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Shmini 5764

Shmini (Leviticus 9-11 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!   This coming Shabbat is my son Elimelech's Bar Mitzvah. This makes our 5th Bar Mitzvah ... and one more to come in 7 years.

A Bar Mitzvah should be a time of joy and more involvement in Judaism and love for our heritage. Unfortunately, as the following story illustrates, it too often doesn't fulfill these lofty hopes and expectations.

It seems a rabbi, priest and minister were comparing notes. The priest lamented over the problem of bats in the belfry which every effort had failed to eliminate. The minister sympathized that he had church mice which he couldn't get rid of. The rabbi, however, said, "I used to have a problem with pigeons in the synagogue, but I got rid of them." The priest and the minister begged for his secret. "Well", says the rabbi, "I don't know if it'll work for you, but one Saturday I got all of the pigeons together and Bar Mitzvahed them ... and they never came back!"

Besides the education we give our children in Sunday school or other institutions, they must see that we enjoy being Jewish. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, of blessed memory, commented that perhaps the biggest factor in the deterioration of Jewish life in the United States was the complaint of immigrant parents in front of their children that "It's tough to be a Jew." What child wants to be a part of something difficult and depressing?

One cannot transfer his feelings for Judaism through intellect. Only when the child can partake in a home where there is joy in doing Mitzvot (Torah commandments) - lighting Shabbat candles, a Pesach Seder, Chanukah, giving Tzedakah (charity) to poor people who come to your door - can they absorb the joy of being Jewish and living Jewishly.

And now, for some thoughts on Bar and Bat Mitzvah:


Bar Mitzvah literally means "Son of the Commandment" and Bat Mitzvah means "Daughter of the Commandment." At the age of 13 for a boy and 12 years for a girl, they respectively become fully obligated in and culpable for the observance of the commandments. The Torah teaches that women are created with greater insight and understanding than men and because their intellectual and emotional facilities develop more quickly, they become obligated earlier.

Sometimes one meets a man who says he was never "Bar Mitzvahed." He may never have had a celebration, but once he turns thirteen he is Bar Mitzvahed. He can be counted in a Minyan (a prayer quorum), give testimony in a Beit Din (Jewish court of law), and enter into contractual agreements. He is fully responsible for his own behavior in front of God and man. It is customary for a boy to be called to the Torah for an Aliyah (to make a blessing over the reading of the Torah), to lead the Davening (prayer service) or to lead the Birchat HaMazon (Grace after Meals) and in this way make a public statement that he is a Bar Mitzvah.

The occasion may be celebrated simply or lavishly, but it is important that opulent ostentation should be avoided. The Bar Mitzvah and the community must appreciate the celebration as a religious event and not a secular birthday extravaganza. As one wit put it, "Better there should be less emphasis on the 'Bar' than on the "Mitzvah."

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 insects (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

The Torah commands the Cohanim that:

"Wine and other intoxicating beverages you shall not drink" (Leviticus 10:9)

before coming to do the service. The Midrash Vayikra Rabbah (a collection of homiletical stories and insights) warns against alcoholism:

"If a person drinks too much wine, he will end up selling all that he owns to keep up his addiction to drinking."

The Midrash continues: The children of a drunk were worried that they would soon be penniless. They tied up their father when he was drunk and placed him in a cemetery; they hoped that when he became sober he would be shocked by the experience and become aware of the dangers of drinking to excess.

That day a caravan carrying vats of wine was attacked and sped past the cemetery to outrun the attackers. A barrel rolled off the wagon and when the man woke up from his drunken sleep, he was surprised to find the spigot of the barrel next to his face. And he continued to drink.

The Almighty leads us in the direction we desire to go. The greater your desire to do something, the more successful you will be. Therefore, choose well what you desire in life. When you wish to accomplish in spiritual matters, build up a strong desire to accomplish and the Almighty will lead you in that path!


"There are three crowns:
the crown of Torah,
the crown of priesthood,
and the crown of kingship;
but the crown of a good name surpasses all of them."
    --  Rabbi Shimon

(or Go to

Jerusalem  5:30
Guatemala 5:57  Hong Kong 6:25  Honolulu 6:31
J'Burg 5:32  London 7:40  Los Angeles 7:07
Melbourne 5:30  Miami 7:26  Moscow 7:20

New York 7:18  Singapore  6:51


God gives talent;
work transforms talent into genius.
--  Anna Pavlova

Mazal Tov
on the Bar Mitzvah of
Elimelech Packouz
With love, Dad and Mom

Happy Bar Mitzvah, Dad
Meron Levitats
with love, David


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