Friday - Shabbat, April 21-22, Nissan 25-26

Torah Reading :   Shemini:  Leviticus 9:1  - 11:47

Haftora:   Samuel II 6:1-19

Pirkei Avot - Chapter 1
For more on Pirkei Avot, insights and commentaries, click  here  


Shabbat Candle Lighting: 7:24 PM
Shabbat Ends: 8:27 PM 


Shabbat Mevarchim Iyar  - We bless the New Month of Iyar

Molad for the month of Iyar - Wednesday, 4/26, 7:48 & 11/18 AM
Rosh Chodesh Iyar is Wednesday & Thursday, 4/26 & 27 





Entered Mishkan in Intoxicated State

A terrible tragedy befell the Jewish nation. Aaron’s two sons were struck by a heavenly fire on the day the Tent of Meeting, the Mishkan, was dedicated, for having brought an unauthorized offering.

In the aftermath of this tragedy G‑d commands Aaron:

“When you go into the tent of Meeting do not drink wine to make yourself intoxicated, neither you or your sons with you so that you will not die.”

From this exhortation our Sages derived that the sin was not just bringing an unauthorized offering but that they had imbibed wine before entering the Tent of Meeting.

After this commandment the Torah adds the following, apparently unrelated, admonition:

“This is an eternal law for all your generations; to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean. And to be able to instruct the children of Israel regarding all the statutes which G‑d has told them through Moses.”

On the surface there is no connection here between not drinking before entering the Tent of Meeting and the need to distinguish between the holy and the common.

Rashi, anticipating this difficulty, explains that the need to distinguish between the holy and the common was intended to teach us that If one were to enter the Tent of Meeting in this state to perform the service in the Sanctuary the service would be disqualified. The difference between a proper service (“the holy”) and an improper service (“the common”) is determined by whether the Kohain performs the service while intoxicated or sober.  

While Rashi’s explanation deals with the simple, surface meaning of the text, the Torah can and must be understood on other levels as well. What connection is there between a Kohain not entering the Sanctuary in an intoxicated state and the need to distinguish between the holy and the common?

The following is based on an early 20th century Syrian commentator, Peh Eliyahu by Rabbi Eliyahu Chamvi, who explains this verse according to the method of remez-hints. In this method of interpretation words are understood by the acronyms they form.

When the Torah states this is “an eternal law for all your generations,” the Torah here alludes to a law that deals with the way we must distinguish between secular sages and leaders and Torah sages and leaders. 

Discernment between Secular and Torah Sages

The Talmud states that when a person sees one of the great Sages of Israel he must recite the blessing “Blessed is G‑d who has apportioned wisdom to those who fear Him.” When one sees a great secular sage he must also recite a blessing, but with a different ending: “Blessed is G‑d who has apportioned His wisdom to a flesh and blood.” When one sees a king of other nations he must recite a blessing, “”Blessed is G‑d who has given from His glory to a flesh and blood.”

The Talmud then states that it is a Mitzvah to attempt to see kings of the other nations, “for if one will merit he will be able to see the difference between the glory of Jewish kings and the glory of non-Jewish kings.”  Rashi teaches us that the Talmud is referring to the glory of Moshiach.

This then is the alluded meaning to the words “an eternal law for all your generations.” The Hebrew word for law here is “chukas,” which is an acronym for three words, “ chachamim-Sages,  katzinim-monarchs,  tevarech-you shall bless.”

Now we see that the verse takes on a new meaning:

In every generation one should make an effort to see secular sages and leaders. The rationale for this is provided in the continuation of this verse: “to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the pure and the impure.” We will thus be able to distinguish between the secular sages and the Torah sages. The secular scholars are considered common because their knowledge is devoid of a G‑dly element; it is a product of human thought processes. To be sure, every human thought derives from G‑d but it goes through a thick filter, which allows the Divine element within that wisdom to be obscured.

Torah sages, by contrast, are considered holy because their teachings of Torah are expressions of unfiltered G‑dly wisdom.

Discerning the Difference between Secular and Torah Leaders

Similarly we are able to distinguish between the morally deficient leaders (impure) and Moshiach, the morally upright and pure leader. Generally speaking, political leaders are morally corrupt at worst and lack Divine guidance at best. Torah leaders, from Moses to Moshiach, are transparent and lead with humility and with a singular objective: to follow G‑d’s purpose. 

Now we see that the verse alludes to the ideal leadership of Moshiach, so we can understand the continuation of the verse:  

“And to be able to instruct the children of Israel regarding all the statutes which G‑d has told them through Moses.”

