This week's parsha is Shemini. The name "Shemini" translates into "eight", and refers to the eighth day of the inauguration of the Tabernacle. The eighth day was also the day Aaron became the Cohen Hagadol (High Priest), and his sons became Cohanim. Each Cohen made a sacrifice to G-d in order to show gratitude for their prestigious positions. However, on this day, the two sons of Aaron were killed because G-d had not commanded their sacrifice. By sacrificing something anyway, they turned against Moses, the vessel of G-d, and they also disrespected their father, Aaron, thus breaking one of the 10 commandments.
In the second part of this parsha, G-d gave the rules of Kashrut: animals are only kosher if they chew the cud and have split hooves; fish are only kosher if they have both scales and fins; any product of a non-kosher animal is non-kosher. You must not mix milk and meat in order to remember that dairy comes from a living animal, whereas meat comes from a dead animal, etc. It is believed that G-d created the rules of Kashrut so that before we complete an essential everyday task (eating), we must stop and ask ourselves, "is this kosher"? Instead of eating without thought, we must stop and think about what we are doing.
The laws of Kashrut were made to stop us from going through life on autopilot, and to remind us that even during simple tasks, we must stop and think and be aware of what we are doing just as Aaron's sons should have done before they made their sacrifices. In their minds they were thanking and praising G-d, yet they did not stop to think of the consequences.
As yesterday was Yom Ha Shoah, the Jewish Holocaust Memorial day in Israel, I would like to make a link with the parsha. One of the claims the Nazis made was that they were only following their instructions without thinking about it. Most humans have been taught to follow instructions as we receive them. This parsha teaches us that even with something as simple as eating, that instead of responding without, we must stop and think of what we are doing.
If more people stopped and thought of what they were doing, this world would be in a much better place. So in the future pause to think and make sure you are aware of whatever you are doing.
David, Grade 12