Sunday, April 1, 2012

Shemini Short

This coming Shabbat, I do not have to deliver a sermon, but tomorrow for Parashat HaShavua class, I have to deliver a two minute sermon, and hand in a 5 minute sermon. Here's the former:

Lizz Goldstein

Parashat HaShavua – Shemini


As an educator, I would rather see students overzealous to learn and contribute to class, even if they are rowdy and loud, than quiet students who try to skate by without ever having to really do anything. Apparently, G-d and I have different teaching styles.

Rashi suggests that in Lev 9:7, Moses has to directly order Aaron to “Approach the altar and perform your sin offering and your burnt offering,” despite having already explained all this to Aaron, because Aaron was suddenly feeling shy and unsure of himself. I can empathize. I am not the student I prefer. By my seventh month as a rabbinic intern, I have now learned my role in the order of service on Saturday mornings. Still, when we turn to the page that I know I will read, and when it comes time to give the d’var Torah, I look to the head rabbi to get my nod before I speak. Moses said to Aaron: “Why are you ashamed? For this [function] you have been chosen!” - [Torath Kohanim 9:7]. I hope that I, too, have been chosen for this rabbinic work, but I still have my moments of feeling inadequate for the job.

And if I haven’t been chosen for this work, if I am inadequate – woe to me! The JPS study bible summarizes this week’s parsha saying, “Aaron’s sons commit a blatant act of sacrilege, overstepping the strictly prescribed bounds of acceptable worship. The scripture says,

And Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu … brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them.

2. And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

It seems they were trying to go above and beyond and were senselessly punished. Where is this blatant act of sacrilege? Such strong words! The rabbis were rightfully uncomfortable with this, deciding that Nadav and Avihu were clearly drunk. Because:

8. And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying,

9. Do not drink wine that will lead to intoxication, neither you nor your sons with you, when you go into the Tent of Meeting, so that you shall not die.

This warning is the back shadowing to tell us that the reason Nadav and Avihu had been killed was that they drank wine and then went to the Tent of Meeting.

Let us hope this is true, because I strive to have the fervor of Nadav and Avihu, but the discipline of Aaron. I would like to come at my studies with vigor and excitement, but to never be afraid to ask questions. Even if Nadav and Avihu were sober, and their deaths that much more tragic, perhaps their sin was in their arrogance. Perhaps if they had asked for permission, they would have been granted. Perhaps I can have just enough of their bravery to show my love for G-d, but with just enough of Aaron’s shyness to keep me safe. I hope to continue in this way, excitedly but with proper caution. And if I ever forget your caution, may I not be burned alive (Sorry Mom – Ashers to Ashes). Amen.

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