Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #26: Sh’mini (Eighth) Vayikra (Leviticus 9:1-11:47
Haftarah: Sh’mu’el Bet (2 Samuel) 6:1-19
B’rit Chadashah: Galatians 2:11-16
This week G-d demonstrates how serious He is about making sure He is glorified (Lev. 10:3). Two of Aharon’s sons took it upon themselves to worship G-d in a manner that He did not prescribe. This narrative provides an uncomfortable truth for those who choose to worship G-d contradictory to His instructions. The result was instant death. Aharon was silent when Moshe shared this dreadful news. What could he say? He knew that G-d gave specific instructions on how He is to be worshiped and Aharon had just made the offerings in the prescribed manner (Lev. 9:16). Had not Nadav and Avihu learned anything? Did they take G-d’s instructions so lightly that they felt they could modify them at will? What is the problem? Shouldn’t these young men have been blessed for their enthusiasm? Let’s investigate the meaning of this by starting with the first word in this passage, “but.” This little word tells us a lot about what happened. Notice in the previous verse “When all the people saw it [the glory of Adonai], they shouted and fell on their faces.” Then we see the word “but.” This word indicates Nadav (generous) and Avihu (he is my father) did not prostrate themselves before the glory of Adonai. They offered a fire of their own before Adonai requiring them to face the glory of Adonai as indicated in the words “before Adonai.” It was as if these two thought they had special privileges and could approach G-d anyway they saw fit. They thought they were above their G-d just as King David believed when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. Would that Adonai allowed this unauthorized action, He would not have been revered as G-d who is in charge. After all, if Nadav and Avihu could modify the rules, look upon G-d and live, why can’t we sing and dance our lives away and christen it as being filled with the Holy Spirit? Moreover, why can’t we celebrate Easter and Christmas under the guise of loving Jesus and wanting to celebrate His ascension and birth? How can this be wrong? Immediately Adonai makes it clear that He will be glorified one way or another; either with our love and obedience demonstrated to the world, or through His use of other means.
The Sages agree with this perspective noting that it is common in human society that powerful or respected people maintain a looser and more permissible standard of behavior than “ordinary” people. This does not hold water with G-d. In fact, the opposite is true. G-d holds leaders to a higher standard and deals more strictly with their deviations from His Torah. Furthermore, Aharon and his remaining two sons were not to mourn in isolation. Rather, the whole house of Israel was to mourn because of the destruction Adonai wrought with the fire. There is something about involving everyone that brings the point closer to home. By involving the whole house of Israel, everyone was made aware that Adonai means what He says. His instructions are to be followed as He directs. This was similar to what our prison system was designed to do; deter crime. When the sentences and punishments were enforced, fewer people would consider violating the law, especially when they heard how bad the conditions were inside. Unfortunately, it is a different story today with conditions in prisons sometimes an improvement over what the convicted person experienced on the outside.
Next, Adonai speaks to Aharon directly giving him instructions not to get drunk when they, as priests, were involved in the holy service. Furthermore, this is a permanent regulation for everyone when serving G-d (Lev. 10:9). There is no prohibition against drinking in general as is taught in some other religions. We are to have our faculties about us so we can discern the mundane from the holy, the clean and unclean. Aharon and his sons were to remain sober when teaching the people of Israel all the laws Adonai had told them through Moshe. This role incurs an awesome responsibility and requires a clear mind and open heart. Perhaps Nadav and Avihu were intoxicated when they took it upon themselves to offer unauthorized fire to Adonai. This possibility is mentioned in the Chumash based on the subsequent restriction on drinking after the death of Nadav and Avihu.
Now let’s move to Chapter 10:16-20. We must remember that Aharon was now an Onen (the bereaved).This designation applies during the period of time between death and burial. The prime responsibility of the onen is to arrange
the funeral. During this time, an onen is exempt from positive religious
obligations. As such, prayer is not obligatory at this time. However, an onen
who finds it helpful to express feelings through prayers may do so. This knowledge is necessary to understand why Aharon did not partake of the sin offering. Three goats were offered as sin- offerings that day. One was the special offering of Nachshon, the tribal leader of Judah (Num. 7:12-17); the second was for the inauguration of the Tabernacle (9:3); both were offerings that would not be offered again. The third he-goat was the sin offering of Rosh Kodesh (Num. 28:150. Although G-d had commanded that the Kohanim eat despite their onen status, it remained the privilege of Moshe or Aharon to determine the circumstances to which the command applied. Moshe thought that the command should apply to all offerings which would have included that Aharon should eat the he-goat offering for Rosh Kodesh. However, Aharon reasoned that since the direct command concerned the meal-offerings which included those that were “one-time” offerings, it should only apply to the he-goats of Nachshon and the inauguration. Since the he-goat of Rosh Kodesh was not included in that category, Aharon held that it was forbidden for him and his sons to eat the meat. It is postulated that this is the first place in the Torah where we find a classic exercise of the Oral Law, in which reasoning is used to interpret and define the parameters of the laws. Verse 16 informs us through the singular “the he-goat of the sin offering,” that there was only one sin-offering that had been burned. The Sages came to the conclusion that it was the he-goat offering for Rosh Kodesh. Moshe carefully investigated what had happened and became angry that it had not been eaten but had been burned up. This was the sin offering that was supposed to have atoned for the guilt of the community. Aharon rightly informed Moshe that he himself had just experienced he guilt of Nadav and Avihu’s sin against Adonai and he was now an onen. One explanation for the offering being burned is that it was not appropriate for him to eat the meat of the sin offering at this time or to have participated in this service as a bereaved. The service of an onen disqualified him from this service. Therefore, the offering that they performed would have had to have been burned. Aharon makes it clear to Moshe however, that even though the Kohen Gadol is permitted to serve as an onen and the service was performed properly, no one was permitted to eat the offering, for even a Kohen Gadol is prohibited from eating while he is an onen (Rashi). Aharon tells Moshe that the recent tragedy has made him an onen, which therefore prohibited him from eating sacrificial meat. Moshe acknowledged Aharon was right and Moshe was satisfied (Lev. 10:20). This narrative is a wonderful illustration of how we must take care to analyze situations and obtain all the information necessary to make informed decisions. At first appearance, it would seem that Aharon and his sons did not perform the sacrificial offerings correctly. But after careful analysis and input from Aharon on the matter, Moshe realized Aharon was within the law by not eating the meat.
