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Rising to the Challenge

By: Ms. Sepha Sheinbein

I know personally I have a very hard time dealing with ambiguity, and unresolved issues. You would think I would therefore find chukim a very challenging concept, and yet, I don’t. If I am warned before that there is something without a reason or a question without an answer, it somehow sits better with me.

In Parshat Shemini we are given both laws that are chukim and laws and stories that are not chukim. And as per my personality I have a harder time dealing with the latter. The story of the deaths of the sons of Aharon; Nadav and Avihu, is tragic every time one reads it, no matter how many times they have read it before. The pshat tells us that they did something that was not as Hashem commanded but not why that act was deserving of death. There are many answers brought down but it is still a story that will forever leave me with questions more than it does with answers.

One chapter later in the parsha we are given the halachot of what makes an animal kosher. The Torah describes what signs an animal needs to be considered kosher and then gives us lists of types of animals that fit those descriptions and those which do not. Kashrut is not considered a chok and yet to this day I don’t understand why a pig is not kosher but a sheep is. What makes an animal with both a split hoof and chewing its cud more fit for a Jew to eat?

I recently read a beautiful answer that connects these two stories within this week’s parsha. Rav Adin Steinsaltz explains that the reason the topic of kosher animals is discussed only one chapter after the deaths of Nadav and Avihu is to explain the concept of "sometimes there is no answer." There will be many times in our lives that things will happen and we may never understand why. And sometimes, whether we like it or not, there are just no answers. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to do it, or deal with whatever the challenge is. We have to accept as Aharon did, and keep the mitzvot even when we don’t understand.

Shabbat Shalom.




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