Parshas Shemini
Leviticus 9:1 - 11:47

Self Examination:

Grading Our Level of Holiness ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Gary Lee Belk and Mr. Donald Wayne Belk, may they rest in peace.

Recently in Parshas Tzav we told the story of a Jew who purchased a neighbor's property for maybe as much as 1/3 of its actual value. We will not retread that discussion. However we did discuss that ACTIONS LIKE THIS AS DISCUSSED IN THIS STORY ARE NOT HOLY! After the deal was agreed upon the neighbor learned of the property's real value. Needless to say, this neighbor was very unhappy. He began legal action... He felt like this Jew had swindled him. A member of the community approached the Jew regarding this issue. The community member explained that his actions were a disgrace to the local community and the Jewish people as a whole. "It was CHILLUL HASHEM!" He attempted to reason with this rich and greedy person, mentioning discussions in the Gemara regarding a Jew's responsibility. This individual responded to the community member, stating that he did not know what he was speaking about...

Chassidim, we teach that one should not dress as the nations of the world dress. We teach that our clothes should be modest. We teach that men should wear gentlemen's apparel and that women should wear ladies' apparel. We go to great lengths to dress in a very Jewish fashion. We do this because we are NOT supposed to be like the other nations of the world. Then after going to great lengths to look very different, we swindle our neighbor like an unrighteous scab, G-d forbid. What's the point in dressing so different if our actions are the same? THERE IS NO POINT!

As observant Jews we make so much out of the fact we changed our pattern of daily worship. We no longer prostrate ourselves before G-d with the exceptions of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. WHY? Why did we change our pattern of worship? It was because the nations of the world prostrate themselves in their worship. We changed because we are commanded to be different. Yet, I ask, "What is so different from grabbing the best deal possible from an unlearned, poor neighbor?" Wouldn't most people of the world rush down to their attorney and have a deal drawn up as quickly as possible before the neighbor learned of the true value? Unfortunately yes!

The point is that Jews aren't supposed to act like that! We are supposed to be righteous! We are supposed to be honest in our business dealings. We are supposed to be above reproach! Chassidim, IT IS NOT GOOD TO ACT DIFFERENT IN BUSINESS THAN IN PRAYER... IT IS NOT GOOD TO DRESS THE PART OF A RIGHTEOUS JEW AS THIS PERSON DID AND CONDUCT BUSINESS LIKE THE SUTAN (SATAN), G-d forbid!! G-d calls ALL JEWS to a higher level of righteousness. Unlike the nations of the world, we are chosen... we are separated... we are elected to righteousness! WE MUST LIVE LIKE IT!

Now in this week's parsha, the Midrash states that our sages determined that there are three methods to evaluate an individual's character. This discussion results because of Moshe Rabbeinu's momentary anger and the unfortunate deaths of Nodov and Avihu, Aharon's sons who were intoxicated when they offered 'strange fire' before Hashem. They died because of their sin!

Our sages identify the three areas of character evaluation as:

Bekoso: Observe one's drinking habits. Excessive drinking results in loose language and displays a lack of self restraint. One who controls his liquor is in control of himself / herself!

Bekiso: Observe ones business habits. Our sages teach that a person's way of conducting business is revealing of one's attitude toward his fellow man. By observing if one acts righteously... honestly... fairly towards his fellow man or by observing if one seeks to shortchange his fellow man we can measure his relationship to his fellow man!

Beka'aso: Observe one's temper. Anyone who loses his temper in a fit of rage, who throws things, tears clothing or damages things is considered like an idol worshipper by our sages. If he allows his / her evil inclination to dominate to that extent, then that one is capable of idol worship, G-d forbid.

Now, dear reader, it is so important how we conduct ourselves. If we dress black and white then we should be expected to live on that madraga. We MUST carefully manage our liquor... our business dealings... our temper... Parshas Shemini is a challenge to each of us! It was on the eighth day, 1 Nisan, the Jewish new year, the beginning of months, that our Mishkon service... our Temple worship began. With our newly erected Mishkon in the wilderness we are challenged to improve, to confess our sin, to bring offerings and to live on a much higher level than in the past. The same is true for us today. We are to clean and dedicate the Spiritual Mishkon within each of us. We are to elevate our lives with holiness.

Good Shabbos!

Dr. Akiva G. Belk


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