Vol 27.11 - Shemini3                                                 Spanish French Audio  Video

Hebrew Text:

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Three conditions in the impurity of foods:
1) The food must be specifically intended for human consumption
2) It does not recieve impurity unless it was prepared by soaking in liquid
3) As long as it is attached (to the ground) it does not become impure
In Avodat HaAdam


43 You will remain spiritually defiled through them: The Hebrew word for this phrase (ונטמתם) is written without the expected alef (ונטמאתם), such that it can be read “lest you become dulled.” The Talmud adduces this altered spelling to assert that consuming non-kosher foods causes the heart to grow spiritually dull.35

It is the heart’s nature to be influenced by the mind. Intellectual recognition of G-d’s greatness, or understanding of His wisdom and His Torah, should logically lead to an emotional swell of love and awe. Unfortunately, however, this sometimes does not happen. We see, study, and understand, but remain uninspired.

This dullness of heart is attributable to the heart’s overstuffing with material indulgences, which render it spiritually sluggish or “hardened”—much as when any vessel is full, it “solidifies” and becomes unreceptive. Therefore, in order for the heart to be spiritually inspired, it must be emptied of material influences; it must become once again a heart of flesh, rather than of stone.

The sages offer several tactics in restoring a dulled heart to its former pliability and receptivity:

It is taught in the Zohar: “If a log does not catch fire, it should be splintered until the fire shines from it; if the body does not catch fire from the light of the soul, it should be crushed, and then the light of the soul will shine in it.”36 Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi explains that this means that there are times when a stone heart can only be shattered by a serious lecture to oneself. First, an honest appraisal is needed. We must examine how we spend our time: Are we seriously working toward achieving our higher goals? Are we devoting our energies and resources in accordance with our priorities? If we find that we are favoring the material over the spiritual, we should ponder how, then, do we differ from an animal. (True, a cow eats hay and straw while we prefer other delicacies, but are our material desires ultimately so different?) Such an honest appraisal and the resulting distress over our shortcomings deflates our material drives, enabling us to more easily achieve true spiritual joy and ecstasy.37

Another strategy is to “artificially” help the mind overpower the heart. When we meditate constantly about lofty spiritual concepts, their light will eventually break through even the thickest barrier, illuminating the heart as well.

Finally, it is possible to soften the heart by taking advantage of the intrinsic holiness of the letters of the Torah. Even simple repetition of those holy letters or recitation of passages of the Torah draws their spirituality into the person reciting them, and ultimately even a heart of stone will melt before them.38

47 To distinguish between the defiled and the undefiled: Allegorically, this injunction also refers to making the moral distinction between what is acceptable behavior and what is not. This distinction is easy enough when matters are clear and obvious. But all too often, the distinction is blurred, and the defiled can easily be mistaken for the undefiled.

Therefore, in order to fulfill the mandate of this final verse of the parashah, we are bidden to draw upon the lesson of its first verse: On the eighth day. As mentioned in the Overview, the number eight signifies transcendent Divinity, which is beyond the normal, natural cycle of seven. When we are attuned to Divine consciousness, to the “eight,” we instinctively know what is defiled and what is not; the rational mind cannot run circles around us and convince us that dark is light and bitter is sweet.39

38 They become ritually defiled for you: A plant used for food can only become susceptible to ritual defilement if the following three conditions are met: First, it must be intended for human use, not animal. Second, it must have become wet (even if it has since dried). Finally, it must be entirely severed from the ground. As long as it is still attached to the ground by even the smallest root, it is not susceptible to ritual defilement, even if it becomes wet.30

Allegorically, “defilement” is distance from G-d, the opposite of “holiness,” or closeness to G-d. One of the axioms of Jewish theology is that the closer we approach G-d, the greater the danger of “defilement,” i.e., of falling from the heights of spirituality into the depths of estrangement or depression. In the words of the sages, “the greater a person is, the greater is his evil inclination.”31 In moral terms, this graduated moral challenge is necessary in order to preserve free choice and therefore reward and punishment. If our progress in spiritual refinement were to leave us correspondingly less morally challenged, we would progressively lose our free choice, and concomitantly any reward for our resistance to evil.

