Torah E-Thought: Bending the Rules


This Week at Lubavitch Centre of Leeds
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Pesach Candle Lighting:
Tues 14th: 7.30pm
Wed 15th: 8.47pm
Pesach ends:
Thurs 9:02pm
Friday 10th, 7:30pm    
Shabbat ends: 9:06pm 
Torah Portion: Shemini

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Message from the Rabbi
Dear Friend,
I hope you are staying safe and keeping well.

Tonight we start the last days of Pesach. You can read about the observances here. Last night we held a class on how to do a Yizkor at home. You can watch the class here and download the text of Yizkor here.

All our coronavirus support is online here.

Wishing you a Good Yom Tov and a Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Eli Pink
Director of Education
Chabad Lubavitch Leeds

A young boy was refusing to eat. His parents brought him to a psychiatrist. After a long discussion alone with the boy, the doctor emerged. 'The good news,' the doctor proclaimed, 'is that he has agreed to start eating. The bad news is he says he'll only eat rattlesnakes.'

'Fine!' Cried the parents, 'at least our boy won't starve to death.' They hurried to the local pet shop, purchases a rattlesnake. and brought it to the doctor's office. The doctor nervously placed the snake in front of the boy.

'I'm not going to eat it,' he said. 'But why not?' Asked the doctor. 'It's not fried,' said the boy. 'I'll only eat it if it's fried.'

The doctor hurried to the staff kitchen, fried the snake in a pan, and brought it back to the boy.

'I'm not going to eat it,' he said. 'But why not?' Pleaded the doctor, increasingly disturbed. The boy answered, 'I'll only eat if you eat half of it first. Then I'll eat my half.'

The doctor, at his wits end, reluctantly chewed down half the snake and glared at the boy.

'I'm not going to eat it,' said the boy. 'Why not?!' Screamed the doctor. The boy replied, 'because you ate my half...'

This week's Torah portion includes the laws of kosher and non-kosher animals. One of these laws is that 'anything that walks 'gachon' - bending down - is not fit for consumption.'  Why use such a strange turn of phrase and not just write 'anything that creeps' or 'moves on its belly' like in other places?

Rashi explains that 'gachon' refers to the movement of the snake. It bends down then falls on its belly, bends again and then falls again. The Torah uses the word 'gachon' because it wants to emphasise the snake's nature and not just its name. The Zohar teaches that the snake symbolises the evil inclination with a person because it is the evil inclination that prompts us to bend down spiritually and then fall.

Apart from the laws of kosher, the snake features on a different occasion in the Torah, in a few months time we read about the Jews being attacked by fiery serpents in the deserts. Moses made a copper snake and placed it high on a pole. Anyone who would look at this snake was healed.

There has been a lot of talk about different leniencies in Jewish law during the coronavirus crisis and over Pesach. There is no question that certain “leniencies” are not leniencies but imperatives and this is precisely what G-d wants us to be doing now. For someone who would normally be going to shul to say kaddish or to hear Torah reading, it is not a leniency that they are currently not going, but the actual halocho. Other leniencies, such as using certain products over Passover, are there for when are needed and not as blanket rules and each person needs to make a judgement about their capacity and the capacity of their family and how they are managing in the current lockdown.

The way of the evil inclination is not to directly tell a person to sin or violate the law. It prompts a person to procrastinate or compromise, until the person comes on his own to neglect and then violate the law.

This is why the Torah uses the word 'gachon' - 'bend.' First the evil inclination suggests, 'bend on this one - don't actually break the law, but just compromise here and there.' The evil inclination knows that if we bend and give in, we will eventually fall down on our belly.

Certainly, there is no mitzvah to be foolish, but at the same time, we need to be honest with ourselves and know when the bending is coming from a holy place, and when it is coming from an unholy place.

Please G-d we will soon be able to observe all the commandments fully with the coming of Moshiach now!
Lunch and Learn

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Parshah in a Nutshell

Parshat Shemini

On the eighth day, following the seven days of their inauguration, Aaron and his sons begin to officiate as kohanim (priests); a fire issues forth from G‑d to consume the offerings on the altar, and the divine presence comes to dwell in the Sanctuary.

Aaron’s two elder sons, Nadav and Avihu, offer a “strange fire before G‑d, which He commanded them not” and die before G‑d. Aaron is silent in face of his tragedy. Moses and Aaron subsequently disagree as to a point of law regarding the offerings, but Moses concedes to Aaron that Aaron is in the right.

G‑d commands the kosher laws, identifying the animal species permissible and forbidden for consumption. Land animals may be eaten only if they have split hooves and also chew their cud; fish must have fins and scales; a list of non-kosher birds is given, and a list of kosher insects (four types of locusts).

Also in Shemini are some of the laws of ritual purity, including the purifying power of the mikvah (a pool of water meeting specified qualifications) and the wellspring. Thus the people of Israel are enjoined to “ differentiate between the impure and the pure.”