Moshiach’s role will be to instruct the Jewish people and to reveal to them the reasons for the chukim-the trans-rational laws, which G‑d revealed to Moses in the past but concealed from everyone else. However, Moshiach, who embodies the soul of Moses, will be able to reveal heretofore secret knowledge to all.

The Connection to Not Drinking

We still have to understand the connection between the prohibition of entering the Sanctuary in an intoxicated state and the need to distinguish between common sages and impure leaders and the holy and pure Sages and leaders.

One way of understanding the connection is to reflect on why it was forbidden to drink alcoholic beverages before entering the Temple and why the two sons of Aaron were fatally faulted for doing so.

The answer lies in a better understanding of the nature of wine. Wine, the Talmud tells us, shares the numerical value of the word sod-secret, because it is the nature of wine to cause one to reveal one’s secrets. As the Talmud puts it pithily: “When wine enters out come the secrets.”

Aaron’s sons were trying to get close to G‑d on the day the Mishkan was dedicated. They therefore wanted to drink wine to reveal their inner spiritual passion. After all, aren’t we obligated to usher in the Sabbath and Jewish holidays with Kiddush over a cup of wine? What then was so wrong with drinking wine before entering the Sanctuary? Why then were Aaron’s sons punished so severely because they drank wine before entering the Sanctuary? After all, the commandant not to drink wine before entering the Sanctuary was given after their tragic death. What sin did they commit?

The key to understanding their mistake lies in a better understanding of both the nature of the Sanctuary , the spiritual level of Aaron’s sons and the significance of the day in which the dedication took place. The Sanctuary was the ultimate location where G‑d’s presence was revealed. The day of the dedication was Rosh Chodesh Nissan, which according to one opinion in the Talmud, is the actual Rosh Hashanah. And Aaron’s sons were known for their asceticism, heightened spiritual level and incredible passion for G‑d.

According to the Sefer Yetizrah, all of existence consists of space, time and energy. The dedication of the Sanctuary represented the convergence of the prime of all three elements. We see the concentration of the holiest people – Moses, Aaron, and his sons, in the holiest place on Earth, on the holiest day of the year all in one place and moment in time. Under these circumstances, why would they need to imbibe to be inspired? After all, wasn’t it the most opportune time and place to reveal their hidden passion?  Adding to the significance of time and place, they possessed the most advanced spiritual nature. Taking wine was an easy and artificial way to enhance their passion. For people of their stature, this was a grievous sin.

The greatness of Jewish Sages and leaders, particularly Moshiach, is that they neither need nor wish to use artificial techniques to be spiritual. They get it from their understanding of the Torah, particularly the secrets, the “wine,” of Torah.

When we delve into the spiritual aspects of Torah, revealed through the teachings of Kabbalah (and especially Chassidus, which makes the inner soul of Torah accessible even to the average person), we have the ability to be inspired. Taking wine to become spiritual suggests that we either don’t recognize or respect the power of Torah to inspire us or that we are too lazy to do it ourselves. Drinking wine for many is no more than an unnecessary crutch. Spiritual inspiration  generated by alcohol is not ourpassion; it is the alcohol that speaks through us and as soon as it wears off we revert to the same spiritual state as before. The Torah wants us to inspire ourselves by igniting our own souls with the wine of Torah.

No other sources of knowledge, even if they are based on sound logic and contain positive ideas,  have the power to elicit our soul’s inner soul and passion. Even if they could, it would not be the soul’s natural means of finding expression. It would be akin to taking an unsanctioned remedy which can have many side effects because it was no intended for us.  

Only Torah, particularly, the inner soul of Torah, is the natural means to touch and ignite our soul’s passion.

And only the true Jewish leaders are able to assist us in revealing that passion because, unlike secular leaders, the souls of true Jewish leaders, particularly, Moshiach, are organically connected to us. When they ignite their passion it enables us to do the same. Just like medications administered to the head or heart can beneficially affect other organs, similarly, when our spiritual head or heart is inspired it affects all of the soul, because they are all connected to the brain and heart soul.    





Moshiach Matters:  

Moshiach is called "Melech" - King. The word Melech can be an acronym for mo'ach (brain), lev (heart) and ca'ved (liver). These three parts of the body parallel the three areas that we must tackle to bring about our total return to G‑d - the function of Moshiach. First, Moshiach masters the mind. He possesses the most spiritually sophisticated approach to life. He sees things with open eyes. Second, Moshiach has the greatest passion for and sensitivity to G‑d and for His people. Third, Moshiach is one who has conquered his material desires (represented by the liver which is filled with blood, symbolizing physical pleasure). He has transformed his desire for the physical and for pleasure into the joy and bliss of spiritual delight.