Torah Portion: Shemini (Eighth) Leviticus 9-11
HafTorah: II Samuel 6:1-7:17
In this Torah portion today we see the continuation of the preparations for the glory of G-d to appear before the people in the tabernacle (Mishkan). We see Moshe making ready Aaron and his sons to present the offerings before the L-rd. We read of the death of his two sons, Nadav and Avihu. This is followed by an entire chapter on what foods are considered food and which are not.
As we go through this section I would like to see what, if any, connection we can make for the verses as a whole. Even beginning with G-d appearing on the mountain we begin to see a pattern. There restrictions were placed on who could approach the mountain. Why? Here we see steps set out that were to be followed before, first the priests and then the people, could come before the manifest presence of G-d. When those things are done according to G-d’s revealed will they result in His glory appearing so all of Israel could see His presence. After Aaron and his sons had purified themselves with the offerings set out, they then do the same process for all of Israel. What is important here and also for us, G-d does not demand perfect people but a people with a broken and contrite heart. (Psalms 51:17) No pride, or personal ambition but a people who hungered after Him above all else. He wanted a people that put His will before their own. (Leviticus 9:22-24) Sadly, immediately following we read about the death of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu. What happened? There are many thoughts and conjectures but one fact stands out – they went outside of G-d’s framework. Maybe in their zeal and excitement they let their own desire to see more of G-d take precedent over G-d’s instructions and order. Whatever the case, it cost them their lives. Leviticus 10:1-2. They crossed over G-d’s instructions about how and when to approach His holiness. In II Samuel 6 we read of Uziah putting his hand out to steady the ark when it seemed about to fall. What happened? He was struck dead on the spot. King David left the ark behind because he was frightened by what happened. Only later did he return to bring it back to Jerusalem. What was different this time? He followed G-d’s instructions and only the Levites were allowed to bring it on their shoulders. This was the way G-d’s Word said it was to be done. This time there was complete success. I Chron. 13:1-4, and 15:1-2) So good intentions are not enough. G-d has given us His Word, which lays out for us His will and way. Yeshua gives us a wonderful example of this in John 8:28. He did nothing of Himself but only as the Father had taught Him. When He was tempted by satan in the wilderness how did He respond? He answered with G-d’s word not His own ideas thoughts or feelings. This is an important point for us to be aware of. G-d has given us His Word and that is to be our guide not what we think or wish or really, really want. G-d has a way – walk in it. The world says, “do what is right in your own eyes.” We as G-d’s people can’t fall into that trap.
In somewhat the same vein we come to the chapter on clean and unclean food. G-d does not explain why He makes this distinction He just lays it out. One list is Tahor or pure while the other is tamai or impure. Remember this is a ritual clean and unclean, not connected to sin. What was the result of coming into contact with an unclean item or person. It kept you from entering into the corporate worship of Israel. Remember G-d’s word makes distinctions – light and dark, Sabbath and work days and life and death. G-d’s word tells us what keeps us in the realm of life. Even here in Leviticus 11:44-46 G-d tells us the purpose of these food laws is to keep us holy, able to approach Him. He is holy and He expects us to exhibit His holiness. These food laws set Israel apart from the people around them. (Deut. 4:5-8) Yeshua never once broke these food commandments. (Matt. 5:17-19) What we like or don’t like in life is not the issue. The point is what G-d has said and what brings us into His holiness.