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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Parshat Shemini

Posted by rabbiart on April 21, 2008

Torah Reading: VaYikra 9:1 to 11:47 Haftorah Reading: Ezekiel 36:16 to 36:38

This Shabbat is also Shabbat Parah. The Maftir is read from BaMidbar 19:1 to 22, and a special Haftorah is read. Shabbat Parah is always the first Shabbat after Purim. The significance of the reading is not related to Purim which has just passed, but Pesach while will soon arrive. The maftir reading describes a purification procedure that makes it possible for the Israelites to journey to Jerusalem to offer the Pesach sacrifice. The key ingredient of the ceremony is an untamed, unblemished red heifer. You can read more about the ceremony here.

Meanwhile, back in the regular Torah reading cycle…For two weeks and eight chapters we have been reading details of the sacrificial rites. VaYikra described sacrifices to be brought by the Israelites. Tzav described sacrifices to be brought by Aharon and his descendants. Finally, in the sixth verse of this week’s Parshah, we get to the payoff! Hashem will manifest HaShem’s presence to the Israelites.

“Moshe said: This is the thing which Adonai commanded you to do, so that the glory of Adonai may become apparent to you.” What was done in the Mishkan; what we do in synagogue, is to help us sense the presence of G-d in ourselves and in each other.

A close reading of the text shows the connection between the Israelites and their anointed representatives. In verse seven, Moshe speaks directly to his brother. Therefore we infer that in verse six, which is prefaced only with “Moshe said”, that Moshe is speaking to all the Israelites, and that (a) the priests are acting on behalf of all Israel; and, (b) that once Aharon and his sons do as instructed, HaShem will appear to all of Israel.

Also in the parshah (chapter ten) we have the mysterious incident of Nadab and Avihu, two of Aharon’s four sons. They take their copper fire pans and put fire and incense in them together and offer up aish zarah (strange fire) which had not been commanded. They are immediately consumed by fire from HaShem. We wonder what it was they did that was so wrong that they were immediately consumed by fire and their family told not to observe the usual mourning customs. What was so terrible about a couple sons of Aharon making a voluntary offering?

Davar Acher (Another Interpretation) Perhaps this parshah is a metaphor for living in the real world; the world of history. The world was created in seven days, and went into ongoing operation on the eighth. The Mishkan was dedicated for seven days and went into operation on the eighth. Sure enough, things started going not according to plan.

Shabbat Shalom


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