Skip to content


TorahAnytimes Newsletter Shemini

Parshat Shemini

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Shemini                                                                 Print Version
23th of Adar II, 5782 | March 26, 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi YY Jacobson
Sing Their Song

Somebody once asked a wise and deep man, “What is love?” He answered, “Love is learning the song in another person's heart, and singing that song to them when they forget it.”

When I heard that insight, it reminded me of a story that happened in my youth. I grew up in Brooklyn and there was an elderly Jew, a survivor of Stalinist communism. He lost his family, he was a lone man, and together with it all, he was a very sincere Jew. His name was Reb Zalman Teibel. He introduced to the Chassidic world a very famous song – Ana ana avda d’kudsha b’rich hu.” We recite this as we take out a Sefer Torah. This was his song that he brought to the Jewish world. He wrote it in the 60s. Years later, as I remember him, he was already a man in his high 80s or low 90s, and unfortunately, he suffered from Alzheimer’s. He was somewhat senile, so they put him in a home for assisted living in Williamsburg, called Eshel Avraham. He didn't have immediate family, but fine, good Jews took care of him.

One year, right before Yom Kippur, somebody in Eshel Avraham said, “You know, Rabbi Zalman is very close to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Let me bring him to the Rebbe to get a piece of honey cake before Yom Kippur, and receive a blessing for a good and sweet year.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe had a custom on the eve of Yom Kippur, after Mincha, to stand in his room, whereupon thousands and thousands of Jews would come by. Everybody came by for a split second, received a piece of honey cake and a blessing for a good and sweet year. The line stretched down Eastern Parkway, went up Brooklyn Avenue, and extended sometimes even further, but it moved quickly. There were many, many people, suffice it to say.

Reb Zalman was brought from Williamsburg in a wheelchair into the room of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. This was the first time the Rebbe was seeing him after not seeing him for quite a while. But the Rebbe observed immediately that he was mentally absent. He was just not present, and the Rebbe started to talk to him and bless him.

The Rebbe wanted to give him cake, but sadly, Reb Zalman didn’t seem receptive to it. He wasn’t fully coherent. Time inched forward, and now it was very close to him Kippur.
Suddenly, the Rebbe stopped the line and started to sing. The Rebbe had a beautiful voice. What did he sing? Reb Zalman’s tune – “Ana ana avda d’kudsha b’rich hu.”

In middle of the song, Reb Zalman suddenly came back to life. Sometimes, ordinary words cannot trigger the subconscious core that is very aware of everything. But a niggun, a melody, that comes from a person's early years, is embedded in the deepest parts of their brain, of their own neshama. And with the niggun, Reb Zalman was back, just like the good old days. Suddenly then, he looked at himself and he saw that he was standing in front of his Rebbe. The feelings of a chassid to a rebbe and a real rebbe to a real chassid are not describable. The love, the commitment, the loyalty on both sides. Reb Zalman went into a state of ecstasy. He couldn't believe it. He's here, right there.
The Rebbe was so moved, and that was when he gave him the piece of cake, and showered him with beautiful, stupendous blessings for a healthy year and long years. And indeed, he lived quite a few years more.

And then I understood what it means, “Love is learning the song in another’s heart, and singing that song to them when they forget it.”

Every single person has a song. Reb Nachman says every bush, every tree, every animal, every plant, every insect has a song. Certainly every Jewish soul has a song. Every soul has its unique song. Ahavas Yisroel doesn’t just mean I like you, I get along with you, let's unite as words or slogans. Ahavas Yisroel is the courage for you and I, and each and every one of us, to learn the song in another person's heart. Learn the song in your wife's heart, learn the song in your husband's heart. Learn the song in each of your children's hearts. Learn the song in the hearts of every person you encounter, and when they forget their song, instead of getting angry, instead of getting judgmental, instead of getting critical, instead of retreating to fear or ridicule, instead, take a deep breath and sing that song back to them, so that they can resume singing their own beautiful song.

When we look to unite as Jews, when we look at the mirror and say that there’s been enough division, enough fragmentation, enough mistrust, that splits, the hatred and the tunnel vision that makes us so narrow and restricted dissolves. The Jewish people are looking for expansiveness to infinity and to enter the room with G-d where there is space for every soul, which has its song Hashem wants to hear.

Every single person you meet, sing their song to them, and enable them to come alive.

Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Gertzulin
The Sound of Silence

“Vayehi bayom hashmini, and it was on the eighth day.” (Vayikra/Leviticus 9:1)The number seven connotes tevah, what is natural, as in the days of the week, while eight is le'ma'ala min ha'tevah — above and unconstrained by nature, entering the realm of the spiritual.

For a week, Moshe was busy consecrating the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. On Yom HaShemini, the eighth day, the Mishkan was inaugurated. A day of much anticipated joy and celebration. A day of attaining great spiritual heights.

For Aaron, the brother of Moshe and the Kohain Gadol, the High Priest, it evolved into a day of tragedy.

“Nadav and Avihu, sons of Aaron took their fire pans, and placed ketores, incense in them and offered them before HaShem. An alien fire that HaShem had not commanded. And a fire came forth from HaShem and consumed them. And they died before HaShem.” (Vayikra/Leviticus 10:1-2)

Nadav and Avihu erred by bringing an offering on their own. An aish zarah, a foreign fire. An offering that had not been requested by HaShem. There are numerous explanations as to why and how this could have happened. One is a teaching of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (1740-1810). He explains that their death was not a divine punishment, but in their eagerness to serve HaShem, they crossed a boundary, endeavoring to enter a world in which they were unable to exist.

