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Parshas Shemini

Who Are We to Disagree?!

By Rabbi Label Lam

You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping creature that creeps, and you shall not defile yourselves with them, that you should become unclean through them. For I am HASHEM your God, and you shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, because I am holy, and you shall not defile yourselves through any creeping creature that crawls on the ground. For I am HASHEM Who has brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God. Thus, you shall be holy, because I am holy. (Vayikra 11:43-45)

What does it mean to be “holy”? It’s not so easy to understand from our earthly station how avoiding certain foods make us “holy”. Why is the exodus from Egypt relevant to the discussion of Kashrus? So HASHEM is “holy”! How does that help us?

It took me about 10 years maybe as many cars to learn two important words. I not sure if it’s hyphened or maybe a regular compound word but not knowing it compounded certain problems in my life. Those or that word is “oil-change”! It was only after have burnt out many an old clunker and then investing in a fairly new car that I with my wife’s encouragement I peeked inside the user’s manual in the glove compartment and it was there I first learned about the 3,000 mile “oil-change”. I guess we did not want to get stuck making payments on a car that had outlived its usefulness that drove us to defer to the wisdom of the manufacturer for maintenance instructions. There you go! If it’s that way by a car, which is just a monetary purchase how much more it is applicable to the investment of one’s very life and soul.

Maybe we can understand how things work with the following instructive words of Moshe Chaim Luzzatto ztl. in his classic work “Path of the Just”: We thus derive that the essence of a man's existence in this world is solely the fulfilling of Mitzvoth, the serving of God and the withstanding of trials, and that the world's pleasures should serve only the purpose of aiding and assisting him, by way of providing him with the contentment and peace of mind requisite for the freeing of his heart for the service which devolves upon him. It is indeed fitting that his every inclination be towards the Creator, may His Name be blessed, and that his every action, great or small, be motivated by no purpose other than that of drawing near to the Blessed One and breaking all the barriers (all the earthy elements and their concomitants) that stand between him and his Possessor, until he is pulled towards the Blessed One just as iron to a magnet.

Anything that might possibly be a means to acquiring this closeness, he should pursue and clutch, and not let go of; and anything which might be considered a deterrent to it, he should flee as from a fire. As it is stated (Psalms 63:9), "My soul clings to You; Your right hand sustains me." For a man enters the world only for this purpose - to achieve this closeness by rescuing his soul from all the deterrents to it and from all that detracts from it.”

There is a natural tendency for the soul which can be compared to a small magnet to be attracted to the HASHEM which is like a huge magnet. One will automatically jump to cleave to the other. However if you put more and more papers as an interposition between the magnets then the attraction will become gradually weaker and weaker until it is barely perceptible.

That’s what “Tuma”- contamination seems to do to us. Therefore if the user’s manual, from Mount Sinai says to use a certain fuel and to avoid another who are we to disagree?!

DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and



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