Category Archives: Parshat שמיני

Parshat שמיני

Parshat שמיני Vayikrah 7:11 – Calling a pig a pig

Parashat שמיני Leviticus 11:7 – Calling a swine a swine

Leviticus 11:7 ” And the swine, because he parteth the hoof, and is cloven-footed, but cheweth not the cud, he is unclean unto you. ”

Hullin 59b: “It was taught in the beth midrash of Rabbi Ishmael: The One who rules over His world knows that the only animal that has split hooves and is impure is the swine.  This is why the verse says he (is unclean to you)”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #21:

See what was said in note 17 regarding a similar midrash referring to the camel and apply it to here.  See also the Aramaic translation of Yonatan Ben Uziel: “… and the swine .. there is none like it.  The midrash cited here explains the intention of Yonatan Ben Uziel when he says there is none like it.  This midrash is key.

Refer to the commentary of the Or HaChaim on this verse in the Torah:

And the swine .. but cheweth not the cud ..  There is a condition so long as the swine does not chew its cud, it is impure, however, in the future it will chew its cud and return[1] to be kosher.  It will not remain forever an animal that does not chew its cud and become kosher because the Torah does not change[2].

All these words are strange and wondrous.  From where did he find a source for this novel idea?  We do not see anywhere that the nature of animals will change in the future.  Why, out of all of the impure animals, will the swine be permitted?  Albeit true that I heard of a midrash explaining why its name is Hebrew is חזזיר: because it will return to its original permission.  It appears that the Or HaChaim understands this midrash literally.

In truth, no midrash with this language or intent has been found.  There is one midrash in Midrash Rabbah (Parashat Shemini end of section 12) and Kohelet Rabbah (on the verse That which hath been is that which shall be[3]) that refers to a different idea.

The swine refers to the nation of Edom.  Why is it called חזזיר? Because it returns the crown to its owner as the verse says (Obadiah 1:21) And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’S

In other words, through the nation of Edom, the crown will return to Israel.  It is clear that this midrash is primarily allegorical with a different intent.  It is a grave mistake to connect this midrash with permitting the swine in the future as explained.  Refer to Midrash Socher Tov section 146 and the insights of the Rashab thereon[4]

Shocher Tov 146 note 5: The Hebrew, מתיר אסורים, can also mean permitting what was forbidden.  The Midrash says: “Some say that, in the future,  the Holy One Blessed is He will purify all the animals that are impure in this world.  Similarly the verse says (Ecclesiastes 1:9): That which hath been is that which shall be for they were pure before the time of Noah.  Upon leaving the ark, Hashem tells Noah “like vegetation I have given everything to you (Genesis 9:3)”  Just as I gave vegetation to all so to wild and domesticated animals to all.  Hashem forbade them to know who would listen to Him and who would not.  In the future He will permit all He forbade.  Others say He will not permit them in the future as the verse says (Isaiah 66:17): “They that sanctify themselves and purify themselves to go unto the gardens, behind one in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the detestable thing, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD.”  If Hashem will destroy those that eat these, he certainly will not permit them in the future…

Editor note: The Torah Temimah does not shy away from controversial topics.  Descended from a family of Torah scholars[5], he shows his halachic side in this comment defending the mitzvoth of the Torah.  He vehemently opposes the idea of nature changing in the time of mashiach, specifically, the swine becoming a kosher animal, yet he respectfully disagrees with the commentary of the Or HaChaim.  Instead of outwardly rejecting the Or HaChaim, he acknowledges hearing about a midrash, on which the Or HaChaim is based, however, he concurs with the printed sources that explain the matter differently.  This should be a model how to approach disagreements in matters of halacha and exegesis.


[1] חוזר – to return an play on the Hebrew word for swine, חזזיר

[2] Even in the time of mashiach, kosher animals must still exhibit all the signs of a kosher animal.

[3] Ecclesiastes 1:9

[4] Note 5 on Psalms 146:7

[5] His father was the author of the Aruch Ha Shulhan, a commentary on the Shulhan Aruch.  His uncle was the Netziv of Volozhyn, in whose yeshiva, he studied for many years.

Parshat שמיני Leviticus 10:4 – Aaron Was Silent

Leviticus 10:3 – Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, [when He said], ‘I will be sanctified through those near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ “And Aaron was silent.

