Chukas: Maturing With Age

Sometimes we outgrow our mitzvos. While there is a wide range of opinions regarding the exact sin of...

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Do you ever wonder what people really think about you? Whether they think you’re brilliant, caring, and fun – or lazy, self-centered, and boring? The truth is, you’ll never know; people only talk about you openly when you’re not in the room. In these situations, don’t you think it’s possible that people might put you down, say negative things about you, or even make fun of you behind your back? After all, we have all been in the room when someone else was the subject of gossip. Gossiping is such a common occurrence that it seems to be an almost built-in practice of human nature. We all know people who can find something bad to say about anyone; they criticize anything and everything, anybody and everybody; words of negativity flow easily from their mouths. But even if we are not negative people, we still experience the desire to occasionally put other people down, to share negative stories about them behind their backs. Why do we feel this compulsion to speak negatively about others, to criticize and gossip about them?

What can we be thankful for at a time like this?

Parshas Tzav continues the discussion of korbanos that we began last week and it’s nice to see a sequel that isn’t a letdown. One of the new korbanos mentioned in this week’s parshah is the korban todah, the (non-turkey) thanksgiving offering.

What is the “kosher” way of parenting?

Parshas Sh’mini contains the laws of kashrus, including which animals may be eaten and which are forbidden. The Ramban (VaYikra 11:13) suggests that the Torah prohibited the species that are predatory in nature, as their cruel characteristics could be transmitted to a person through consumption. Instead, Hashem wants us to only ingest pure, domesticated animals that promote compassionate qualities. As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.”

Parshas Sh’mini presents the shocking sin and deaths of Nadav and Avihu. The pasuk describes how, during the Chanukas HaMishkan (Inauguration of the Tabernacle), Nadav and Avihu offered the k’tores (spice offering) and were engulfed by Divine flames (VaYikra 10:1-2). This episode is both striking and perplexing, as the p’sukim do not clarify what their sin was, or why it warranted such a harsh punishment. At face value, one might think that they acted righteously, sacrificing an offering to Hashem in the Mikdash. What, then, was so egregious about their actions? We will go through a range of possible answers to these questions as we ultimately develop a deeper understanding of this topic.

Some things really hit  close to home.

As we begin the chumash [VaYikra] largely about korbanos, it is surprising that none of our typical translations for that word do it justice. “Sacrifice” implies that we are giving away something which rightfully belongs to us; this is an inappropriate description of giving something to the Creator and Owner of everything. “Offering” and “present” are similarly problematic, as they imply that we are giving something to Hashem that He does not already have. So then what does “korban” mean?