Parasha Sheminí שמיני (Levítico 9:1-11:47)
On the eighth day after the “seven days of opening” the tabernacle, Aaron and his sons begin to officiate as Kohanim (priests); Divine fire appears to consume the offerings of the Altar and the Divine Presence comes to dwell in the Sanctuary.
The two oldest sons of Aaron, Nadav and Avihu offer “strange fire against God, which He commanded them not” and they die in the sanctuary. Aaron is silent in the face of tragedy. Moshe and Aaron disagree about a specific point of law of the offerings, but Moshe gives reason to Aaron.
God delivers laws of kashrut – suitable food to be consumed, identifying the species of animals that may be eaten and those that may not. Land animals are allowed only if they have split hooves and chew the cud; fish must have scales and fins; a list of non-kosher birds is given, and a list of kosher insects (four types of locusts).
They are also given some purity laws, including the power of purifying the mikveh (a pool of water with special features) and springs. Whereupon the Jewish people are commanded to “differentiate between unclean and clean.”
With regard to the latter, that is the laws of kashrut, I recall a popular saying: “Tell me what, how, where and with whom you eat, and I will tell you who and what you are.”
There have been numerous explanations to the dietary laws of the Torah. Some point to the benefits of health. Others emphasize the unifying effect these laws carry and their role as a shield against assimilation. Nachmanides, the great Kabbalist sage from the 13th century, explains that “the birds and many mammals forbidden by the Torah are ravenous, while the permitted animals are not; We are commanded not to eat those animals due to their cruel nature, so that we won´t absorb these qualities ”
But perhaps the most basic reason (since a Divine order can have a ‘reason’) is presented by the Torah itself in closing verse on the chapter of the dietary laws:
“To differentiate between the impure and pure; between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that can not be eaten” (Leviticus 11:47).
Now back to what happened on the eighth day, the day of the offering of sacrifices on the altar. That day the Presence of Ha-Shem finally descends, covering the Tabernacle with the clouds of glory.
The nation had waited anxiously for the past seven days. The structure of the Tabernacle was erected, its vessels had been positioned in their place, and the sacrifices had been raised on the altar.
Moses and Aaron had worked diligently to prepare the Tabernacle for the operation. Finally everything was ready to perform the final step -the offering of sacrifices.
At this time the Torah makes us aware of an unusual conversation between Moses and Aaron. “Come to the altar” says Moses, “and offer your sin offering and your igneous offering …” (Leviticus 9: 7).
Why did Moses order Aaron to “approach the altar,” when it was obvious he had to do so? Besides, everything had been carefully rehearsed. Why did Moses speake to him as if he were a rookie?
Rashi cites a Midrash that explains the intimate dialogue: “For Aaron was ashamed and afraid to approach [the altar]. Moses said, ‘Why are you embarrassed? To this you were chosen! ‘”
What was Aaron suddenly ashamed? Aaron was eighty-four years, a venerable sage and a dedicated leader. He had been prepared for his role as high priest, and had rehearsed the procedure of sacrifices for seven days. Why the fear?
But Aaron understood the impact of their work; the offering up of sacrifices cause the presence of Ha-Shem to dwell in the Tabernacle. He was overwhelmed by his humility and fear. Sensing his paralysis, Moses said, “Come to the altar! Change your approach. You have not chosen to be the high priest, God chose you! Fortify your thoughts and go to make your service.”
“And Aaron approached the altar and slaughtered the calf as a sin offering.”
Perhaps in our own way, we have experienced the fear of Aaron. And always, just at the most inappropriate moments. It’s just when we see a great opportunity, we sometimes feel a paralysis seizing our psyche. Sometimes the resistance arises from humility, that feeling of smallness and not being up to the amazing opportunity that lies before us. Those fears arise that scare us and undermine our confidence. Why is it that when we need our power, we often feel inadequate? As if Satan were playing with us for us to fail in our purpose.
Moses comes and says, “Come to the altar! You were elected or for this.” If God has given you this opportunity, then you’re right for the job. Your role is not up to you, but something bigger than you. You are here to serve God, so do not worry about the delusions of Satan. Even if you do not think you’re not good enough for the job, Ha-Shem does! Shabbat Shalom! ~~~~~~~~Mati
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Read this week´s commentary By Rabbi Mark L. Winer is President of FAITH: the Foundation to Advance Interfaith Trust and Harmony. Torah from Around the World #266 de la WUPJ.
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