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On the eighth day, following the seven days of their inauguration, Aaron and his sons begin to officiate as kohanim (priests); a fire issues forth from G d to consume the offerings on the altar, and the divine presence comes to dwell in the Sanctuary.

Aaron’s two elder sons, Nadav and Avihu, offer a “strange fire before G d, which He commanded them not” and die before G d. Aaron is silent in face of his tragedy. Moses and Aaron subsequently disagree as to a point of law regarding the offerings, but Moses concedes to Aaron that Aaron is in the right.

G d commands the kosher laws, identifying the animal species permissible and forbidden for consumption. Land animals may be eaten only if they have split hooves and also chew their cud; fish must have fins and scales; a list of non-kosher birds is given, and a list of kosher insects (four types of locusts).

Also in Shemini are some of the laws of ritual purity, including the purifying power of the mikvah (a pool of water meeting specified qualifications) and the wellspring. Thus the people of Israel are enjoined to “differentiate between the impure and the pure.”

Matzah Shmurah

The need for matzah shmurah comes from the Toraitic statement “U’shmartem Es HaMatzos” (“And you shall guard the Matzos”).There are three types of shmurah, which literally means “watched.”

As previously mentioned, if water comes into contact with one o the five species of grain and is allowed to stand for 18 minutes, it becomes chametz. If dough is constantly kneaded, it will not ferment. Matzah must be made with these five species of grain and also must be made with water. What is required is guarding that the dough or the grains not be allowed to stand 18 minutes once they have come in contact with water. They must be baked within that time.

The three types of shmurah matzah are:

Mishaas K’tzirah – watched from the time of reaping (harvesting)

Mishaas Techina – from the time of grinding (milling)

Mishaas Lisha – from the time of kneading

A grain may become chametz any time after reaping (after it is removed from its organic source of growth) if it has come into contact with water. Therefore it must be carefully guarded.

Although we eat matzah all Pesach, one is only legally obligated to eat matzah on the first night of Pesach (in Eretz Yisroel) and the first two nights in the diaspora. This of course does not mean that chametz may be eaten; IT MAY NOT. Therefore we are especially careful with the matzos that we eat that night (or those nights). Matzos commonly bought in supermarkets or grocery stores that are “Passover Matzos” are also shmurah matzos. However they are NOT sufficient to fulfill one’s obligation. First, they are only watched from the time of kneading, which is in itself not desirable, but more importantly, they lack another essential condition, that of being baked “L’Shame Matzas Mitzvah” (“for the sake of the commandment”).Therefore while they may be permitted the rest of Pesach they may not be used to fulfill one’s obligation to eat matzah on the first night of Pesach (first two in diaspora). Most G-d fearing people eat only matzah shmurah mishaas k’tzirah the entire Pesach. However, those who do not do so have authorities upon whom to rely.

Parashat Tazria begins with laws relevant to a woman after childbirth, specifically, laws relating to her status of Tum’a (ritual impurity) after delivering a child. While these laws do not apply today on a practical level, as we do not have a Bet Ha’mikdash, this Parasha gives us the opportunity to briefly reflect on the event of childbirth and the proper response when welcoming a new child into the family.

It has become very common for pregnant women and her friends and relatives to pray throughout the period of pregnancy for a smooth delivery and healthy child. Certainly, the process of gestation and delivery lends itself to numerous complications, and therefore prayer is most definitely warranted. Often, however, the prayers end once the infant is delivered. After birth, everyone breathes a sigh of relief, feels grateful that the prayers were answered, and then moves on. We must remember that although childbirth marks the end of the pregnancy, it marks just the very beginning of the equally important process of development and education. If anything, our prayers should become more intense and heartfelt after a child is born. At that point, the real challenge begins – to raise the child and train him or her to follow the proper path and adopt the proper lifestyle.

Each day, towards the end of the Shaharit prayer service, we pray, “Lema’an Lo Niga La’rik Ve’lo Neled La’behala” – “so that we do not wear ourselves out for naught, and we do not give birth for confusion.” We plead that God should see to it that our children are not raised “for confusion,” straying from the proper path in search of something else, which would make us feel that all our hard work was “for naught.” We invest so much in our children – so much time, hard work, money and emotion – and we rightfully want to feel that all this investment pays its dividends, in the form of children who grow to follow the proper path. Childrearing requires a great deal of Divine assistance, and so we should praying each and every day that our efforts should be successful and that we will see the blessed results of all our hard work.

This is especially so in our times, when so many of our youngsters unfortunately leave the fold and stray from the proper path. Today, more than ever, it is so easy for youths to lose their way and to succumb to the overwhelming pressures of general society. And so today, more than ever, children need their parents’ prayers.

A verse in Tehillim (128:3) describes children as “olive saplings around your table.” Children are compared specifically to olives, as opposed to other kinds of fruits. The reason is because most other fruits are plucked from the tree ready to be eaten, whereas olives need time to soften and develop. Olives are usually placed in barrels for an extended period of time during which they become soft, as they are generally inedible before then. Children are like olives because they require a long process of development, a process which is often complicated and fraught with uncertainty. They are not like apples and bananas which come from the tree ready for consumption; they are like olives, which need a good deal of time and attention in order to develop properly.

We owe it to ourselves and our children to pray regularly and fervently on their behalf. Prayer must not end at childbirth; that is when we need to start praying in earnest