Shemini (Lev. 9:1-11:47), Shabbat Parah (Numbers 19:1-22)

This week is the third of the four special Shabbatot having two scrolls that we read before Pesach.  For Shabbat Parah, we read about the ritual uncleanliness that arises from contact with a corpse and the purification ritual employing a completely red heifer.  The special Haftarah, Ezekiel 36:16-38, is also about ritual cleansing, about how the Lord will cleanse the defiled people and land of Israel, not really for their sake, but for the sake of the Lord’s name.

The regular weekly reading, Shemini, starts with the completion of the ordination process for the priests.  This is probably the pinnacle of Aaron’s life, as he performs his first tasks as High Priest.  Immediately, he falls off an emotional precipice when two of his sons, Nadav and Avihu, improperly offer incense and are “consumed” (killed by fire or an explosion? taken directly to heaven?).  It is unclear what led them to deviate from the meticulous instructions they’d been given.  Were they overtaken by ecstasy when the presence of the Lord appeared to all the people and fire came forth from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat parts on the altar (9:23-24)?  Were they drunk (see 10:8-11)?  And what is Aaron’s reaction?  Silence.  In fact, he and his two remaining sons are warned by Moses not to assume the signs of mourning (torn clothes, etc.), though the family and other Israelites may bewail the loss.  In his position as High Priest, Aaron cannot be seen as maybe disagreeing with a divine action.  I prefer to think of Aaron as simply being in shock.

The final chapter of the portion takes up the theme of ritual cleanliness (so it nicely ties in with the special maftir reading from Numbers and the Haftarah from Ezekiel), this time among animals.  Some animals are fit (kosher) to eat and some are not.  This is where we read that a land animal that has cloven hooves and chews the cud is kosher.  It is worth considering, though, if this is classification after the fact.  That is, given that food taboos existed in early societies, was this classification an attempt to impose some definition on what was already practiced? Maybe I’ll look into that another time.  In fact, even touching the carcasses of unclean animals renders one ritually impure; there’s a whole lot in the Mishnah concerning impurity imparted by a dead sheretz, loosely translated as “creepy crawly thing” if it is, for instance, found in an oven.  Even the carcass of an edible animal can impart impurity if it has died of its own accord.

I will be out for roughly two weeks (midday tomorrow to sometime between April 4 and 11), so I’ll be sending out a couple of these early, to keep you folks occupied.

A very, very early Shabbat Shalom,
[Sent out in 2001]
True story  
When my daughter was around 3 or 4, she was starting to understand that
some foods are kosher and some are not and that we eat kosher foods only.  We were
in the checkout line at the supermarket when she asked if she could have one of the
nearby candy bars.  When I said “No,” she looked up at me and asked, “It’s not kosher?”
Boy, was I tempted!  But, as those of you who know me well would expect (ask me
sometime what happened when my then 6-year-old son asked if everyone is either a
boy or a girl), I admitted that it was kosher; I just didn’t want her to have candy right
before dinner.
For your information

I got the item below from

K A S H R U T . C O M©  Arlene Mathes-Scharf, editor.  

The site is not merely “The Premier Kosher Information Source on the Internet” but it contains info not only on what you want to know about kashrut but what you had no idea you wanted to know. IGP

What’s the Truth About… Glatt Kosher
A column devoted to researching commonly-held beliefs
By: Rabbi Ari Z. Zivotofsky,** Ph.D.This article first appeared in JEWISH ACTION Winter 5760/1999 and is © Copyright 1999 by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. It is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

Misconception:Glatt Kosher” means something like “extra kosher” and applies to chicken and fish as well as meat.

Fact: Glatt is Yiddish for smooth, and in the context of kashrut it means that the lungs of the animal were smooth, without any adhesions that could potentially prohibit the animal as a treifa, an issue only applicable to animals, not fowl or non-meat products.

[Now you know. IGP]
—————————- [abridged]
Kosher Cow Scans
by Stuart Wine   February 14, 2011

New York (JTA) — In a move that may
mollify animal-rights activists, some kosher butchers and oversight organizations are set to use a new high-tech method to determine whether a cow is kosher before it is slaughtered.  This innovative technology will eliminate the need to ritually slaughter animals that would later be declared non-kosher under exacting Orthodox requirements.  Rabbi Heshy Malchowitz of the Orthodox Union, the largest and most prominent Orthodox Jewish oversight agency,  has teamed with a leading veterinary scientist to implement imaging of live cows. They call the technology “COW Scans.”  