Nadav and Avihu saw their father prepare for the kehunah, the priesthood. A desire to come closer to HaShem was part of their very being. Yet, in their fervor to attain greater spiritual height, they did something they were not asked to do.

We can’t begin to comprehend the agony Aaron must have endured, losing two sons at the very same moment. What words of comfort and consolation could Moshe possibly offer to his beloved brother? With much compassion, Moshe approached Aaron, telling him that Nadav and Avihu perished while sanctifying HaShem’s name. He conveyed a message from HaShem: “B’krovai ekodesh, I will be sanctified by those who are closest to Me, v’al pnei kol ha’am ekovaid, thus, I will be honored before the entire nation.” (Vayikra/Leviticus 10:3)

Rashi comments that Moshe consoled Aaron with these beautiful words: “Aaron achi, my brother Aaron, I knew that the Mishkan would be sanctified by those beloved by HaShem. I thought it would be either you or me. Now I know that they (Nadav and Avihu) were greater than either of us.”

Vayidom Aaron, and Aaron was silent.

How do we understand Aaron’s reaction?

One of the great Torah commentators, the Malbim (1809-1879) explains that the word vayidom, and he was silent, is not commonly used to describe silence. It is used when one becomes quiet in the midst of speaking. While Aaron was expressing his emotions on his tragic loss, Moshe spoke, and Aaron said nothing further.

Upon comforting one who is mourning, it is customary not to initiate conversation, but to allow the mourner to take the lead. Aaron began speaking, and Moshe responded with words of comfort.

Vayidom Aaron. Aaron stopped speaking and accepted Moshe’s words of consolation.

Vayidom has the same root as the Hebrew word domeim, meaning inanimate objects such as stones, rocks and mountains.

Aaron’s reaction was to be resilient, like a rock. After hearing Moshe’s words, he became strong as a mountain. Unshakable and steadfast.

Vayidom – he was silent. Not a silence of anger or bitterness. Nor a silence of despair and depression. Aaron’s silence reflected his emunah and bitachon, his faith and trust in HaShem. Even though the pain was devastating, Aaron’s silence expressed his conviction that HaShem was with him, at all times and through all circumstances. His silence spoke volumes. Aaron was ready to be strong and continue his holy work as the Kohain Gadol.

Life comes with its challenges. Times when we may feel like asking, why me. The Torah teaches us that it’s not about the “why”. Though there may not always be answers as to why, what is vital is to have faith to carry on. That is the essence of a Jew.
It started out as a beautiful fall day. My father, HaRav Meshulem ben HaRav Osher Anshil HaLevi zt”l, went to see a doctor for some stomach pain, expecting a routine exam. But it was anything but routine. My Abba was informed that he was facing a diagnosis of cancer.

Vayidom. My father mustered up his inner reserves of strength, and accepted the doctor’s words with unwavering trust in HaShem. The doctor later shared with our family how “the Rabbi brought tears to my eyes, when he said that he was sorry that I had to relay a difficult diagnosis”.

Vayidom. The day was not over. Without saying a word, or exhibiting any outward sign of pain, my father continued on with his schedule. He went from the doctor’s office to my sister Slovie’s home, to be a loving zeide and study Torah with his grandson.

It was only later in the day that Abba shared the news with our family.

The strength of silence. The power of vayidom.

Pirkei Avos, Ethics of the Fathers tells us that Aaron was known as an oheiv shalom and a rodeph sholom, a lover of peace and a pursuer of peace. A man who lives with faith and trust in HaShem is a man of peace. At peace with himself, and at peace with his fellow man.

The word sholom, is similar to the word sholeim, fulfilled and whole. With the knowledge that HaShem is always guiding us, and is with us no matter what, we are able to experience inner peace, sholom and true fulfillment, shleimus. My mother, the Rebbetzin a”h would often say that my father was like his name – Meshulem, complete and fulfilled. A man of peace and harmony. May both of their neshamos be for a blessing.

This past week the Jewish nation mourned the loss of the leader of our generation, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, zt”l. Though I never had the z’chus, merit to meet the Rov personally, I was privileged to receive a berachah from his Rebbetzin, Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky, a”h. It was years ago, but the memory is vivid. I recall standing on the steps leading up to their home. There was a long line of women waiting to see the Rebbetzin. The home may have been small and humble, but like the Beis HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, the walls seemed to expand, and there was room for everyone. I saw the small kitchen, from where the Rebbetzin cooked for so many, and the room where the Rov learned. The Rov did not need anything more than his seforim. It took me back to a different era.

The Rebbetzin took my kvittel (a note given to a Torah leader requesting a general blessing, or one for a personal need), to give to the Rov. She invited me – as she did so many others – to sit on the chair of her holy father-in-law, HaRav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky, known as the Steipler Gaon zt”l (1899-1985), for a berachah. It was a treasure to be blessed by such great people who gave their entire lives to Klal Yisroel.

Yehi zichronom boruch, May their memories be for a blessing.

Picture of newsletter
100% free

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

Timely Torah insights, stories, and anecdotes from your favorite TorahAnytime speakers, delivered straight to your inbox every week.

Your email is safe with us. We don't spam.