Oz Torah: Insights on parashat Sh’mini.


One of the Lubavitcher Rebbes gave a broad interpretation to the law of counting the Omer, which comes in this week’s reading.

Just as one must daily count the Omer and yearn for the coming of Shavu’ot, he said, so should a Jew count and work towards the coming of the Messiah.

He quoted Micah 7:15,

“As on the days of your coming out of Egypt, I will show him wonders…”

The Rebbe wondered why the prophet speaks of days, when the Exodus was really only one day, 15 Nisan.

He remarked that the redemption from Egypt actually never ceased. It was not just one day. It is still in process. Not in a physical, literal sense; we are not talking about a geographical migration but a metaphorical redemption, whereby day by day we liberate ourselves from thought systems which continue to affect the development of a messianic value system.

Day by day a person must ask,

“What have I done today to improve myself and the world?”


When something terrible happened, “Vayyidom Aharon”, “Aaron held his peace” (Lev. 10:9).

Rabbi Shlomo HaKohen of Radomsk said,

“If Aaron was silent, how could David say, “My soul will sing to You and not be silent” (Psalm 30:13)”?

He answered,

“It is good to accept God’s will in silence, but even better to say, ‘Whatever God sends me, I will believe and in Him and sing to His Name’.”


Since the sidra deals with the dietary laws, let’s speak about the administration of kashrut.

I often quote the advertisement which a small congregation placed in a newspaper, “Wanted – a man to kill and teach children”.

Communities frequently tried to get a versatile person to teach the children and carry out sh’chitah. Sometimes both education and sh’chitah suffered. Their English was often fractured, hence the advertisement I have quoted.

Bigger communities have a different problem – metaphorical “killing” amongst Jews through fissures between kashrut factions that belittle and besmirch the other’s kashrut supervision, throw invective at one another, and set up competing systems that cost both sides dearly.

Presumably both sides hold by the same Shulchan Aruch, accept the same Torah, and fear that mistakes (of course committed by the others) will lead to people eating t’refah.

There are varying customs and practices in kashrut – but why can’t they all be accommodated under one overall halachic giant and in one overall kashrut system? Why can’t disparate groups say, “Our differences are harming everyone – let’s stop shedding each other’s metaphorical blood and calling each other heretics”?

Why can’t they work together for the welfare of the consumer?


Every now and then a letter of the Torah is written larger or smaller than usual. In today’s sidra we have an unusually large “vav” in the word “gachon” (Lev. 11:42) because this is the middle letter of the whole Torah.

According to tradition there are 600,805 letters in the Chumash, more or less the same number of Israelite males who left Egypt at the time of the Exodus. In other words, there is a letter in the Torah which corresponds to every Israelite.

No wonder we are told that the Torah is “the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob”; there is a unique place in it for every member of that congregation.

Can anyone precisely identify their own letter? In one sense, no. But poetically, each of us may well be the middle letter that links the beginning of the Torah to the end.

This not only means that there is something radically wrong if anyone feels unwanted, unappreciated and alienated. It also suggests that you never know how valuable a person may be in the eyes of God.

You might think the other person is too old (or too young), too ignorant, too irreligious, too ordinary. God may think otherwise. The person you dismiss may be the *lamed-vavnik upon whose merit the whole of Judaism may depend.

Editors’ note: “lamed-vavnik ” Yiddish expression ’36 righteous people’
Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and held many public roles. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem. Rabbi Apple blogs at http://www.oztorah.com

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