One of the primary tasks following ritual slaughter is to manually inspect the lungs  and other organs (“bedika”) for blemishes and adhesions that can render meat non-kosher.   Depending on whether and what type of adhesions are present, the animal’s meat can be glatt kosher, kosher, or not kosher at all.  Because many orthodox communities eat only glatt kosher meat while an increasingly large number of non-kosher consumers refuse to purchase ritually slaughtered meat, much of the non-glatt and non-kosher meat is disposed of.  Rabbi Malchowitz has been thinking for some time about ways to eliminate this wastefulness.  After undergoing a CT scan for a tumor that turned out to be benign, it occurred to Rabbi Malchowitz that such noninvasive medical imaging could be the solution he was looking for.  He approached professor Amanda Youngsmith of the veterinary sciences school at the University of Kentucky to inquire about such a use.  Professor Youngsmith, an expert in bovine radiology, was glad to help.

“Although not a member of the Jewish community, I was very excited to potentially apply my expertise to issues facing the Jews.  I grew up near religious Jews and have only the fondest memories from my childhood of white bearded rabbis in long black frocks.  We always thought that the rabbis were trying to do good.  Plus, as an animal lover I identified with the Rabbi’s interest in reducing wasteful slaughter.”  Youngsmith immediately saw the potential of CT scanners to revolutionize kosher animal slaughter.  Thus began a long process of collaboration by the odd couple.   After nearly two years of experimentation, which led to the publication of several scholarly articles in  radiological and veterinary journals, Professor Youngsmith and her team of research assistants were finally able to calibrate the CT scanners to Rabbi Malchowitz’s exacting religious standards.

Before bringing the technology to market, Rabbi Malchowitz became concerned that there may be confusion as to what type of animal was being provided kosher certification.  “Use of the familiar term ‘CAT Scan’ may have caused the mis-impression that we are providing kashrus certification to cats. This could not be further from the truth.  So we called it a ‘COW Scan.’  Cows are kosher.  And delicious.”

Interestingly, kosher cow brains played an important role in the development of CT
back in the 1960s. That CT will now play an important role in the hashgacha process provides a fitting coda.


 *The Yiddishkeit Code*        Version 10/7/97 [excerpt]

by Robert D. Kaiser
(Formerly known as “The Hebrew Geek Code”)

    Communicate volumes of information about yourself with just a few letters!  Give information to those in the know!  Don’t limit yourself to useless one word descriptions like ‘Reform’ or ‘Orthodox’. Instead, create your own Yiddishkeit code which will really tell people who and what you are all about!  

Kashrut (Laws pertaining to what food Jews can eat.) (This is only one of about 25 sections in the Code. IGP)

    K–                 I only eat at McDonald’s.  Also: What’s kashrut?
    K-                          Jewish in identity, not in practice.  Likely to eat ham and cheese, but will say a bracha afterwards
    K                         Very liberal kosher.  Won’t eat any Torah forbidden species, won’t mix milk and meat.  Will eat eat meat                                         of  a permitted animal, even it not properly slaughtered.
    K+                 Conservative.  Kashrut fully observed.  Two sets of dishes, etc.  Add appropriate strictures as                                                 necessary. If no codes are added, lenient options are default for K+
    K++                 Orthodox kashrut.  Same as Conservative, but unless codes are added, the stricter options are assumed for                                 K++                          
    K+++                Meshugge kosher.  Even my vegetables are glatt!  [but see above item re “glatt”! IGP]

              ch+  Will only eat Kosher cheese.
              ch   Will eat cheese without a hechsher[kashrut supervision symbol].  
              me+  Will only eat Glatt meat.
              me   Glatt not necessary.
              mi+  Will only drink Chalav Yisrael milk.
              mi   Will drink regular FDA approved milk.
              ge+  Won’t eat gelatin, diglycerides, etc. unless
                   with an Orthodox hechsher.
              ge   Will eat gelatin, diglycerides, etc.
                   Considered pareve.
              wi+  Will only drink kosher wine.
              wi   Will drink without a hechsher.
About silence
“Saying nothing…sometimes says the most.
 Emily Dickinson quotes (American Poet who has been called the New England mystic, 18301886)

Silence is sometimes the answer
 Estonian Proverb quotes

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
 Aldous Huxley quotes (English Novelist and Critic, 18941963)

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2 Responses to Shemini (Lev. 9:1-11:47), Shabbat Parah (Numbers 19:1-22)

  1. stewart myers says:

    Just discovered your website. As the Monty Python program in the UK used to say,’And now for something completely different.’
    Is the COWscan well knon in the UK if at all?
    Stewart M

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