(Torah Portion Shemini) The Throne!
The Torah gives us two indicators to determine if a species of animal is Kosher. A Kosher animal must have true cloven hooves, and ruminate its food. Kosher fish must have fins and scales.
The Torah does not list the characteristics of Kosher fowl. Rather, it lists twenty-four birds that are not kosher, and all the remaining birds are kosher. The Talmud teaches us that G-d miraculously provided our leader Moshe with all species of animals, fowl and fish, which he showed and displayed to the people.
Although the Torah does not give identifying signs for birds, the Talmud gives us a list of four features that indicate a kosher species of bird, although they do not need to possess all four to be kosher.
Interestingly the eagle is the only non Kosher bird that does not possess any of these four Kosher features. In contrast, the dove is the only bird that has all four Kosher characteristics. Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin o.b.m. points out the following: The eagle is considered the king of the fowl, while the dove is the most pursued of all species of birds. G-d gave the dove the distinction of being the only type of bird offered as a sacrifice to Him on His altar. G-d chose the dove to be offered over all other birds because it is the most loyal to its mate. The loyal relationship of the Jewish people with Almighty is metaphorically expressed by King Solomon as the relationship of a dove and its mate.
As we mentioned, the eagle is the king of the birds, and for this distinction the eagle’s image is chiseled under G-d’s Heavenly throne. There are three other images chiseled under G-d’s throne; the ox which is the king of domestic animals; the lion which is king of the beasts; and the image of man who is the ultimate purpose of G-d’s creation of the world.
Which man is featured under G-d’s throne? Our Sages tell us that it is the image of our forefather Yaacov who is known as the man of truth. The fit is quite appropriate, for G-d’s signature is Emes – truth.
Although the meaning of this is far beyond our comprehension, the Torah tells us that at G-d’s Revelation at Mount Sinai some great people took advantage and peered too intently at the stone-base of G-d’s throne. G-d did not want to disturb the Revelation at Mount Sinai by returning their souls to Heaven at that time. Instead, He waited ten months for the inauguration of the Mishkan – Temple – when He took the lives of the two sons of Aaron the High Priest, Nadav and Avihu by a Heavenly fire when an infraction during the service was done.
Our Parsha speaks of this incident and describes how the devout Aaron accepted the Divine decree with silence, expressing no questions or complaints toward the will of the Almighty.
While we are on the subject of G-d’s Heavenly Throne:
Our Sages tell us that the souls of the righteous are placed under G-d’s Heavenly throne. Perhaps this is why people visit the graves of the righteous and pray to G-d, since their souls are close to G-d.
The Medrash relates: A year before the Jews left Egypt; a pregnant Jewish woman by the name of Rachel was helping her husband fill his quota of mixing mortar. She miscarried and her fetus fell into the cement. She gave out a cry which pierced the heavens and reached G-d’s throne. The angel Michael came down from Heaven and removed the brick containing the fetus and brought it up and placed it beneath G-d’s throne as a reminder of the Jew’s suffering. At that point the process of redemption began and G-d dispatched Moshe to go to Egypt and the ten plagues were brought upon Pharoh and the Egyptians. A year later, on the anniversary of the woman’s cries, G-d freed the Jews from Egypt.
Menashe was an extremely wicked king who ruled over the Land of Israel. He set up an idol inside the Temple and murdered his own grandfather, Isaiah the prophet! During the last years of his life, Menashe repented for his sins. An opinion in the Talmud states; because Menashe was repentant, his soul merited a portion of the world to come. A reason offered as to why this wicked person’s repentance was accepted, is to motivate those who are not as bad as Menashe, to utilize the gift of repentance.
People have asked, “Why should a person’s repentance have the power to erase some of the evil that they have done? After all, they should suffer the consequences of their actions!”
The Talmud tells us that the Attribute of Justice on High felt the same way, and wished to prevent Menashe’s repentance from reaching G-d.
In fact, G-d circumvented Menashe’s prayers with evading the Heavenly legal process by boring a hole in the Heavens so that his repentance reaches Him directly, and thus he was afforded a portion of the World to Come. Such is the power and influence of one’s sincere repentance!
Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks and family