CHATAM SOFER

Photo: Miriam Woelke

The Chatam Sofer states that each of the two brothers sacrificed his own Ketoret (spices). Two different Ketorot at once. A prohibited act. One brother brought the right sacrifice the second brother didn't but both had to die. The Chatam Sofer writes: Because the two brothers didn't listen to Moshe when he said: "This is the thing that G - d has commanded you to do ...!" Instead, each of the brothers wanted to be the first and the best.
Many times before I mentioned that the Hebrew word “Korban” (Plural: Korbanot) comes from the verb “Lehitkarev – getting closer to someone / something”. The English as well as the German translation "sacrifice" doesn't express the real meaning of the word "Korban". It is not a "sacrifice" but an act in order to get closer to G - d. For example when a Jew is bringing a KORBAN due to a certain holiday or after he acted against the Torah. With his Korban, the Jew admits his sinning but, at the same time, wants to become a better person in the future. This act of Teshuva and intending not to repeat the same mistake in the future results in a closer relationship to G - d because the Jew promises to fulfill G - d's will.
The Korbanot are not anything ancient from the past but will be taking place again as soon as Meshiach is coming and building the Third Temple. Then the Cohanim (Priests) are going to sacrifice the animal offerings as well as the flour, oil and spice offerings.

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