Parashat Shmini is the 26th weekly reading in the annual Torah reading cycle and the third reading of Vayikra(Leviticus). Shmini (שמיני) is Hebrew for eighth and is the third word of the parashah, which begins with the reference to the eighth day; the day following the seven-day ordination of Aharon (Aaron) and his sons at the entrance to Ohel Moed (the Tent of Meeting).

The parashah records Moshe’s (Moses) instructions to Aharon, his sons, and Ziknei Yisrael (the Elders of Israel) regarding what they must do in order for the glory of HaShem to appear to them. Aharon, therefore, makes offerings for himself and for the people and blesses them, which the parashah also records in detail. After this, Moshe and Aharon enter Ohel Moed together. When they come out of the Tent, they bless the people again together and something amazing happens!

Next, the parashah transmits the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Nadav (Nadab) and Avihu (Abihu), the sons of Aharon, together with their father’s remarkable response. After the bodies are carried away, the parashah continues with HaShem’s loving instructions to Aharon which will ensure such a thing never happens again, if followed. Moshe further instructs Aharon and his surviving sons, Elazar (Eleazar) and Itamar (Ithamar), regarding the portion of HaShem’s offerings assigned to them, a khak olam (a statute until the World to Come), according to the command of HaShem.

Parashat Shmini ends with HaShem’s instructions to Moshe and Aharon regarding the living creatures that may and may not be eaten by the people of Yisrael, among all the animals that live on the Earth, in the waters, of the birds, of the insects, and of the creatures that swarm. The people of Yisrael are to make a distinction between tamei (unclean/impure) and tahore (clean/pure) and between the living creature that may be eaten and the living creature that may not be eaten.

Torah Portion: Leviticus 9:1 – 11:47

1st Aliyah: Leviticus 9:1-16 (16 verses)
2nd Aliyah: Leviticus 9:17-23 (7 verses)
3rd Aliyah: Leviticus 9:24-10:11 (12 verses)
4th Aliyah: Leviticus 10:12-15 (4 verses)
5th Aliyah: Leviticus 10:16-20 (5 verses)
6th Aliyah: Leviticus 11:1-32 (32 verses)
7th Aliyah: Leviticus 11:33-47 (15 verses)
Maftir: Leviticus 11:45-47 (3 verses)

Special Maftir
Shabbat HaChodesh: Exodus 12:1-20 (20 verses)
Shabbat Parah: Numbers 19:1-22 (22 verses)

Reading from the Nevi’im (Prophets):

Traditional Ashkenazi Reading: II Samuel 6:1 – 7:17
Traditional Sephardic Reading: II Samuel 6:1 – 6:19

When Parashat Shmini coincides with a special Shabbat,
a different Haftarah is traditionally read:

Shabbat Parah: Ezekiel 36:16-38
Shabbat Machar Chodesh: 1 Samuel 20:18-42
Shabbat HaChodesh: Ezekiel 45:16 – 46:18