In the imagery of Kabbalah, the forces of evil subsist on a very meager amount of Divine life force; they therefore persistently seek to siphon off Divine energy from holiness by dragging people into sin; thus, the holier the person or setting, the greater the effort these forces exert to corrupt them.

This does not mean, of course, that we should shun spiritual growth in order to be “safe” from the dangers inherent in the climb toward holiness—there could be no greater victory for evil than that! It only means that we must be sure to take the required precautions.

This dynamic is reflected in the three conditions for ritual defilement just mentioned:

¨ Food for humans: “Human” food, in this context, refers activities that nourish the Divine soul, whereas “animal” food refers to activities that sustain the human/animal soul. The Divine soul’s “food” is the study of the Torah and the performance of the commandments. The purpose of studying the Torah and fulfilling its commandments is, of course, to bring us closer to G-d, but, as just mentioned, the closer we get to G-d, the more the forces of evil try to divert, delay, or derail us.

¨ Liquid: “Liquidity” in this context means (a) the nature of liquid to flow downward, alluding to our ability to bring holiness to the lowest spiritual levels; (b) the fluidity that distributes the nutrients derived from the food we eat throughout the body, alluding to our ability to properly integrate the spirituality of the Torah and its commandments into our very being; and (c) the viscidity liquids, alluding to our ability to make Jewishness “infectious” to others. These are all qualities that we should aspire to in our relationship with G-d, but, here again, the more we evince them, the greater the forces of evil exert themselves against us.

¨ Uprooted: However, as long as the plant is connected to the ground, none of these factors are relevant. Spiritually, this means the one precaution we can take to immunize ourselves against the machinations of evil is to remain rooted to our source—to the essence of our Divine soul. The essence of our soul never becomes defiled, for it is constantly united with G-d. When the essence of our soul is roused from its dormancy and is manifest in all of our thoughts, words, and deeds, we are immune to defilement.32



30.    See Mishneh Torah, Tumat Ochlin 1:1, 2:1.
31.    Sukah 52a.
32.    Likutei Sichot, vol. 27, pp. 74-78.



1. In the first chapters of Hilchot tuma’at Ochlin (foods that acquire spiritual impurity), Rambam states the conditions that must be met before food becomes spiritually impure:

In the first chapter he writes the first two conditions (which pertain to all foods):

  1. All foods that are designated for human consumption . . are susceptible to ritual impurity (מקבל טומאה). All foods that are not designated for human consumption are pure (טהור).
  2. Even a food that is “intended for human consumption” does not acquire tuma’ah until it has first been prepared (מוכשר) to acquire tuma’ah through being dampened in one of the seven liquids (that make foods susceptible to impurity: water, dew, oil, wine, milk, blood, and honey). This dampening is referred to as ‘hechsher’ (preparedness). These concepts are derived from Leviticus 11:38 which states: "When water will be placed on a seed...."

Afterward in the second chapter Rambam writes a third condition (in relation to “foods that grow from the earth”) that:

“They are not susceptible to ritual impurity until they are uprooted from the ground. However, as long as they are connected to the earth - even by a small root, as long as they can sustain themselves from it - they are not susceptible to impurity”.

It is known that from each Halacha in Torah one can draw a lesson in man’s Divine service. For in conjunction with the simple explanation of each actual law, there is also the explanation of the Halacha in spiritual Avodah. This lesson is applicable to each person since Torah was given the each person.

 This is also one of the explanations in the verse:

“The L-rd commanded us to perform all these statutes to (show that we) fear the L-rd etc. “

Namely that the purpose of “all these statutes“ (whatever Mitzvah or Halacha it is) is to “fear G-d” (meaning that one should attain fear of G-d from it). For from each Halacha in Torah, one can draw a lesson in the aspect of “to fear G-d” – the fear of Heaven (יראת שמים)).

Similarly in our case:

The three aforementioned conditions, in relation to tuma’at Ochlin, have a counterpart in man’s Avodah to his Master (G-d).

2. It is explained in many places that the scope of tuma’ah (spiritual impurity) only applies where there is holiness. Or at least the possibility of holiness. This is like the Alter Rebbe writes in his Shulchan Aruch (with regard to touching things, in the morning, without first washing the hands – Netilat Yadiym - that “one need not be concerned about gentiles touching food (without first washing Netilat Yadiym since the spirit of impurity does not wish to rest except upon a sacred medium, in place of holiness that has departed from it etc.”

And the reason is that from the perspective of creation, the forces of impure Klipot receive only a minimal life-force from above. Therefore they “push” (שטופן) themselves into a place of holiness, in order to derive from the holiness an increase of vitality (תוספת יניקה של חיות). This is done by causing an individual to descend into spiritual impurity (Klippah), G-d forbid.

However, in a place that is devoid of (extra) holiness, there is no (extra) endeavor, from the perspective of tuma’ah, to rest there, since there is no abundance of vitality, there, from which they can acquire an additional sustenance (תוספת יניקה).

And this is the inner concept in the first condition of tuma’at Ochlin – that specifically – “ma’achal Adam” - “food that is designated for human consumption“ can acquire tuma’ah.

The title “Adam/man” is from the verse “I will resemble the Supernal” (אדמה לעליון) which is why Yidden are called by the name “Adam/man” – “you are called man/Adam” since a Yid “resembles the Supernal“, similar, as it were, to the Supernal Man that is on the Celestial Throne (אדם העליון שעל הכסא).

Note: “Person” is described in Torah, with four appellations: "Adam", "Gever", "Enosh"and "Ish”, the most distinguished being "Adam"

And this is what is meant by “food that is designated for human consumption “. Food, in the broader sense, alludes to all of man’s needs. And “designated for human consumption” - ma’achal Adam - means the aspects which are “essential” for the level of “Adam/man” in a person – meaning his soul, which “resembles the Supernal“. This is the aspect of Torah study and the performance of Mitzvot.

And through this they also become “ma’achal Adam” – food for Supernal Man that is on the Celestial Throne, as it were. As is known that through the Torah study and Mitzvot of the Yidden below, one sustains (מפרנס), as it were, G-d (similar to the Korbanot which are called “My food of My fires“ (לחמי לאשי)).

Since these are things that are “set aside for the consumption of man/Adam” – the Supernal – therefore the impure powers endeavor to cause the person, who personifies it below – the Yidden - to falter in order to receive from him (from the abundance of holy vitality that is within him) an increase in the latching of vitality (א תוספת יניקה של חיות). Therefore, it is applicable that the thing should grasp (אריינכאפן) an aspect of tuma’ah, G-d forbid.

However, “All foods that are not designated for human consumption are pure and are not susceptible to ritual impurity“. This means that since it is not connected to the Supernal Man on the Celestial Throne – holiness – there is no endeavoring from the opposite side, there. For there no tuma’ah there, as aforementioned.

3. On this (Rambam adds) there is another condition: That even “intended for human consumption” does not acquire tuma’ah “unless it was first dampened with one of the seven liquids.” (משקין)

“Liquids”, refer to effluence and drawing down. As we see that this is the property of water.

For water:

  1. Flows from a high place to a low place. This refers to the aspect of Chesed/kindness and effluence in which the “high” descends to the “lower” level in order to influence it.
  2.  Even with regard to food, the effect of water (drinking) is to carry the food to the entire body. Therefore the Sages state that “if one eats and does not drink, his eating is blood”
  3. The nature of water is to attach – the moisture of the water creates a connection and attachment between the separate parts.


In spiritual terms, this means that when the Avodah of a Yid (his “food”) is (not like a dry thing, but rather) with “moisture”, then it does not just remain with him alone. But rather it influences even the Yidden that are around him, so much so that he will “lower” himself to others in order to influence them.

Thus it comes out that, when the “ma’achal Adam” – meaning the aspects of his Torah and Mitzvot (as aforementioned par 2), are connected with the characteristics of water – meaning that they are performed with “moisture” which accomplishes that the holy light should be increased – even in the other Yidden that are around him – this causes an increase in the holy vitality.

Therefore, Klippah tries to cause a condition of tuma’ah, specifically when the “ma’achal Adam” is prepared (מוכשר) to receive tuma’ah through first having “been dampened in one of the seven liquids“ – since specifically in this instance is there an abundance of holy vitality, from which the Klippah wants to secure additional nourishment. (תוספת יניקה).

(And one could say that his is also the inner reason why specifically by liquids, there is an abundance of aspects of decrees and scrupulousness to prevent tuma’ah (which one does not find by foods). For this is due to the special virtue of liquids, which contain (פארמאגן) the property of effluence and attachment with another. This is one of the signs and boundaries of the side of holiness – effluence (השפעה) (the opposite of “consumes (food) but does not excrete “).

However, when the “ma’achal Adam” is not prepared (מוכשר) through water, there is no abundance of holy vitality within him. Therefore it does not acquire tuma’ah (since the Klippah does not “push” to rest there).

4. After all this, there can arise a question and claim:

G-d placed Yidden in this physical world which is called “a world of Klippot and Sitra Achra” and where “evildoers overpower in it”. With this, one says to a Yid, that the more that he endeavors with his Avodah to influence his surroundings - the more is it that Klippah endeavors to try to make him stumble (in order to receive an increase of vitality, G-d forbid). Yet when one does not strive in his Avodah to influence others, he need not be careful of tuma’ah!

One must say that G-d certainly gives advice and a path for a Yidden to be able to forewarn the aspect of tuma’ah (and to forewarn even much more so than one who does not properly strive in his Avodat HaShem).

On this comes the third condition in tuma’at Ochlin:

 “All foods that grow from the earth . . As long as they are connected to the earth - even by a small root, as long as they can sustain themselves from it - they are not susceptible to impurity“ (even if they were prepared by dampening them in water).

This means in Avodat HaAdam that when the “ma’achal Adam” (man’s Avodah) is in a manner that he is connected with the place of his growth, even if it is a “small root (yet) they can sustain themselves from it“, then it “does not acquire tuma’ah”.

5. The explanation of this is:

All of the deeds and aspects of Avodat HaShem (“food that is fit for man’s consumption” – the Supernal) - have their root and source – the place where they “grow” – in the Pnimiyut of the soul, the essence of their Judaism (נקודת היהדות). There, tuma’ah cannot have an effect, G-d forbid. Not only can it actually not become tuma’ah, but even more than this – it does not acquire tuma’ah, it is entirely not in the realm of tuma’ah.

As is known from the Maamer of our holy Rebbeim that:

“The routine of the day begins with saying “Modeh Ani” - "I acknowledge before You, living and eternal King etc.". This is said before the morning laving of the hands, even while the hands are "impure". The reason is that all the impurities in the world do not defile a Yid’s "Modeh Ani" (his belief in G-d). He might lack one thing or another, but his “Modeh Ani” remains intact”. For the Modeh Ani of a Yid is connected with the essence of Judaism in him (נקודת היהדות).

And like the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya that the power of faith and Mesirat nefesh (which come from the essence of Judaism) is complete in every Yid. Therefore “even the most simple of the simplest and the sinners among Israel sacrifice their lives for the sanctity of G‑d’s Name”, “even refusing to do a mere act that is contrary to his belief in the One G-d. For example, to bow down before an idol, even if he does not believe in it at all“. For a Yid’s essence of Judaism does not allow him to be affected, even with a “fringe of the impurity of idolatry, G-d forbid“.

And on this comes the lesson that the “food” must be connected with its place of growth, the essence of Judaism:

It is not sufficient that the essence of Judaism (in himself) remains whole, but rather, the faith and Mesirat nefesh must permeate (דורכנעמען) his deeds in Avodat HaShem. So much so that the vitality that is from the Pnimiyut of the soul is recognizable in the deeds.

6. And this is why Rambam says that “as long as they are connected to the earth - even by a small root, as long as they can sustain themselves from it - they are not susceptible to impurity”:

When the Avodah of a Yid is in a manner that it has a connection with its place of growth - the Pnimiyut of his soul -

Then even if it is just a “small root “ meaning that all the roots are severed, G-d forbid, and only a “small root” remains within him. However, since this is a “small root“ that one can live from it – meaning that vitality from the Pnimiyut of his soul can be drawn from it -

Then, it is “does not acquire tuma’ah”. For just as the true Pnimiyut of his soul is higher than the aspects of tuma’ah, it also becomes manifested in the “food” – the aspects of the person in Torah and Mitzvot, which receive their vitality, permeated with the vitality of the Pnimiyut of his soul. Therefore even in them, tuma’ah cannot affect them.

And so much so that it is “foods that are attached to the earth . . are not susceptible to impurity (אינו הכשר)“. They cannot even be ready (מוכשר) to receive tuma’ah, for the aspect of tuma’ah, is entirely removed (אפגעפרעגט) from him.

And one could say that this is also the explanation in the word of the Mishnah, that the Avodah of a Yid must be like a “tree with many roots and few branches, whom all the storms in the world cannot budge from its place“. Namely that the main virtue is in the multitude of roots, which connect the deeds of the person in Torah and Mitzvot with the place of their growth - the Pnimiyut of his soul. This gives a strength and power (חיזוק ותוקף) in his Avodah, so much so that nothing can move him from his place – “all the storms in the world cannot budge from its place“.

7. As is known, every aspect in Avodah HaShem starts from Torah. So too in this aspect – that in order to accomplish the attachment of the person’s deeds (in his thought, speech and action) with the Pnimiyut of his soul – it is through that which in his Torah study there is the preface of reciting a blessing over the Torah (ברכו בתורה), as the Sages say: “first recite a blessing over the Torah” (ברכו בתורה תחלה), which s draws down in Torah, the open connection with G-d - the Source and Giver of the Torah – the Giver of Torah (in the present tense).

And this is the “main root” (שורש כללי) of the entire Torah:

Torah must come down and permeate all the parts and organs (פרטים ואיברים) – for this is the connection of the revealed parts of the Torah – “Niglah

(Which is similar to the aspect of the foods – “filling one’s belly with meat and bread (Note: which refer to the knowledge of what is permitted and what is forbidden etc.))

with Pnimiyut of the Torah.

The difference between the revealed aspect of Torah and the esoteric aspect of Torah (Pnimiyut HaTorah is, as the Zohar states – that the revealed aspect of Torah is the body of Torah (גופי תורה) and Pnimiyut Torah is the soul of Torah (נשמתא דאו­רייתא).

Similarly the revealed aspect of Torah speaks and explains the laws and aspects of the “Tree of Good and Evil” which is why the study itself is in a manner of sharp analysis/pilpul and questions (פלפול וקושיות) etc. so much so that it includes aspects of controversy (מחלוקת) etc. This means that it has within it an aspect of the hiddenness and concealment of the truth of Torah (אמיתתה של תורה).

Whereas the Pnimiyut HaTorah is the “Tree of Life” – the “tree of life that does not have there, any question etc., and no controversy etc.” It is higher than the boundary of the Tree of Good and Evil.

Therefore, in order that the Torah study of the person should be in a manner of “becoming for him an elixir of life”,

meaning that his Torah study is not for ulterior motives (לקנתר) G-d forbid, an aspect of the opposite of life, nor even that which has a semblance of study not for the Torah’s sake (א דקות׳דיגן שלא לשמה) –

it is through connecting his study of the revealed aspect of Torah (גליא דתורה) with the study of the Pnimiyut HaTorah - the Tree of Life.

And this is like the dictum: “Great is Torah study for it leads to deed“. That through the connection of the revealed and esoteric aspects of Torah, it becomes so also in his general Avodah, that there becomes a connection between the revealed deeds of his soul (his “foods”) with the Pnimiyut of his soul, and therefore he comes to a state that he is not (even) in the realm of acquiring tuma’ah.

And this becomes the speedy preparation (הכנה קרובה) to the tidings: “And the spirit of impurity I shall remove from the earth“, with the true and complete Geulah through our righteous Moshiach, speedily and in our days, mamosh.

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Vayishlach 5745



http://www.chabad.org/multimedia/media_cdo/aid/1830239/jewish/Laws-of-Ritual-Purity-and-Impurity.htm(external link)  (Audio)

http://www.chabad.org/therebbe/article_cdo/aid/92794/jewish/Chassidic-Dimension-Volume-3-Shemini.htm(external link)


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