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Parashat Shemini



Leviticus 9:1 – 11:47


Hebrew Vocabulary




Hebrew Parsha

Nadav and Avihu Die

On the eighth day, Moses summoned Aaron, his sons, and the elders of Israel. He said to Aaron, “Take yourself a calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both unblemished and sacrifice them before HaShem. Speak to the Israelites, and tell them to take unblemished animals: a goat for a sin offering, a yearling calf and a lamb for a burnt offering, and a bull and a ram for peace offerings. They shall sacrifice these before HaShem along with a meal offering mixed with oil because HaShem will reveal Himself to you today.”

They brought what Moses ordered to the front of the Communion Tent, and the entire community came forth and stood before HaShem. Moses said, “This is what HaShem has commanded. Do it and HaShem’s glory will be revealed to you.” Moses then said to Aaron, “Approach the altar and prepare your sin offering and the burnt offering, thus atoning for you and the people. Then prepare the people’s offering to atone for them, as HaShem has commanded.”

Aaron went up to the altar, and he slaughtered the calf that he had for a sin offering. Aaron’s sons brought forth the blood, and dipping his finger in the blood, Aaron placed some on the altar’s protrusions. He then spilled out the rest of the blood at the altar’s base. He burned the fat, the kidneys and the liver lobe of the sin offering. It was all done as HaShem had commanded Moses.

He then burned the flesh and skin of the sin offering in fire outside the camp. He slaughtered the burnt offering. Aaron’s sons passed the blood to him, and he dashed the blood on all sides of the altar. They passed him the cut-up parts of the burnt offering, piece by piece, along with the head, and he burned them on the altar. He washed the entrails and the feet and burned them on the altar along with the rest of the burnt offering. He brought forth the people’s offering. He took the goat that was the people’s sin offering, and slaughtered it, preparing it as a sin offering, just like the first one. He brought forth the burnt offering, preparing it according to the law. He brought forth the grain offering. He took a handful and burned it on the altar. This was in addition to the morning grain offering.

He slaughtered the bull and the ram which were the people’s peace sacrifice. Aaron’s sons passed the blood to him, and he dashed it on all sides of the altar. They also passed him the choice parts of the bull and ram: the broad tail, the fatty membrane, the kidneys, and the liver lobe.

They placed the choice parts on the chests of the animals, and Aaron then burned the choice parts on the altar. Aaron had first waved the chests and right hind legs in the prescribed motions as a wave offering before HaShem. It was all done as HaShem had commanded Moses.

Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them. He then descended from the altar where he had prepared the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offerings. Moses and Aaron went into the Communion Tent, and when they came out, they blessed the people. HaShem’s glory was then revealed to all the people. Fire came forth from before HaShem and consumed the burnt offering and the choice parts on the altar. When the people saw this, they raised their voices in praise and threw themselves on their faces.

Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, each took his fire pan, placed fire on it, and then incense on it. They offered it before HaShem, but it was an unauthorized fire, which HaShem had not instructed them to offer. Fire came forth from before HaShem, and it consumed them so that they died before HaShem.


Moses said to Aaron, “This is exactly what HaShem meant when he said, I will be sanctified among those close to Me, and I will thus be glorified.”

Moses summoned Mishael and Eltzafan, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and he said to them, “Come forth and remove your close relatives from inside the sanctuary. Bring them outside the camp.”

They came forth and carried Nadav and Avihu outside the camp, in their tunics, as Moses had said. Moses said to Aaron and his sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not go without a haircut and do not tear your vestments; otherwise you will die, bringing divine wrath upon the entire community. As far as your brothers are concerned, let the entire family of Israel mourn for the ones whom HaShem burned. Do not leave the entrance of the Communion Tent lest you die, because HaShem’s anointing oil is still upon you.”

They did as Moses had said.


HaShem spoke to Aaron, saying: When you enter the Communion Tent, neither you nor your descendants may drink wine or any other intoxicant; otherwise you will die. This is an eternal law for all your generations. You will thus be able to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the ritually unclean and the clean. You will also be able to render decisions for the Israelites in all the laws that HaShem has taught you through Moses.

Completing the Service

Moses announced to Aaron and his surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, “Take the remainder of the meal offering that is before HaShem and eat it as unleavened bread near the altar. Since it is holy of holies, you must eat it in a holy place. It is the portion for you and your descendants from HaShem’s fire offerings since I have thus been commanded. However, the chest taken as a wave offering and the hind leg taken as an elevated gift, you may eat together with your sons and daughters. It is the portion designated for you and your descendants from the peace sacrifices of the Israelites. The hind leg for the elevated gift, and the chest for the wave offering, shall be brought on top of the choice parts designated as the fire offering. It is all to be waved in the prescribed motions of the wave offering. The leg and chest are meant to be a portion for you and your descendants for all time, as HaShem commanded.”

Moses then inquired about the goat slaughtered as a sin offering, and when he discovered that it had already been burned, he was angry with Aaron’s surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar. He said to them, “Why did you not eat the sin offering in a holy area? It is holy of holies, and has been given to you to remove the community’s guilt and atone for them before HaShem. Since its blood was not brought into the inner sanctuary, you should have eaten it in a holy place, as I commanded you.”

Aaron responded to Moses, “Today when they sacrificed their sin offering and burnt offering before HaShem, such a terrible tragedy occurred to me. If I had eaten the sin offering today, would it have been right in HaShem’s eyes?” When Moses heard this, he approved.

