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2010-04-09 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parsha Shemini


Beyond Twelve Gates -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason

Parshas Shemini       April 9, 2010



Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. 


Comedienne Phyllis Diller once said, "A smile is a curve that sets everything straight."  A new study reports that if you smile, you may even live longer. 


Researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit used information from the Baseball Register to look at photos of 230 professional baseball players from before 1950..  A rating of their smile intensity was made (big smile, no smile, partial smile), and compared with data from deaths that occurred in 2006 and 2009.  For those players who had died, the researchers found longevity ranged from an average of 72.9 years for players with no smiles to 75 years for players with partial smiles to 79.9 years for players with big smiles.  Researchers also found that  people who smile often are usually happier, have more stable personalities, more stable marriages, better cognitive skills and better interpersonal skills. 


The Talmud says, "Better to whiten your teeth (smile) at your friend than to give him milk (even if he's very thirsty)"   Our experience in life teaches us that smiling definitely gives one more energy to live and to love. It may even help us to live longer!



Parshas Shemini  Leviticus 9:1 -- 11:47


This week's Torah portion begins by discussing the events which occurred on the eighth and final day of the inauguration service of the Mishkan.  After months of preparation and anticipation, Aaron and his sons are finally installed as Kohanim in an elaborate service. Aaron blesses the people, and the entire nation rejoices as G-d's presence rests upon them.  However, the excitement come to an abrupt halt as Aaron's two eldest sons, Nadav and Avihu, are consumed by a heavenly fire in the Mishkan while innovating an offering of incense on the altar.  This incident stresses the need to perform the commandments only as G-d directed.  Later, Moses consoles Aaron, who grieves in silence. 


Have you ever wondered where the laws of kosher food come from? Parshas Shemini concludes with a listing of the kosher and non-kosher animals.  The identifying sign of a kosher land animal is that it has split hooves and chews, regurgitates and re-chews its food.  A kosher fish is identified by having both fins and scales. All  birds not included in the list of forbidden fowl are permitted. However, in this day and age the exact identities of these non-kosher birds is doubtful, so we're forbidden to eat any species of bird unless there is a well-established tradition that it is kosher. The Torah forbids all types of insects except for four species of locusts. Chocolate-covered grasshoppers, anyone? The laws of kashrut help us to be separate and holy -- like G-d, Himself.   


Rabbinic Ruminations


A giant lizard, recently discovered in the forested mountains of the Philippines, has been hailed by experts as "an incredible find." While it is not that unusual to find a new species of tiny fish, frog or insect these days, the discovery of the 6.5 foot golden-spotted monitor lizard - a new species -- has the scientific community abuzz.  Scientists compare this find to the 1993 discovery of the forest-dwelling Saola ox in Vietnam and to a new monkey species discovered in the highlands of Tanzania in 2006.


The discovery of the new lizard is noteworthy from a Torah perspective. A land animal is kosher if it has split hooves and chews its cud.  In this week's Torah portion (Shemini) we're told that only four animals (camel, hare, hyrax and pig)  in the entire world have just one of the two 'kosher' signs.  Could a human author of the Torah, written 3300 years ago in the Middle East, have made such a claim? Could that author have traveled to the Australian Outback, Amazon Rainforest and Himalayan Peaks to view and examine every single animal in the world?  The credibility of the Torah would certainly be called into question if a fifth animal with only one kosher sign was later discovered in, for example, the forested mountains of the Philippines.


The golden-spotted monitor lizard does not have split hooves, nor does it chew its cud. The Author of the Torah -- 'Author' with a capital 'A' -- knew better than Steve Irwin, Marlin Perkins and all future animal biologists that no fifth animal with one kosher sign would ever be found.  That's because, of course, the Author of the Torah is G-d.



Quote of the Week


We have to use the time we have left -- Jack Bauer (Star of '24')



Joke of the Week


Nigel Goldberg was waiting in line to be knighted by the Queen. Like the nine others before him, Nigel practiced in Latin for several months his sentence of acceptance.  Each of the first nine men flawlessly uttered their line in the ancient language.   However, when Nigel's turn came, he panicked in the excitement of the moment and completely forgot what he was supposed to say. . Thinking fast, Nigel recited a sentence in a foreign language which he remembered from his youth -- something that was said at his family Passover seder:

"Ma nishtana ha layla ha zeh mi kol ha laylos."

Puzzled, Her Majesty turns to her advisor and whispered, "Why is this knight different from all other knights?"





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