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Does treif really mean non-kosher? Print E-mail
Friday, 29 March 2024

In Parhsat Tzav, Vayikra 7:24, we read:

The fat of a neveilah (an animal that died) and the fat of a treifah (an animal that had been torn to death) may be put to any use; but you shall not eat it.

A neveilah is a kosher species of animal that died without shechitah (ritual slaughter) and is therefore not kosher.

A treifah is an animal that was mortally wounded and then killed by shechitah or an animal that had a disease or a wound in a vital organ that would cause it to die within twelve months. In these cases, shechitah doesn’t help and the meat would be forbidden.

The Talmud, Chullin 42a (the first Mishna in Chapter 3) lists 18 different defects that render an animal a treifah.

The Gemara explains that we learn about treifah in Parshat Mishpatim, Shmot 22:30:

You shall be people of holiness to Me. You must not eat treifah (flesh that was torn off) in the field. Throw it to the dog.

Rashi comments:

If you will be holy and abstain from the abhorrence of eating neveilah and treifah then you are Mine. But if not, then you are not Mine.

Yaakov uses the word treif in the Book of Breisheet:

In Breisheet 37:33, when Yaakov is shown Yosef’s blood stained coat he says:

“My son’s tunic! A savage beast devoured him! Tarof Toraf Yosef (he has surely been torn to bits).”

When Yaakov gave Binyamin his blessing, in Breisheet 49:27 he said:

Binyamin Ze’ev Yitarf (is a predatory wolf). In the morning he will devour prey and in the evening he will distribute spoils.

We see from here that although people use the word treif to mean non-kosher, that is not really the case. The prohibition against eating non-kosher animals and meat and milk together has nothing to do with the word treif which refers specifically to flesh that was torn.

What is Levona (frankincense)? Print E-mail
Thursday, 30 March 2023

Levona is mentioned over twenty times in the Tanach. Here are some examples:

In Parshat Tzav (Vayikra 6:7-8), we read about the Levona:

This is the law of the meal offering (mincha). The sons of Aharon bring it before God, to the front of the altar. He shall separate from it, when he takes his fistful, from some of the meal offering’s fine flour and some of its oil and all the frankincense which is on the meal-offering. He shall burn, on the altar a pleasing fragrance; its memorial portion to God.

We are already familiar with the Levona from Shmot 30:34, where the Levona is listed as one of the spices used for the Ketoret (incense).

In Parshat Vayikra, Levona appears four times as part of the mincha offerings as well as once (Vayikra 5:11) where we learn that if a person brings a guilt offering/sin offering they should not put Levona on it as it is a sin offering.

In Vayikra 24:7, Levona is mentioned in relation to the Lechem HaPanim.

In Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) 3:6, Levona is considered a perfume:

Who is coming out of the wilderness, like columns of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?

What exactly is the Levona and what is so special about it?

Levona is an aromatic resin (hardened gum like material) that comes from the trunk of Boswellia trees. It is called Levona because it is white (lavan). In English it is called frankincense from the French words “franc encens” meaning pure incense. Its main use was for incense in religious rituals.

At the end of the Book of Shoftim (21:19), when we read about the sons from the tribe of Binyamin getting married, we learn about a place called Levona:

They then said, Behold, there is a yearly feast of the Lord in Shilo which is on the north side of Beit El, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Beit El to Shchem and on the south of Levona.

Yehuda Maccabi fought in the area of Levona as mentioned in Sefer Chashmonaim.

A modern day settlement in the Shomron, called Maale Levona, just south of Shchem was established in 1984. A lot of proof was found that Levona was grown in the area since Biblical times which makes it likely that this is the same Levona that is mentioned in Shoftim.

In folk medicine, its oil is used to dress wounds, cure diseases, as a remedy for snake bites and for aromatherapy. Some say that it can also help those who are suffering from depression as well as kill bacteria and fungi.

Levona is also used as a fragrance in soaps, lotions and perfumes.

In Shir HaShirim 4:14, it is listed with all of the most expensive spices:

…Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices.

It is amazing that the Levona has still not lost its touch.

May the time come when we can return to using the Levona for holy purposes.

Will Eliyahu HaNavi be invited in this year? Print E-mail
Friday, 10 April 2020

There are many people joking that this year  they will be afraid to open their door for Eliyahi HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet) since they don’t know where else he has been, which flights he took and what germs were in the cups that he already drank from. We are also being told to not let anyone in to our homes no matter what the circumstances.

In the Haftara for Shabbat HaGadol, from Malachi 3:4-24, we read “Behold! I will send you Eliyahu HaNavi, before the great (gadol) and terrible (norah) day of God.”

What is God’s purpose in sending Eliyahu?

According to Radak, God is sending Eliyahu to encourage the nation to repent before the Day of Judgment.

What is this great and terrible day?

It will be a day that will be great for the righteous but terrible for the wicked.

We see a similar concept in Yoel 2:11, “God has emitted His voice before the advent of His army, for His camp is very numerous, for those who carry out His word are mighty. For the day of God is great and very terrible; who will be able to bear it?”

Which army are we talking about here?

