Shemini (Eighth) – Leviticus 9:1 – 11:47
One of the most tragic events in the Bible takes place in this week’s reading. Leviticus 10 begins with the story of the death of Nadav and Avihu, who brought a “strange fire” before G-d. It is not clear exactly what Nadav and Avihu did that angered G-d. However, unlike the lengthy descriptions of the building of the tabernacle and its consecration, which included repeated assertions that all was done “as G-d commanded Moses,” clearly Nadav and Avihu took an initiative that extended beyond the parameters of G-d’s commandment.
But it is Moses’ words of comfort to Aaron, who has just lost two of his sons, that is most telling. “This is as G-d has said, I will be sanctified in them that come near me and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron was silent.” (Leviticus 10:3)
It is a great privilege to enter the tabernacle and perform the holiest tasks of all. The high priest is the only one allowed to enter the holy of holies and only on the Day of Atonement. There is great holiness attached to everything any priest does and they are truly able to serve G-d in a very special way. But there are tremendous restrictions on them as well. They must serve G-d exactly as He asks, with no deviations.
It is difficult for us to understand this sort of relationship with G-d that is so strict and so dangerous. But there is comfort in the fact that such demands are only made upon those that G-d is closest to. And it is through these incredibly close relationships that G-d’s name is sanctified.
Many are those who have died or suffered who seemed to be so close to G-d, so faithful to His name. We may question the justness of it, for what would such wonderful people have done to have deserved such pain. But perhaps Moses’ words to Aaron can be a comfort to us all in these circumstances. Perhaps G-d expects more from those He is closest to. And through this relationship, we can better understand G-d’s perfection.
Shabbat Shalom From Samaria,
Director, Israel Office