Parshat Shemini



Parshat Shemini
Vayikra 11:2,29-30,46-47
These are the creatures that you may eat from among all the land animals
The following shall be unclean for you from among the things that swarm on the earth: the mole, the mouse, and great lizards of each variety; the gecko, the land crocodile, the lizard, the sand lizard, and the chameleon. Those are for you the unclean among all the swarming things; whoever touches them when they are dead shall be unclean until evening.
These are the instructions concerning animals, birds, all living creatures that move in water, and all creatures that swarm on the earth, for distinguishing between the unclean and the clean, between living things that may be eaten and the living things that may not be eaten.
tumah : impurity, a person or object which contracts tumah is tamei
taharah : purity, a person or object in a state of taharah is tahor
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
We do not know why hedgehogs, chameleons, lizards, and snails are tamei, while frogs are pure. There seems to be no reason why a frog, which is pure whether alive or dead, should be considered more exalted than a weasel or a mouse. However, the Torah distinguished between them, and we have no logical explanation for it.
When someone sinks to psychological or medical explanations, he need only peruse the section discussing the eight creeping things — for once, human psychology [or mussar explanations as in Sefer HaChinuch] has little to say. What is the benefit of avoiding hedgehogs, chameleons, lizards, and snails? Why are the weasel and the mouse worse than the cat and dog? … Any attempt to impose artificial explanations on these laws — explanation relating to physical health or mental health — not only is problematic in itself but is a perversion of truth, and that is truly unforgivable.
When approaching the Torah, there is no point in considering the personal benefit to be gained, nor does one always find meaningful ideas. It is therefore good to recall the words of the Kotzker Rebbe to a man who came to him with questions about God: “A God who can be understood by anyone is not worth serving.”
Rabbi Yehudah Leib
Since God has brought us into true freedom, we are not permitted to eat any of those things that enslave the soul to the body. The essence of the soul’s liberation is that it not be tied down to bodily things…
…the life-force cannot be drawn forth from some things because they contain an admixture of good and evil. [chewing the cud and a split hoof symbolizes the opening of the outer to the inner]
In these the life-force is drawn after the Jew who eats of them in holiness. The forbidden species are those from which we cannot bring forth that holiness. That is why the blessed Holy One has separated us from them.







Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash