Saturday, March 22, 2014

Parshat Shemini, (Leviticus 9:24-10:11), 3/18/14

I was surprised to read the commentary by Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Ishmael on this passage because it was so different from our discussion in the reform temple today.

The story goes like this: “Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them to do. And the fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord....And Aaron was silent.”

In the Torah class today, I heard such comments as "even the priestly do not have a guarantee of immortality.” And that Aaron's sons did not die for anything they did, but rather because life is uncertain. We read Aaron's silence in a variety of ways, from it was a meditative silence to it was the silence representing the devastation a parent feels when they lose a child.

Rabbi Eliezer from the 1st or 2nd century reads this passage very differently. He says clearly that “Aaron's sons died only because they rendered halachic [Jewish Law] decisions in the presence of Moses....” Rabbi Ishmael, another commentator from the same time, “[The died because] they had entered the sanctuary after having drunk wine. His “proof” is that later in the parshah God tells Aaron that neither he nor his sons shall be intoxicated when they enter the Tent of Meeting.

I find here two divergent points of view between the old original commentators and our reform rabbis. The book, When Do Bad Things Happen to Good People, was mentioned. The old reading of this parshah says that bad things happen when people do bad things. The reform take seems to be that things happen, whether we are good or bad. The truth is ....

Here is still another reading of this parashah. It says that Aaron's boys were two zealous and that is what angered G_d. 

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