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Shmini - 5777

Shmini (Leviticus 9-11 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  The story is told of a man who asked Rabbi Yisroel Salanter a question. "Rebbie, I have only 15 minutes a day to learn Torah. What should I study?" Replies Rabbi Salanter, "Mussar (ethical/ character/personal development)." "Why, mussar?" asked the man. "Because," responded Rabbi Salanter, "if you start learning mussar, you'll realize that you have more than 15 minutes a day to learn!"

Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, brings this point home in the first chapter, "Constant Study" in his flagship series on personal development (now available for the first time in book form The 48 Ways to Wisdom), "Imagine you're stuck in traffic and the driver next to you opens his window and throws out a dollar bill. A minute later, as traffic is inching along, he throws out another dollar bill. You can't believe it! Every minute that you're stuck in traffic, another dollar flies out the window!

"Crazy, right? You've probably never seen that happen, and you probably never will. But how often do we throw a minute out the window, daydreaming and staring at nothing in particular? And then another minute and another. We're just killing time. Calculate the number of minutes we throw away during the week and add them all up. We are throwing away time that is worth way more than money."

Rabbi Weinberg teaches that if you want to use your mind to learn and grow in the ultimate manner to make the most out of your life, you need The Five C's for Learning:

1. Constant -- Truly living means using your mind constantly. Whatever you are doing at any given moment - listening to the news, working on a business deal, talking to a friend, reading this book - give it your full attention. Decide that you are willing to take the pain of thinking, of being aware, all day long. Life is precious. Use your time; don't kill it.

2. Consistent -- Consistency is the key to spiritual growth and learning Torah. We need structure to truly accomplish in life. Select your goal and commit to carrying out daily activities to reach that goal in the same time, the same place, and the same way, as much as is reasonably possible. Hammering away day in and day out carves out the path to change.

3. Continuous -- Whenever you pursue a specific goal, strive to do it without interruption. It is more effective to study for one hour straight than for two hours with interruptions. Interruptions break your train of thought and limit your ability to retain information. Set yourself a goal to focus exclusively on one subject. Little by little, increase your time. First fifteen minutes, then thirty minutes, then one hour, then two hours.

4. Cyclical: Repetition and Review -- The Talmud says, "Whoever learns but does not review is like a person who sows but does not reap" (Sanhedrin 99a). The first time you learn something you are just preparing the ground. You have not even planted the seed yet. The real understanding and insight come only after intense review. Every time you review a piece of your learning, you dig deeper and gain greater clarity. Learn with the goal of remembering your learning. Constant review is essential for retention. "One cannot compare the one who reviewed 100 times to the one who reviewed 101 times" (Chagigah 9a).

5. Comprehensive: Be a Student of Life -- The Rambam writes, "Make your work secondary, and your Torah study a fixed matter" (Hilchos Talmud Torah 2:7). Your profession does not define your essence. That is how you happen to make a living. But you are a student of life, a truth seeker, a learner. You may have to spend more hours working than learning, but do not let that confuse your self-definition.

When you view yourself as a learner, using your mind and being fascinated with life becomes a priority. You are always looking for opportunities to acquire wisdom, as the Mishnah says, "Who is the wise man? The one who learns from every person" (Avos 4:1). Be hungry for wisdom.

The Torah says, Avraham was old and he came with his days (Bereishis 24:1). Avraham used every single day for growth. There was no wasted time, no money thrown out the window. Life is too precious to waste. Make the commitment to use your mind to discover life's deepest wisdom.

So, if you have only 15 minutes a day to study -- you would do well to start with The 48 Ways to Wisdom!


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Torah Portion of the week

Shemini, Leviticus 9:1 - 11:47

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

Moshe (Moses) thought that his brother, Aharon (Aaron) -- the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) had made a mistake regarding an offering and censured him. Aharon explained why his action was proper. The Torah then reports:

"And Moshe heard and it was good in his eyes" (Leviticus 10:20).

What lesson for life can we learn from Moshe's reaction?

Many people, when they find out that they are wrong, become defensive. They are embarrassed by their mistake -- and then try to defend themselves or attack the other person on a character basis, rather than dealing with the facts. If we are aware of this tendency, we can check the urge in ourselves and respond more appropriately. The goal of discussions should be clarity and truth, not defending egos.

The commentator, Rabbi Obadia Sforno elucidates that Moshe felt joy upon hearing the reasoning of Aharon. He had pleasure that Aharon was correct in his decision.

This is a wonderful and high-level response. Moshe so loved wisdom and truth -- and his brother Aharon -- that he took great pleasure even though he himself was wrong and embarrassed. Our goal is to strive for truth and clarity and to keep our egos in check.



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Candle Lighting Times

April 21
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:37
Guatemala 5:59 - Hong Kong 6:28 - Honolulu 6:35
J'Burg 5:28 - London 7:49 - Los Angeles 7:12
Melbourne 5:27 - Mexico City 6:38 - Miami 7:29
New York 7:24 - Singapore 6:50 - Toronto 7:50

Quote of the Week

When two egotists meet --
it's an I for an I



In Loving Memory of
Our Father
Herbert Schnider
(Chaim ben Yosef)

on the anniversary of his Yahrtzeit
25 Nissan 5764

In Honor of Our Mother
Muriel Schnider

Dr. Stuart & Elizabeth Schnider
Robin Polansky,
Marissa & Meredith Schnider

With Very Special Thanks
George Feldenkreis



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