This is an army of locusts that God is sending to arouse the population to repent. The punishment on that day will be very harsh.

Abarbanel comments that nobody will be able to withstand the onslaught of the locusts.

Malbim’s view is that although the army of locusts is a strong force, the will of those who follow God’s word to repent will be stronger. They will succeed in driving the locusts out.

We also see in Yoel 3:4, “The sun will turn to darkness and the moon to blood (red) before the great and terrible day of God.”

These miracles through nature will symbolize that the great and terrible Day of Judgment for all of the nations is imminent.

If we go back to our Haftara in Malachi 3:24 we see what Eliyahu will do: “He will return to God the hearts of fathers with their sons and the hearts of sons with their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with utter destruction.”

What did the people at the time of Malachi (Second Temple) do that was so terrible?

The Jews outside of Israel refused to return. The Jews in the Land of Israel intermarried. They went to sorcerers and were adulterers. There was political and economic suffering. They treated the worker, widow, orphan and stranger unfairly. The Jews rejected God. The Priesthood was corrupt. Inferior offerings were sacrificed. The righteous suffered. Trumot and Maasrot were not separated for the Kohanim and Leviim.

According to Malachi’s prophecy, Eliyahu’s job is to wake everyone up to repent because without repentance, there will be total destruction.

This teaches us the power of tshuva, repentance. As we see in Dvarim 4:30-31, “When you are in distress and all these things come upon you in the end of days (acharit hayamim), if you turn to the Lord, your God, and are obedient to His voice; He will not forsake you, nor will He destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which he swore to them.”

We see from here that Eliyahu really is needed to come in and make sure that we are on the path to tshuva, to mend our ways, bring us closer to God and save us from destruction. Maybe we should count him in the category of an essential worker.

In Malachi 3:20, we also see a positive image of the sun (in contrast to the negative image in Yoel), “And a sun of righteousness will shine for you who fear My Name, with healing in its rays, and you will go out and flourish like calves in the stall.”

May the sun of righteousness shine upon us with healing rays and may the time come quickly when we can safely go forth from our homes like cows who were closed up in their stalls and are now being let out into the meadows.

The Great Shabbat Print E-mail
Friday, 27 March 2015

Why is the Shabbat before Pesach called Shabbat Hagadol (The Great Shabbat)?

Often, the special Shabbatot are named after the beginning words of the Haftara as in the cases of Shabbat Chazon (Chazon Yishayahu), Shabbat Nachamu (Nachamu Nachamu Ami) and Shabbat Shuva (Shuva Yisrael). However, the beginning of the Haftara for Shabbat Hagadol (Malachi 3:4-24) does not have the word “gadol” in it. Rabbi Yisaschar Yaakovson points out that instead we find the word “gadol” near the end of the Haftara in sentence 23: “Behold! I will send you Eliyahu HaNavi (the prophet) before the great (gadol) and awesome day of God.”

The great day will come right before the final redemption.

What will Eliyahu do? In sentence 23 we read: “He shall restore the heart of the fathers to children and the heart of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with destruction.”

The holiday of Pesach is the holiday of redemption so it makes sense to read the words about the final redemption while family members are getting ready to join together.

Why do we open the door on the seder night?

According to the Magen Avraham, by opening the door we are showing that we are not afraid. At the time of the Exodus, during the plague of Makat Bechorot (Firstborn) the doors were closed tight while the angel passed over the Jewish homes. Seder night is called “Leil Shimurim”, “Night of Watching” just as God protected the first born so too will he will protect us today and therefore we have nothing to fear.

The Talmud, Rosh HaShana 11a explains that the Jews are destined to be redeemed during the month of Nisan (the month of Pesach). Therefore we open the door in expectation of Eliyahu who will bring good news about the coming of the Mashiach.

The Maharal of Prague added a Prayer for Eliyahu to his seder. The prayer is a combination of what we say in Birkat HaMazon on a daily basis and the end of our Haftara:

HaRachaman hu yishlach lanu et Eliyahu HaNavi Zachur Latov, viyvaser lanu besorot tovot yeshuot venechamot kaamur hineh anochi sholeach lachem et Eliyahu HaNavi lifnei bo yom HaShem HaGadol VeHaNora, Veheshiv lev avot al banim vilev banim al avotam.

May the Merciful One send Eliyahu the prophet to announce good news about redemption and comfort- just as You promised: “Behold! I will send you Eliyahu HaNavi before the great and awesome day of God. He shall restore the heart of the fathers to children and the heart of children to their fathers.”

We learn from the story of the Exodus that there is always hope. Just as we were redeemed from slavery so too we shall once again be redeemed. When will that redemption come? When children and parents and those alienated from each other will get along.

The Maharal leaves out the words “lest I come and strike the land with destruction” and the Haftara ends on a positive note by repeating the words: “Behold! I will send you Eliyahu HaNavi before the great and awesome day of God” in the hope for a better future.

Not Consuming Blood Teaches Us Sensitivity Print E-mail
Friday, 30 March 2012

Parsha Points- Tzav 5772


Not Consuming Blood Teaches Us Sensitivity


In Parshat Tzav, Vayikra 7:26, we read: “You shall not consume any blood, in any of your dwelling places, whether from foul or from animals.”


