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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Shmini

Parashat Shemini

Remembering

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The Mishna Berura (Hilkhot Yom Hakippurim) quotes the Zohar as follows: "Whoever is in pain and mourns during the reading of Parashat Acharei Mot on Yom Kippur, who cries over the death of Aharon’s children, is certain to have his sins forgiven." Why does the Zohar state this promise only in relation to Yom Kippur? Why does it not relate this promise to whomever hears the Torah reading regarding the death of Nadav and Avihu and weeps?

Perhaps the answer is that in Parashat Shemini we read the story as and when it actually happened. Weeping at the time of misfortune, feeling someone else’s pain during their time of tragedy is natural and meritorious. But when we read the same story on Yom Kippur, we empathize with Aharon after the event, we weep at the memory of his tragedy. That is more extraordinary, and, therefore, warrants forgiveness.

This year, concurrently with the reading of Parashat Shemini, Klal Yisrael will observe Yom HaShoah. Outside of Israel the observance of Yom HaShoah is not universally accepted by the Jewish community. In Israel, however, the presence of the day impresses itself on our consciousness. We cannot forget because the nation as a whole remembers. When a nation remembers the suffering of Klal Yisrael and identifies with its holy martyrs sixty-five years after the event, it is worthy of God’s grace.

Zachor, "to remember," has two aspects. On the one hand, we remember the Kedoshim who perished in the catastrophe that befell Klal Yisrael in the years 1939-1945, and we mourn the destruction of European Jewry. On the other hand, we also remember and reflect upon the Kedoshim as models to emulate. We must reflect on their lives, their achievements, and what they created. We must remember their Torah lives and values, their goodness and kindness, their quest for spiritual perfection through mitzvot and good deeds. We who live in Israel and are the heirs of those Kedoshim must continue their devotion and loyalty to the Torah of Israel in a living and vibrant State of Israel.

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