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Shmini 5771

Shmini (Leviticus 9-11 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! A few years ago I received a very interesting email from Micha Males. He asked for my help - and the help of thousands of others as the email spread - to return a diamond ring his wife found in a restroom at a rest stop on the highway from Cleveland to Baltimore. Right before his wife went to use the facilities, they noticed a woman returning from the Ladies Room to the car next to them with a man wearing a yarmulke (kipa, Jewish head covering). After discovering the ring, she ran to catch the woman, but they had driven off.

Mr. Males figures that the woman took off her ring to wash for Hamotzie(before eating bread, one washes his hands by pouring from a cup at least twice on the right hand and twice on the left hand). Realizing that this is a great story about the power of the internet to connect people and to help them, I wrote Mr. Males to find out the rest of the story.

Unfortunately, not even the power of the internet has reunited the woman with her diamond ring! No one wrote with any clue as to the owner of the ring.

What motivates Micha and Penina Males to work so hard to return a diamond ring? Why not just keep it? They could be hundreds if not thousands of dollars richer! Micha and Penina know something that generations of Jews have known - that one of the 613 commandments that the Almighty gave the Jewish people is Hashavas Aveida, returning a lost object. In the book of Exodus, chapter 23, verse 4, it is written, "If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall repeatedly bring it back to him." They also know that real riches come from fulfilling the Almighty's commandments.

The verse is puzzling. We can understand returning a friend's ox, but why an enemy's? I think the Torah is teaching a very important lesson -the goal of life is to perfect yourself and be God-like. Even if you have feelings of dislike, you must overcome them and return the item. Perfecting your character is at least as important as the owner retrieving his property. As it says in Pirkei Avot 4:1, "Who is mighty? He who conquers his passions and desires."

Note that the verse says, "you shall repeatedly bring it back to him." The Talmud, Bava Metzia 31a, instructs us that even if someone's animal gets lost 100 times, we are obligated to bring it back each and every time. Talk about conquering frustration!

What are some of the laws in the Code of Jewish Law, the Shulchan Aruch (which is a compilation of rulings from the Talmud) governing lost items? The laws are from Choshen Mishpat (CM), the section of the Code of Jewish Laws concerning property matters. This list is from Love Your Neighbor by Z. Pliskin:


  1. We are obligated to return lost items to their owners (CM 259:1).
  2. It is forbidden to pass by a lost object without picking it up (CM 259).
  3. If you take a lost object for yourself with the intention of stealing it, you violate one positive commandment ("You shall surely bring it back to him" Ex. 23:4) and two prohibitions ("You shall not steal" Lev. 19:13 and "You may not hide yourself" Deut. 22:3).
  4. Not only does this commandment obligate us to return an object that is already lost, but whenever someone's property or possessions are in danger of being destroyed or lost, we are obligated to try to save them (CM 359:17).
  5. The finder of a lost article must guard it and take care of it so that it will not become ruined (CM 267:16-18).
  6. If you do not know the identity of the owner, you must make an announcement (or post notices) about it in public places (CM 267:4,7).


These are just a few of the laws. There are many. Life is complex. A competent Halachic authority, a rabbi knowledgeable in Jewish law, should be consulted for details and decisions. And then you can polish the diamond that is your soul through the mitzvot, the commandments - and riches far beyond lost diamond rings!

For more on "Jewish Laws" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

Concluding the 7 days of inauguration for the Mishkan (Portable Sanctuary), Aaron, the High Priest, brings sacrifices for himself and the entire nation. Nadav and Avihu, sons of Aaron, bring an incense offering on their own initiative, and are consumed by a heavenly fire (perhaps the only time when someone did something wrong and was immediately hit by "lightning").

The Cohanim are commanded not to serve while intoxicated. The inaugural service is completed. God then specifies the species which are kosher to eat: mammals (those that have cloven hoofs and chew their cud), fish (those with fins and scales), birds (certain non-predators), and certain species of locusts. The portion concludes with the laws of spiritual defilement from contact with the carcasses of certain animals.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

When Aharon's two sons died, the Torah reports his reaction:

"And Aharon was silent" (Leviticus 10:3).

How is it possible that Aharon was silent? What was going through his mind?

Rabbi Moshe HaCohen Rice writes in Ohr HaMussar: Aharon was greatly praised for remaining silent - for not complaining against the Almighty and for accepting the will of the Almighty. Why? Before something happens one might be able to take action to prevent it. However, afterwards, what can one do? He can fight it or he can accept it as the will of the Almighty. Was his acceptance of the Almighty's will exceptional or unique?

The Sages constantly worked on accepting the will of the Almighty. Rabbi Akiva always used to say when something apparently negative happened, "All that the Almighty does is for the good." Nochum, Ish Gam Zu, used to say, "This, too, is for the good" ("ish gam zu" means "the man who has integrated into his being the idea regarding whatever happens to that 'this, too, is for the good.' ")

However, when a person says, "All that the Almighty does is for the good" about something that originally disturbed or frustrated him, it implies that at first he was bothered by what happened. As soon as he realizes that the matter bothers him, he uses his intellect to overcome his negative reaction. Intellectually, he knows that all that the Almighty causes to occur is ultimately for the good and this knowledge enables him to accept the situation.

An even higher level is to internalize the concept that whatever the Almighty does is positive and good. When this is a person's automatic evaluation of every occurrence, he does not have to keep convincing himself that a specific event is good. Such a person accepts with joy everything that occurs in his life.

This was the greatness of Aharon. He remained silent because he knew clearly that everything the Almighty does is purposeful. When things consistently go well for a person, he feels an inner-joy. Acceptance of the Almighty's will is the most crucial attitude to make part of oneself for living a happy life. The more you learn to accept the will of the Almighty, the greater joy you will experience in your life!


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Jerusalem 5:18
Guatemala 5:56 - Hong Kong 6:17 - Honolulu 6:26
J'Burg 5:55 - London 6:05 - Los Angeles 6:50
Melbourne 7:05 - Mexico City 6:30 - Miami 7:16
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The self is not something ready-made,
but something in continuous formation
through choice of action.
--  John Dewey


In Loving Memory of

Udi, Ruth, Yoav, Elad
and Hadas Fogel hy"d



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