Why does the pasuk have to say “in any of your dwelling places?” Why doesn’t it just say “you shall not consume blood?”


We learn from here that the law of not eating blood applies all over the world, not just in the Land of Israel. This is a personal obligation (hovat haguf) and not an agricultural obligation pertaining to the Land (hovat karka).


Rashi comments on Masechet Kidushin 37b that there was a need to mention “in any of your dwelling places” since we may have thought that since the prohibitions of blood and fats are found in the chapter of the korbanot (sacrifices) that the prohibitions apply only in the Land of Israel while the Beit HaMikdash is in existence and sacrifices are being brought. From here we see that no matter where we find ourselves in the world we may not eat the blood.


Sefer HaHinuch adds that this law is in effect at all times.


This law was not only in effect when the pagans ate the blood while trying to become closer to the spirits (Rambam, Guide for the Perplexed) it is still in effect even when we are not combating idol worship.


Ramban feels that the prohibition of blood is primarily to educate us towards respect and consideration for all living beings. Since God endowed the animals with life- and the blood is the life force- it is improper for “the possessor of a soul” to “consume another soul.”


If the point of not eating the blood is to teach us sensitivity towards the animals then it would make sense that the law should be in effect at all times and all over the world.



Who is Holier a Reformed Bandit or a Tzadik? Print E-mail
Thursday, 02 April 2009

Parshat Tzav describes the Korban Mincha, The Meal Offering that Aharon’s sons were to bring before God.


In Vayikra 6:9-10 we read: “Aharon and his sons shall eat what is left of it (the Korban Mincha); it shall be eaten with Matzah (unleavened) in a holy place (Kadosh), in the courtyard of Ohel Moed (The Tent of Meeting) they shall eat it. It shall not be baked with Chametz (leaven)…it is Kodesh Kodashim, most holy like the Chatat (Sin Offering) and like the Asham (Guilt Offering).


The Kli Yakar teaches that the Sin Offering and the Guilt Offering bring atonement and therefore they are called “Kodesh Kodashim”, “Most Holy”. We learn in Masechet Sanhedrin 95a: Where Ba’alei Tshuvah (penitents) stand, Tzadikim (the righteous) do not stand.


Reish Lakish (himself an anomaly among the giants of Torah study, as he was in his early youth a bandit and gladiator and was later regarded as one of the most prominent Amoraim of the second generation) taught in Masechet Yoma 86b: Great is repentance (motivated by love), for because of it willful transgressions are accounted for the penitent as inadvertent errors. This is a step that a complete Tzadik will never reach.


The Netziv explains that the Mincha was brought to atone for a deterioration of character. In the Tanach, David suggested that King Saul bring a Korban Mincha, for he was suffering from depression and anger.


The Korban Mincha is to be eaten with Matzah and is considered “Kodesh Kodashim”, must be kept separate. If the Matzah becomes leavened, it is ruined and becomes Chametz. So too we must be careful to stay away from behaviors that can jepordise our holiness.


Today, we don’t have the Korban Mincha (or any of the Korbanot). However, one must never discount the power of prayer which since the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash has replaced the Korbanot and can help transform the bandits and gladiators into true Ba’alei Tshuva.

Birkat HaGomel, The Thanksgiving Prayer Print E-mail
Thursday, 06 April 2006

In Vayikra 7:11-12 we read "This is the law of the zevach shlamim, peace offering that one will bring to God. If he brings it as a thanksgiving offering."

According to Rashi, One brings the offering regarding a matter of thanksgiving for a miraculous act which occurred to him such as if he returned from a sea voyage, crossed the desert, was healed from an illness or emerged from prison.

Although we don't have sacrifices today, The Gemara in Brachot 54b states that these four categories of people must recite a blessing. What blessing should they recite? Rav Yehudah said: "baruch gomel chasadim tovim", "Blessed are you who bestows beneficial kindness". The Rif, Re'ah, Rambam and Rosh record a different text: "baruch hagomel lechayavim tovot shegmalani kol tov", "Blessed are you who bestows good things upon the guilty, who has bestowed every goodness upon me". We are showing our appreciation for God's bestowing kindness even upon the wicked and for bestowing kindness on us even if we are not deserving of it. The latter is the text that we use for Birkat HaGmel today.

The Gemara in Brachot continues: Abaye said: A person must give thanks in the presence of ten (a minyan).

Birkat HaGomel is traditionally said after the reading of the Torah. One reason why is because in order to have a public Torah reading there must be a minyan. Another reason is that we are publicly acknowledging all of the good that God has done for us.

Today, Birkat HaGomel is said after being saved from any dangerous situation, not just from the four categories listed above. The most common situations where Birkat HaGomel is said are after childbirth, after a car accident and after flying in an airplane. Some say that it is not necessary to say Birkat HaGomel after an airline flight because today driving a car is more dangerous than flying in an airplane.

In Israel today, all elementary school students are required to take a class in Road Safety to insure that the next generation will be educated enough to prevent road accidents which have caused more deaths in Israel than all of the wars put together.