Torah portion Shemini:  Leviticus 9:1 – 11:47

Shemini is Hebrew for “Eighth.,” for it begins on the eighth day of sanctification of Aaron and his sons for the priesthood.

On the eighth day following the seven for the consecration of the priests (Aaron and his sons), Moses tells them as well as the congregation what animals to sacrifice to inaugurate the tabernacle.  The sacrifices were performed as Moses instructed.  A heavenly fire came forth and consumed the sacrifices.  Two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu brought an alien fire to the incense altar and a heavenly fire consumed them as well.  Moses prohibits Aaron and the two surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, from mourning the deaths of Nadab and Abihu.  Moses also warns them not to consume intoxicants when performing priestly service, as well as how to handle the rest of the sacrifices (what is to be eaten, and what is to be burned).  The Torah then explains the dietary laws (what we call Kosher).  We are allowed to eat animals that have a split hoof and chew their cud; certain birds are prohibited (i.e., vulture, owl, eagle, etc.); fish with fins and scales are allowed; nothing among the winged insects except those that have leg joints above their feet for leaping (i.e., locusts and grasshoppers).  Anyone who comes into contact with the dead is unclean and therefore must bathe.  G-d says that the people will be holy because G-d is holy.