Shmini 5779

March 24, 2019

7 min read


Shmini (Leviticus 9-11 )

GOOD MORNING!  Our Sages instruct us to start preparing for a holiday 30 days beforehand. Pesach (Passover) begins Friday evening, April 19th.

Many Jewish holidays have been humorously described as: "They wanted to kill us. We won. Let's eat." If you'd like to have your Pesach Seder to be more than "Can we skip this part of the Hagaddah ... and let's eat!", then this week's edition will be of help. Your Seder can be an even more enjoyable, memorable and warm family experience -- if you put the time into preparing!

How does one get his/her children to feel positively about being Jewish? You cannot transfer your feelings, but you can create the atmosphere and the experience which will engender positive feelings. Many people who love being Jewish, fondly reminisced about their Zaideh (grandfather) presiding over the Shabbat table or their Bubbie (grandmother) lighting Shabbat candles ... and their Seder! You are a link in that chain!

Q & A: How Do I Make My Seder Enjoyable,
Creative and Meaningful?

Remember that the Seder is for the kids, to transmit our history and understanding of life. You've got to make it interesting and intrigue them to ask questions. If a person asks a question, he'll be inclined to hear the answer! The only way to transmit your love and feeling for Judaism is through shared, positive experiences. You need to be excited about the Seder! Some ideas from Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf:

1. Invest time before the Seder. Trade in your Maxwell House Hagaddah for one with commentary. Then read it! Visit a Jewish book store and see what intrigues you. Look at a commentary to get interesting insights to share with your family and guests. A few suggestions: Judaism in a Nutshell: Passover, Artscroll Haggadahs and The Exodus You Almost Passed Over by Rabbi David Fohrman. Also, excellent materials including an audio guide "How to Conduct the Passover Seder" are available at!

2. Get Passover story books for the kids now! Read to them the stories before Pesach. Have them or help them make a little play to present at the Seder. Buy them Artscroll Children's Hagaddah!

3. Have quizzes and prizes. I bought a roll of 2,000 tickets on Amazon for about $7. If the child asks a question ... or answers a question -- he gets a ticket! (I also liberally give my grandchildren tickets when they give me hugs!) At the end of Pesach we count up the tickets, multiply by 10 cents a ticket -- and shop for prizes! You can ask: name the plagues, the 4 sons, the number of years in slavery -- make your list of questions before the Seder. (You can even prep the kids before the Seder with the answers!)

4. Plan out the Seder with little surprises and props. During the section on the plagues throw into the air plastic animals when you get to the Wild Beasts; use ping pong balls for the plague of Hail. Be creative. Give each child a brown paper bag filled with his props. Have fun! (you can also order the "Bag of Plagues" props available at your local Jewish bookstore -- or or assemble your own!)

5. Delegate. Give your kids or guests a small part of the Haggadah to prepare. They can look at a Haggadah with commentary -- or go to and search. It involves them and makes them a part of the Seder rather than being an observer. One year I asked a young son to run part of the Seder. He was thrilled!

6. Have questions for discussion at the table! Passover marks the birth of the Jewish people. It's a time to reflect on the meaning, value and implications of being Jewish. Here are some questions to discuss:

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how important is being Jewish to you? Please explain.
  2. If your son, daughter, brother, sister, or best friend told you that they planned to raise their children without any Jewish education or identity, how would you react?
  3. If you thought the existence of Israel was in danger, would you risk your life to help save it?
  4. What do you like about being Jewish? What don't you like?
  5. Is it important to you or for your children to have mostly Jewish friends? Why?

7. Spend time at and! Be sure to see the Aish videos "Passover Rhapsody" and ... "The Google Exodus" -- What would the Exodus have looked like if Moses had the internet?


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
from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

Moses saw Elazar and Ithamar, Aaron's remaining two sons, offer a sacrifice. He became angry as he thought they acted improperly. However, they were correct in their actions. Aaron intervened and humbly asked a question to clarify the matter. Moses then realized that he himself had made a mistake.

The Torah tells us, "Moses heard (the point that Aaron was making with his question) and he approved" (Lev. 10:20). The Midrash tells us that Moses said, "You are right. I forgot what I had heard from God."

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz points out that Moses was confronted with an awesome decision. Moses was the sole conduit of the word of God, and there was no way to verify his instructions. If he were to admit that he had forgotten and had erred in conveying God's words, how would that impact on the authenticity of the entire Torah? Might people not say, "If Moses could have erred in one thing, perhaps he erred in others as well"?

Admitting that he had erred in this one instruction would place the validity of the entire Torah in jeopardy throughout eternity. Was this not adequate reason for Moses to stand his ground and say, "Do as I said. That is God's wish!"?

However, Moses knew that truth should never be compromised. He was obligated to speak the truth. Whatever consequences might flow from that was not his responsibility. Speaking falsehood cannot be justified. His responsibility was to adhere to the truth. The authenticity of Torah throughout eternity was God's responsibility, not his (Sichos Mussar 5731:1).

The truth of Torah is evidenced by Moses' refusal to deviate from truth, regardless of the consequences. We should follow his example.


Candle Lighting Times

March 29
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:20
Guatemala 5:56 - Hong Kong 6:19 - Honolulu 6:27
J'Burg 5:52 - London 6:10 - Los Angeles 6:54
Melbourne 7:01 - Mexico City 6:32 - Miami 7:18
New York 6:59 - Singapore 6:55 - Toronto 7:22

Quote of the Week


No God, no peace. Know God, know peace



A sweet & healthy Pesach!

SYFO Seltzer

Certified OU-P for Pesach

With Tremendous Thanks to

James & Patricia Cayne




In Loving Memory

Dr. Solomon Lichter
Shlomo ben Chaim

Muriel Lichter
Miriam bat Aryeh

The Lichter Family



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