Haftarah: 2 Samuel 6:1-19
The haftarah provides us another example of the seriousness of modifying our worship of G-d. King David decides to transport the ark of G-d on a new cart. It is as if David thought a new cart; a foreign fire would be an acceptable way to transport it. However, G-d made it very clear how the ark was to be transported; on the shoulders of man, not beasts, or in a cart. We read in Exodus 25: 13-15: “Make poles of acacia-wood, and overlay them with gold. Put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark; you will use them to carry the ark. The poles are to remain in the ark; they are not to be removed from it.” David violated this protocol and it cost Uzzah his life when he tried to steady it on the cart. For the new Torah student or for those who disregard the Old Testament with the original Constitution of G-d, it would seem unreasonable for G-d to kill a man for what seems such an innocent action. The same could be said for Nadav and Avihu. However, when we come to the truth of G-d’s Torah that specifically instructs us on everything from worshiping YHVH/Yahshua to the permitted animals and insects, we had best pay attention and engrave “these words which I have commanded you this day, be upon your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you retire and when you arise. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and let them be frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house, and upon your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9). David was very well aware of this instruction and the protocol for transporting the ark. This is the reason he became frightened of Adonai and did not bring the ark to Jerusalem for three months. Instead, the ark was taken to the house of Oved-Edom where G-d blessed him and his entire household. Who was Oved-Edom and why would David trust him to keep the ark? His name means Servant of Edom. He was considered a native of Gath-rimmon, thus the designation Gittite. He was a Levite of the family of Korhites. He had taken up residence in Judah, perhaps a convert to Judaism and the worship of the G-d of Avraham, Isaac, and Jacob. David had many followers from the Gittites. This may explain why the ark was taken to Oved-Edom’s house for three months and merited G-d’s blessing over him and his entire household
B’rit Chadashah: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
This passage reminds us of the stark differences between true believers and unbelievers; clean and unclean epitomized by Avraham and Lot. “Do not yoke yourselves together in a team with unbelievers. For how can righteousness and lawlessness be partners? What fellowship does light have with darkness? What harmony can there be between the Messiah and B’liya’al? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement can there be between the temple of G-d and idols? For we are the temple of the living G-d- as G-d said, “I will house myself in them” and I will walk among you. I will be their G-d and they will be my people.” Therefore Adonai says, ‘Go out from their midst; separate yourselves; don’t even touch what is unclean. Then I myself will receive you. In fact, I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters.”
It is important to understand that the word son in Hebrew has several meanings. It does not always mean a biological son, or a son-type relationship in any way equivalent to Yahshua to G-d the Father. I submit in this passage, sons and daughters takes on one of the alternative meanings of disciples.
The directions are clear, and we do not have the liberty to modify them in any way. This passage may sound easy to follow, but anyone who is in the process of ascending to G-d is in the process of learning how involved this process of separating ourselves becomes as we grow. It may or may not be easy for you to give up eating pork, shellfish, and/or fish without fins and scales. However, it’s required. Then we learn of the tithe; it’s required. Then we learn that not working on Shabbat is not an option. We must examine the scripture and ourselves to clearly avoid work from the obvious such as cleaning house, washing dishes, and plowing a field to more subtle things such as cooking which is a mundane task but enjoyable to some. Shabbat is a day of rest; physical and spiritual. Then we realize our relationships with our families and friends must change; it’s required. What about potential companions or spouses? They must take second place to our obedience to G-d’s Torah (Matt. 10:34-37; Luke 12:51) “But whoever disowns me before others I will disown before my Father in heaven. Don’t suppose I have come to bring peace to the Land. It is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword! For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, so that a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Whomever loves his father or mother more than he loves me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than he loves me is not worthy of me.”
Our G-d is a jealous G-d who demands allegiance to Him only (Ex. 20:5). The pig in a template of sorts for hypocritical behavior. Just as a pig looks kosher from the outside with the split hoof many people boast about attending religious services, giving to the poor, and loving G-d. Yet, when they get home and go about their daily lives, they live in complete contradiction to G-d’s Torah by ignorance or by choice.
We all have a choice. May we choose the path that will lead us to eternal life with YVH/Yahshua, no matter the perceived hardships including social isolation or even martyrdom endured for His glory. It can be done by seeking, asking, and knocking for understanding in G-d’s Torah. THEN we must act on that which we learn. This is the will of G-d, that the world will know that “I am Adonai” (Ezekiel 35:15; 26:38; 37:28; 38:23).
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart