Torah Weekly

For the week ending 22 April 2017 / 26 Nisan 5777

Parshat Shemini

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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On the eighth day of the dedication of the Mishkan, Aharon, his sons, and the entire nation bring various korbanot (offerings) as commanded by Moshe. Aharon and Moshe bless the nation. G-d allows the Jewish People to sense His Presence after they complete the Mishkan. Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu, innovate an offering not commanded by G-d. A fire comes from before G-d and consumes them, stressing the need to perform the commandments only as Moshe directs. Moshe consoles Aharon, who grieves in silence. Moshe directs the kohanim as to their behavior during the mourning period, and warns them that they must not drink intoxicating beverages before serving in the Mishkan. The Torah lists the two characteristics of a kosher animal: It has split hooves, and it chews, regurgitates, and re-chews its food. The Torah specifies by name those non-kosher animals which have only one of these two signs. A kosher fish has fins and easily removable scales. All birds not included in the list of forbidden families are permitted. The Torah forbids all types of insects except for four species of locusts. Details are given of the purification process after coming in contact with ritually-impure species. Bnei Yisrael are commanded to be separate and holy — like G-d.


No Partnership

“And Aharon was silent…” (10:3)

Every silence says something.

When the Torah says that “Aharon was silent” after his two sons were consumed by fire for bringing a korban that was not instructed by G-d, it implies that he had something to say, but restrained himself.

What could Aharon have said in defense of his sons’ flagrant breach of the Torah?

The Midrash Pliah remarks, “What could he (Aharon) have said? ‘And on the eighth day he shall circumcise the flesh of his foreskin’.”

How would have brit mila been a defense?

The spiritual masters teach that Man was born uncircumcised to emphasize that just as Man must complete his body, to finish the work of Heaven and circumcise himself, so too must Man partner with G-d and use his own initiative to raise the world to perfection.

Nadav and Aviahu, Aharon’s sons, thought that they should use their own input in the service of G-d, and believed that it was right to bring a human fire on the altar, even though fire descended from Heaven.

And strictly speaking they were correct, as it says: “And the sons of Aharon the priest shall put fire on the altar” (Vayikra 1:7) — even though fire descends from Heaven there is a mitzvah to bring a man-made fire.” (Yoma 21b)

Thus, Aharon could have claimed that just as brit mila is given for us to partner with Heaven, so too the fire from Heaven needed a human counterpart.

In reality though, the claim does not hold water.

Even though, on a regular basis, there is a mitzvah to bring man-made fire, on this day, the day of the inauguration of the Mishkan, where the descent of Heavenly fire was to indicate the resting of the Divine Presence on the Mishkan, there was no place for man’s participation. Therefore, the fire was called “a strange fire”, since the resting of the Divine Presence tolerates no partnership.

  • Sources: Yeshu’ut Malko by the Kutna Rebbe as seen in Mayana shel Torah

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