Shemini: A Summary of the Parashah

After the dedication of the Tabernacle and the ordination of the priests, two of Aaron's sons bring a strange fire before God and are consumed by fire; God then instructs Moses and Aaron regarding which animals may be eaten.

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Then Moses told Aaron’s remaining sons to make an offering to God. Afterwards, God spoke to Moses and to Aaron, telling them to state the following to the Israelite people:

These are the creatures that you may eat from among all the land animals: any animal that has true hooves, with clefts through the hoofs, and that chews the cud, you may eat. The following animals who either chew the cud or have true hooves, you shall not eat: the camel, the rabbit, the hare, and the pig. You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses. They are unclean to you.

From the waters, seas and rivers, you may eat all creatures except what does not have fins and scales. They are an abomination to you. You shall not eat of their flesh.

And these you shall hold in abomination from among the fowl; they shall not be eaten: the eagle, the vulture, the kite, falcons and ravens of every variety, the ostrich, the sea gull, any variety of hawk and owls, the pelican, the stork, herons of every variety, the hoopoe and the bat.

All winged swarming things that go upon four legs are an abomination to you. Only those insects that have above their feet, jointed legs to leap with on the ground may you eat, such as locusts, crickets and grasshoppers of every variety. All other winged swarming things that have four legs shall be an abomination to you.

All animals that walk on paws, among those that walk on fours, are unclean for you. Also unclean are those living things that creep on the earth, such as the mole, the mouse, lizards, crocodiles, and chameleons. Whoever touches anything unclean, whether directly, by cloth or by container, they shall remain unclean until evening. Then they shall be clean.

And every thing that creeps upon the earth, it is an abomination and shall not be eaten. Whatever goes upon the belly, upon four legs or many legs, all creeping things are an abomination.

You shall not make yourselves unclean by eating these things. For I the Lord am your God: you shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I am holy. For I, the Lord God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, you shall be holy for I am holy.

Questions for Discussion

1) Why does what we eat make a difference to God?

2) Do you ever think about what you are eating as unclean or clean? Why or why not?

3) How did you feel when God appears to kill two of Aaron's sons?

4) What does God mean by proclaiming, “You shall be holy for I am holy?” How is God holy? How are you holy?

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Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield has written three adaptations of the Torah, including an
interactive family version at, and an engaging
Jewish immigrant novel, The Golden Medina, available on itunes and Amazon.