Rabbi Yonah Burr
Shemini: An Awesome Responsibility
ויהי ביום השמיני – “and it was on the eighth day”
Parshas Shemini is the culmination of the establishment of the Mishkan, the dwelling place for the Shechina in this world.
For weeks now, we have been reading about the collection of materials, the craftsmanship of the artisans, and the construction of the Mishkan. We learned about the ‘Melu’im’ the seven-day ceremony inaugurating the Kohanim, and this is finally the day we were waiting for.
Aharon is asked to perform the avodah as the Kohain Gadol for the very first time, blesses the people, and brings the heavenly fire down to consume and accept the offering of the people. The Jewish People exult, and all bow before the Divine Presence. Klal Yisroel is at the top of the world.
Caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment, Nadav and Avihu, the greatest sons of Aharon, bring an incense offering that was not commanded, and they are instantly killed. Moshe consoles Aharon, and accepting the Will of Hashem, he is quiet.
It is almost impossible to imagine the mind-boggling chaos of emotion -- from excitement, to jubilation, to national mourning, back to celebrating the success of their efforts of the Mishkan. How are we to comprehend this?
Rashi, citing the medrash explains: Moshe told Aharon, “I actually expected this; this must be what Hashem meant when He said ‘I will be sanctified through my holy ones’; I thought it would be through either you or me, but now I see that your sons are the greatest of us all”.
As inconceivable as it is, the establishment of Hashem’s presence in our midst needs to be accompanied with this tremendous awe and trepidation. Only through this ‘shock treatment’ can we fully appreciate the magnitude of the mission we have.
Every Yom Kippur, the death of the sons of Aharon serve to instill in us the magnitude of the Service of Hashem; entering the holy of holies, and beseeching Hashem for atonement.
The fact that Nadav and Avihu gave up their lives for the service of Hashem serves as a lesson on how important it is. And all through the generations Jews have given up their lives for the honor of serving Hashem and remaining loyal to Him.
B”H, we are not challenged in such extreme ways. But certainly, we can be inspired by those who demonstrated such loyalty, and try to live our lives being the best we can possibly be.
May we merit the redemption speedily in our days, and once again feel the Divine Presence in our midst!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!