The Dietary Laws

HaShem spoke to Moses and Aaron, telling them to speak to the Israelites and convey the following to them: Of all the animals in the world, these are the ones that you may eat: Among mammals, you may eat anyone that has true hooves that are cloven and that brings up its cud. However, among the cud-chewing, hoofed animals, these are the ones that you may not eat: The camel shall be unclean to you although it brings up its cud since it does not have a true hoof. The hyrax shall be unclean to you although it brings up its cud since it does not have a true hoof. The hare shall be unclean to you although it brings up its cud since it does not have a true hoof. The pig shall be unclean to you although it has a true hoof which is cloven since it does not chew its cud.

Do not eat the flesh of any of these animals. At this time do not touch their carcasses, since they are unclean to you. This is what you may eat of all that is in the water: You may eat any creature that lives in the water, whether in seas or rivers, as long as it has fins and scales. On the other hand, all creatures in seas and rivers that do not have fins and scales, whether they are small aquatic animals or other aquatic creatures, must be avoided by you. They will always be something to be shunned. You must avoid them by not eating their flesh. Every aquatic creature without fins and scales must be shunned by you.

These are the flying animals that you must avoid. Since they are to be avoided, do not eat any of the following: The eagle, the ossifrage, the osprey, the kite, the vulture family, the entire raven family, the ostrich, the owl, the gull, the hawk family, the falcon, the cormorant, the ibis, the swan, the pelican, the magpie, the stork, the heron family, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Every flying insect that uses four legs for walking shall be avoided by you. The only flying insects with four walking legs that you may eat are those that have knees extending above their feet, using these longer legs to hop on the ground. Among these, you may only eat members of the red locust family, the yellow locust family, the spotted gray locust family, and the white locust family. All other flying insects with four feet for walking must be avoided by you.

There are also animals that will defile you so that anyone touching their carcasses will be unclean until evening. Furthermore, anyone lifting their carcasses will have to immerse even his clothing, and then remain unclean until evening. Thus, every animal that has true hooves, but is not cloven-hoofed and does not bring up its cud, is unclean to you, and anyone touching its flesh shall become unclean. Similarly, every animal that walks on its paws among four-footed animals shall be unclean to you, and anyone touching its carcass shall be unclean until evening. Furthermore, one who lifts its carcass must immerse even his clothing and then remain unclean until evening. They are unclean to you in this respect.

Smaller Animals

These are the smaller animals that breed on land that are unclean to you: the weasel, the mouse, the ferret, the hedgehog, the chameleon, the lizard, the snail, and the mole. These are the small animals that are unclean to you; whoever touches them when they are dead shall remain unclean until evening. If any of these dead animals falls on anything, such as wooden vessels, clothing, leather goods, sacks, or any other article with which work is done, then that article must be immersed in a mikvah, and remain unclean until evening, whereupon it becomes clean. If any of these dead animals fall on the inside of a clay vessel, then anything inside it becomes unclean, and the vessel itself shall be broken. Thus, any usual food that has once been wet with water shall become unclean. Any usual beverage in a vessel likewise becomes unclean. Thus, anything upon which their dead bodies fall shall be unclean. In such a case, even an oven or range is unclean and must be broken down, since it otherwise remains unclean to you. The only thing that shall always remain ritually clean is a mikvah of water, whether it is a man-made pit or a natural spring. Any other water that comes in contact with the dead bodies of these animals shall become unclean. If their dead bodies fall on any edible seeds that are planted, the seeds remain ritually clean. However, if water has once been placed on such unplanted seeds, and then the dead body of any of these animals falls on them, the seeds shall be unclean to you.

Other Laws Involving Animals

If any animal that you may eat dies, anyone touching its carcass shall be unclean until evening. Anyone eating something from such a carcass must immerse even his clothing, and then remain unclean until evening. Similarly, one who lifts such a carcass shall immerse even his clothing and then remain unclean until evening.

Every small animal that breeds on land shall be avoided by you and shall not be eaten. Thus, you may not eat any creature that crawls on its belly, or any small animal with four or more feet that breeds on land. They are all things that must be avoided. Do not make yourselves disgusting by eating any small creature that breeds. Do not defile yourselves with them, because it will make you spiritually insensitive. For I am HaShem, and since I am holy, you must also make yourselves holy and remain sanctified. Therefore, do not defile your souls by eating any small animal that lives on the land. I am HaShem, and I brought you out of Egypt to be your G-d. Therefore, since I am holy, you must also remain holy. This then is the law concerning mammals, birds, aquatic creatures, and lower forms of terrestrial animals. With this law, you will be able to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between edible animals and animals that may not be eaten.


Haftarah Connection

Haftarah Study

II Samuel 6.1-7.17

This week’s Parsha deals with the eight-day consecration of the Mishkan. All of the rituals were completed and now the people of Israel had a place where they could commune with HaShem.

In the Haftara, King David moved the Ark of the Covenant to to Jerusalem. The act of moving it to Jerusalem started the Temple Period.


Sidra Stats

Sidra Stats

  • Twenty-Sixth of 54 Sedras in the Torah
  • Written on 157 lines in the Sefer Torah
  • 91 P’sukim (verses)
  • 1,238 words
  • 4,670 letters

Next week’s Parashat: Tazria