Gemora Zevachim 115b: And Aaron was silent: Moshe said to Aaron – Aaron, my brother, the only reason your sons died was to sanctify God’s name. Since Aaron knew that his sons were amongst those who knew God, he was quiet and he was rewarded for his silence, as we see from the posuk, “And Aaron was silent.”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #3:

It is explained in the Gemora that Moshe knew beforehand that when the Devine Presence would rest on the tabernacle, that it would be sanctified in this manner. This teaching of the Gemora relies on the posuk in Parshat Ki Tetzei when it is telling about the building of the tabernacle, it says “’and I will be sanctified through my honored ones’. Don’t read the word ‘my honored ones’ but rather read it as though it stated ‘those who were honored through Me’”. [Validate this translation!} And it was not conveyed to Moshe the identity of those who “would be honored through Me” until Nadav and Avihu died. This is what is meant by the phrase here “the only reason your sons died was to sanctify God’s name”. Furthermore, it is clear from the phrase in our posuk “This is what the Lord spoke, [when He said], ‘I will be sanctified through those near to Me” that we don’t find this exact phrase in the Chumash because it is referencing the above mentioned posuk in Parshat Ki Tetzei. ודו״ק

 However, [even so] this whole teaching needs to be explored further. [What does it mean that Aaron’s sons died to sanctify God’s name?] Doesn’t in say in the previous drasha that they died because they committed the sin of [having the audacity] to teach [others] right in front of Moshe? Note also that in the Gemora and Midrashim other possible reasons are given for their death and all of them attribute their death to some sin that they did. If this is the case, then how can one possibly say that they died for the [holy] purpose of sanctifying God’s name? [Perhaps] the answer that one needs to give is that if it had not been for the purpose of sanctifying God’s name, they would not have died during these days of dedication of the Temple, which were [supposed to be] days of joy. They would not have died during this time, so as not to interrupt the joyous celebration. Additionally, they would not have died precisely inside of the tabernacle, as is shown by the posuk “and they died before HaShem”. Rather, it was precisely to sanctify God’s name that they died during this time and in this exact place [inside the tabernacle.]

Still, though, this issue is still very amazing [hard to understand]. What could have been God’s intent and purpose in dedicating the tabernacle through the death of holy individuals? This question is made stronger by the statement from the Gemora that Moshe knew ahead of time this event would occur. Further, what could it mean that [Moshe] said to Aaron that your sons did not die except to sanctify God’s name? What is the [meaning or] benefit of a sanctification of His name in this manner?

It appears appropriate to attribute a midrashic explanation for this as follows: Everybody knows from Scripture and from Talmud that the purpose of the tabernacle and the dwelling of God’s presence in it, and the bringing of [animal] sacrifices, was to atone for the sins of the Jewish people. Therefore, in order to prevent common people from thinking that since there is a temple [and all the atonement processes] we don’t have to worry anymore about being careful not to transgress and commit sins. [Behold we can  attain atonement in the temple/tabernacle!]  

Therefore, HaShem pro-ordained the event with Nadav and Avihu in order to prevent the common people from thinking this [and acting this way] that there is no longer a need to be careful about one’s behavior. The death of Nadav and Avihu teaches that the tabernacle does not atone for people who transgress on purpose. [The atonement of the tablernacle] only applies if one transgresses accidently or incidently or in a way that could not be prevented, etc.

Even though Nadav and Avihu were righteous and beloved before HaShem, nevertheless when they transgressed a commandment on purpose (and taught halacha right in front of Moshe, their teacher) the holiness of the tabernacle was not there for the purposes of protecting them. Furthermore, they were inside the tabernacle itself for the purposes of establishing the Awe of God in the tabernacle; and Moshe who knew all of the secrets of the ways of the Holy One, did know ahead of time what God would do to teach all inhabitants of the world that they should be careful and avoid transgressions. Moshe only did not know with which individual(s) this event would occur. Then, retroactively, with the death of Nadav and Avihu he saw how what God had planned had, indeed, come about.

With this explanation, all of the aggadas [midrashim] become clearly explained. Also, even though I already explained this in Parshat Ki Tetzei, due to the importance [נחיצת] of this topic in our way of thinking, I did not hesitate to mention it again here.

Note further that what we have explained here that a mourner who silently accepts, in love, what has occurred and does not publicly criticize the ways of HaShem receives a reward. This can explain what is mentioned in Gemora Berachos 6b: “R. Papa says: The merit of attending a house of mourning lies in the silence observed.” Many commentaries here explain that the meaning of this statement is that those who come to comfort the mourner will receive a reward [if they don’t talk too much] and allow for silence. That explanation is not clear, though. What reward should be due to the comforters if they keep silent? Rather, according to our midrash above, we should explain the Gemora Berachos 6b as referring to the one who is in mourning. [Thus the meaning would be:] when the comforters gather together to comfort the mourner and he does not complain about the circumstances and the events that have happened to him, but rather he just sits quietly and accepts freely God’s decree, he will receive a reward for this.

Editor’s note: I appreciated the Torah Temimah’s constant questioning here of the classic explanations for some midrashim and statements in the Gemora. He keeps inquiring and applying his knowledge to derive new explanations that are based on is broad knowledge of other texts.

Parshat שמיני Leviticus 11:4 – More Unusual Exclusions

Leviticus 11:4 – But these you shall not eat among those that bring up the cud and those that have a cloven hoof: the camel, because it brings up its cud, but does not have a [completely] cloven hoof; it is unclean for you.

