Thursday, March 20, 2014

SHEMINI 'Eighth' 5774

Parsha Shemini – the “Eighth” 5774
              Torah:   Vayikra (Leviticus) 9:1-11:47
         Haftarah:   Shmuel Beth (2 Samuel) 6:1-7:17
Brit Chadasha: Mark 9:1-13
                             Luke 18:1-20:26

     They had just completed the seven days of installation of the priests.  The eighth day was a whole new level, based upon the prior seven.  HaShem had brought down His glory to man and now it was their turn to start. 

     We learned recently that although Yisrael was not authorized to mix plant fibers, yet we find that the kohen’s garments have both kinds woven together.  In today’s portion, among other things, we are taught the various kosher/acceptable food sources, which are contrasted with those ‘tamei’/unacceptable sources.  A person was to not only refrain from eating them, he/she was not to touch such items.

     But this is how HaShem sets things apart for His glory, His greater purpose:  skins from unclean animals were covering the tabernacle! And the closer you moved to the center, the materials increased in value – brass laver and altar, and moving in you come to the golden altar for the incense, then on to that most Holy place, where the ark of the covenant abode, with the golden cherubim.

     There were prescribed offerings – both sin offerings and burnt offerings on this day. The result?  the Shekinah consumed the offering.  The sons of Aharon -- Nadav and Abihu got caught up in the moment (offering incense improperly), and paid a terrible price -- their lives were stopped short in front of everybody.

     Many have speculated the cause, and even the effect of their actions.  Cited causes have included disrespect for Moshe's teaching, not living pure lives, drinking / working under the influence, getting caught up / careless with details, doing it wrong / not up to standards.  The single reason, making the most sense as a given cause, is the direct, deliberate, purposeful use of strange fire -- they did it their way.

     Some scholars would say that – in the instant before the fire consumed the boys – G-d explained His joy in their spirited and creative worship toward Him, and of His need th take them Home, because of Israel's inability to understand.  This just goes to show how far people go to call white black and black white – people try to explain the situation without the concept of sin, and each person’s responsibility for his/her own actions.

     Aharon was ordered by HaShem to take neither the time nor the actions to grieve for the boys (his sons), but rather continue with the service of the tabernacle.  The joy of the Shekinah – G-d's Glory/Presence with Israel was a much bigger picture than the loss of his own sons. Aharon felt it was hypocritical to "eat the sacrifice with joy", he ordered his portion to be included with the burned portion.  Moshe felt Aharon was wrong, but accepted his brother's decision.

     It has been previously stated that Aharon was a voice to Moshe and that Moshe was a G-d to Aharon.  Looking at that statement in the light of this situation, one could say that Moshe, like Adonai, has the unchangeable standard, the Torah.  That Torah is
G-d’s standard, which is applicable to all people.  Aharon, on the other hand, has the view that all people are in individual circumstances.  They must be individually lifted up to meet that Torah’s immutable truth in order to apply it effectively (see Likutei Sichot, vol. 17, pp 113-116).

     After the discourse regarding acceptable sacrifices and unacceptable ones. The Scriptures turn to e subject of food, for just as activities are fit (kosher) or not, food also follows.  We are once again given two categories – tahor (clean/fit) and tamei (unclean/unfit).  Animals are divided into four basic categories: land animals, sea creatures, fowls, and insects.  The Scriptures give a list of regulations and examples from these categories.

     The pig seems to be the universal symbol for things unkosher.  It has been suggested that the pig's biggest draw, is that it appears kosher on the outside.  But appearances are just that – how things appear. Tamei/unkosher animals are not dishonorable in their existence (. . . and G-d saw that it was good), nor are they contaminating in their life.  The rules – not man's invention, but G-d's direct declaration  come into play upon the death / consumption of the animal.

     It is our choice, whether to follow the example of the pig, and appear to be kosher, but scavenge and root in the mud, or to ruminate like the kosher animals, and claim the blessing passed down by King David in Psalm 119 – ‘that we are wiser than our foes, because we make HaShem’s mitzvot ours, and have more understanding than all our instructors, because we ruminate on His instructions’.

Shabbat Shalom.

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