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Shmini (Eighth) – Leviticus 9:1 – 11:47

Kosher is all about separation

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,

Sondra Baras signature



Sondra Baras
Director, Israel Office

4 thoughts on “Shmini (Eighth) – Leviticus 9:1 – 11:47”

  1. Thankyou for your commentaries that are always so full of a deeper insight than is generally known outside Judah ……this mornings is very comforting and inspiring ……..would you think that this also would account for God threatening to kill Moses because he had not circumcised his son ?

  2. I think the issue with Moses and circumcising his son is a bit different, as it does not refer to an approach to the holy of holies. When Nadav and Avihu approached the inner sanctum of the tabernacle, they were playing with fire, literally, and when approaching the center of G-ds’ holiness, it is has to be done exactly right. With Moses, the issue was that he had not circumcised his son at all. It was not about doing something right but in not doing it at all. But both incidents do show that G-d exacts a very high standard from those closest to Him.

  3. Interesting issues here. I am aware of the kindness and severity of G-d. Both are here in this passage. Proverbs states that ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ There is the ever present danger of presuming on the favour of G-d to our detriment, as Nadab and Abihu might have done. Nevertheless, the love of G-d is also powerful, as Moses found out when he argued with G-d when encountering the burning bush, as G-d wrath started to burn towards Moses. We also have in King David’s time ther death of Uzzah who tried to steady the Ark when the oxen stumbled. It is a feature that runs through scripture, and we need to be aware of the implications.

  4. In 1 Samuel 2 it is clear why severe judgement came upon the two sons of Eli. “They lay with the women who assembled at the door of the Tabernacle of Meeting.” Eli had heard rumours of this but did not or could not do anything to restrain his sons from sinning against God, the people of Israel and priestly position of those serving the Sanctuary.
    Further to the list of offences was that Eli honoured his sons more than he honoured God in allowing them to partake of the fat and the best of all the offerings of the children of Israel. Sobering story in Torah reading today. Don’t be highminded in witness and work. We can be replaced by someone else appointed and annointed for divine service in the Mishkan!
    Thank you, Sandra and Kim. I
    look forward to your weekly Torah readings. Shabbat Shalom.


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