Gemora Ketubot 60a: Why does it use the phrase “it is unclean”, “it” is unclean; human milk and blood, however, is not unclean but clean.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #18:

The phrase “those who walk on two feet” refers to humans. As for why it didn’t explicitly say “humans”, look at what I have written on note # 9.

It is probable that the comment on our posuk is made regarding the word “hu” [it]. In the adjacent sentences discussing forbidden items, it just says “tamei l’chem” [forbidden to you] which refers to what came before it, including the camel in our posuk. Additionally it does not say “it is forbidden to you”. Since it uses the word “it” here, we can learn that something else is excluded from being forbidden. Truthfully, also in Parshat Re’eh it also lists all the unclean animals together and says “forbidden to you”.

For all these reasons, the lesson is derived from here that milk and blood of humans is permitted. (And as our Sages mention, blood of a person is only permitted where it didn’t separate completely from the person, such as blood between one’s teeth. However, if it did separate [and one were to collect it] into a vessel, it would be forbidden because of “maarat ayin” [permitting something that could be easily misinterpreted] lest people might think that it is the blood of an animal.

Now, see that from this drasha that is permitting the milk and blood of a person to eat, we see a proof to the opinion of the Rambam that we mentioned above in note #9 that eating flesh of a person is a violation of a positive commandment [the commandment that stated explicitly what you should eat. Also, recall that the Ramban and Rashba said that there is no prohibition against eating people.]

Note that there is a general principle that something which derives from a forbidden thing is also forbidden. If eating people were permitted, why would there be a need for a posuk to tell you that it is permitted??!! Of course milk and blood of a person are permitted, behold, even eating people is permitted!

However, from the fact that there is a posuk teaching us that milk and blood are permitted, we can see that obviously it must be that eating people is prohibited. Thus the opinion of the Rambam is supported by our Gemora above.  

Further, the fact that eating human flesh is only forbidden as transgressing a positive commandment [less severe than transgressing a negative commandment], it makes sense that the prohibition would not be strong enough to include what derives from a person [such as a the milk and blood.]

Editor’s note: This note is basically a continuation of note #9. In our note here, the Torah Temimah again applies his creative deductive and rock solid reasoning to show that the Rambam’s opinion is correct.

Parshat שמיני Leviticus 11:4 – Limitations of the word “but”

Leviticus 11:4 – But these you shall not eat among those that bring up the cud and those that have a cloven hoof: the camel, because it brings up its cud, but does not have a [completely] cloven hoof; it is unclean for you.

Torat Cohanim: [Why does it use the limiting word “but”?] I might think that the meat of those who walk on two feet is forbidden, the [limiting word]“but” is used to teach otherwise [that it is permitted]

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #9:

The phrase “those who walk on two feet” refers to humans. It is not clear why it didn’t explicitly say that the “meat of humans” [is permitted]. Rather it chose a flowery phrase of “the meat of those who walk on two feet”. Maybe it is because with this phraseology it is coming also to include flesh of wild savages who lived in previous generations in countries far away, whose human [dignity] had so diminished from them that Yechezkel says (23, 20) “And she lusted for their concubinage, those whose flesh is the flesh of donkeys, and whose issue is the issue of horses.” Look also in Gemora Berachos 25b.

Also look at what the Rambam says in Chapter 2:3 of Forbidden Foods, where he writes that even though there is no prohibition against eating human flesh nevertheless eating people would be a transgression of a positive commandment [since the Torah describes what we are allowed to eat, as we see when the Torah describes the seven types of animals that we are allowed to eat. Then it adds the phrase “of these you should eat”. This shows that eating people is, according to the Rambam in the category of a transgression of a positive commandment since people are not including in the list of animals that one may eat. Thus such a transgression is a positive commandment transgression.

Note that the Ramban and the Rashba disagree with the Rambam. Their opinion is that there is no prohibition at all regarding eating people. Their view is that the Torat Cohanim quoted above is a “general hook” [asmakhta b’alma] rather than an actual source for this prohibition. Also, please look at what I [the Torah Temimah] write in footnote 18 of this chapter regarding a convincing proof that the Rambam is actually correct.

[Lastly] it is obvious that there is a universal ruling that there is a prohibition of deriving any benefit at all from the body of a dead person [so you couldn’t eat it!]. This law is learned from a textual parallelism from the laws of the decapitated calf (Deuteronomy 21:1-9. Also, look in the Gemora Sanhedrin 47b.

Editor’s note: The Torah Temimah emphasizes the importance of using the rules of Talmudic logic in a consistent fashion. He is not advocating eating people nor is his saying that any rabbi advocated such a thing. Rather, the Torah Temimah is explaining the legal reasoning behind the prohibition and various rabbis’ opinions. The Torah Temimah’s point of view derives directly from the Torat Cohanim.

[The Torat Cohanim is a midrash written down around the time of the Mishnah.]