Torah Portion: Shemini(Eighth)Vayikra/Leviticus 9:1-11:47
Haftorah Reading: II Samuel 6:1-7:17
Thank you to everyone who sent in answers to my questions this week. I asked these questions to specifically show an example of the unchanging nature of G-d. My questions were, what were the three major offerings commanded by G-d and what order were they to be given? What was the significance of the order?
Many people look at these verses from our Torah portion, or verses from all of Torah as having little to say to us as believers. Some see it as ancient history that may show us the culture of that time period but not much above that.
However, these verses in Leviticus 9:3-4 give us a perfect example of how our G-d does not change. What were the three offerings mention here and in what order were they listed? These verses speak of the sin offering, the burnt offering and the peace offering in that order.
What does G-d require of us today in our modern world? He requires the same process from us. We come before Him and confess our sin, atoning for our sins by confessing Yeshua as our burnt offering. Yeshua gave His life for us. Then and only then do we receive peace between ourselves and the Father. I pray each week as we study and talk about the Torah portion we can see the connection between our faith and all of G-d’s word.
I also want to give you a fact that is often not noticed about our portion today. In Leviticus 10:16 we read, “Moshe searched carefully for the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it had been burned up.” The words, searched carefully, are translations of two Hebrew words, darosh, darash. These two words mean searching, he searched. In other words he was to keep on searching. If you count the words from the beginning of Genesis up to these two words, darosh, darash, and then count from these two words to the end of Deut. you will find these two words are exactly the middle of the five books of Torah. I did not personally count every word of Torah this week so I am taking the word of scholars that this is true.
It is like G-d is saying to us, search and keep on searching, we can never exhaust the truth of G-d’s word. I pray this will inspire each of you to darosh darash every day to see what G-d will show you.
Now to what we can learn today. In our portion called Shemini we read of the dedication of the Mishkan. We also read of the death of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu when they brought strange fire before G-d and were judged immediately. They paid with their lives for what they did. Leviticus 10:2 says, “So fire went out from the L-rd and devoured them, and they died before the L-rd.” This incident is referred to no less than four occasions in Leviticus 10:1-2, Leviticus 16:1, Numbers 3:4, Numbers 26:61. It seems G-d is showing us something very important, something we all need to be aware of. Remember this occurred on the day of the inauguration of the Mishkan, a time that should have been one of great rejoicing.
What did these boys do that resulted in this punishment? Some say they were overcome with emotion and wanted to get closer to G-d. Other commentaries say they were intoxicated. For sure they did something that they had not been told by G-d to do.
Moshe repeated G-d’s word to Aaron in Leviticus 10:3, “Among those who are near to me I will be sanctified.” All this brings us again to ask why did Nadav and Avihu do what they did? They must have been caught up in something to act in a way that went against the training they had just received.
In Exodus 19:21-22 when G-d gave the Commandments He was already setting a framework for the priests to operate in and warned them to consecrate themselves or He would break out against them. Exodus 19:21-22, “And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord uto look and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near to the Lordvconsecrate themselves, lest the Lord wbreak out against them.”
So working in G-d’s framework was not a new thing for them.
I would like to propose a possible answer that is something we still see around us today. Could it be enthusiasm? That word enthusiasm is normally seen as a positive thing. However, it has not always been so. A few centuries ago this word carried a far different meaning. Rather than a positive action it was looked at as an extremist action. It was used to refer to religious extremism. When we see Nadav an Avihu carrying out their duties with enthusiasm they could have gotten carried away. They may have thought they were able to adlib in their services to the Father.
This is a dangerous place for a person to come to. When you feel your position allows you the freedom to act above or outside the pattern and framework of G-d you are on shaky ground. You might come to rely on your own rules rather than what G-d has laid out.
Jean and I had personal experience with this. We were members of a congregation. It was a truly life changing positive time for us. Eventually we became part of the leadership. After some time things began to go off the rails. The leader of the congregation began to do things that seemed out of place to us. Alarms went off in our heads but we looked at this person as a man of G-d who was enthusiastic and charismatic. Surely he knew what he was doing. Finally, we saw that he like Nadav and Avihu was offering strange fire before the L-rd. We were quiet about our feelings for a time but soon it all came crashing down. I believe this man truly loved G-d but he got off track in his enthusiasm for great things to happen in the congregation. He slowly began trying to manipulate G-d’s presence instead of waiting on Him to do great things. As a result many people were hurt and disillusioned.
We must never allow our enthusiasm to override what we know is truth. G-d has His perfect way and we, in humility are challenged to follow His lead.