In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Prov.3;6 ב”ה
Shemini: Fear With Love- Seeking Service In The Heart 5777
As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. 2 Corinthians 6;1-4
Blessed be the One Who says and does. There is nothing outside of You. If we can reach out to You from inside our pain and find a way to praise declaring: come what may….blessed be the Name! You will chisel a route for us from out of the darkness. Stumbling desperate in a wilderness where every turn seems like a repeated mistake, if we can stop, stay still, and just call for the Help of the Healer…You will find us and illuminate in an instant the path we should begin to walk on. Stiffened legs, throbbing spine, uneasy stomach, wandering mind… yet if we begin to take the steps toward truth, You will revive us and be within us on this journey to closeness with You.
Unworthily I begin this week, awed by so many things. There is no way I can describe it. So much joy, so much pain. Tasting the bitter while choosing to acknowledge the very sweet. And once again, Torah intersects with life, current events, prophecy. Clarifying, cleansing, redeeming….there is mourning and there is healing. The Torah isn’t a book of perfect people. The Torah is the story of real life, of family. With the anguish and triumph.
Romans 12;1Therefore I urge you, brothers, on account of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment, according to the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and not all members have the same function, 5 so in Messiah we who are many are one body, and each member belongs to one another. 6 We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If someone’s gift is prophecy, let him use it in proportion to his faith; 7 if it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is giving, let him give generously; if it is leading, let him lead with diligence; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. 9 Love must be sincere. Detest what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Outdo yourselves in honoring one another.
Last week we started to look into the account of Nadav and Avihu. One of the most ‘mysterious’ and brief, yet weighty accounts in the Torah. Reading the Roman’s text above through the lens of Nadav and Avihu makes it rife with connection! Nadav and Avihu, were not evil. What they did is never called a ‘sin’ by Hashem in the Torah, yet how do we understand it? There are many interpretations. We know that they were called the ‘ones who came close’ Karav- that shoresh for the term translated as ‘offering’ with the meaning – coming close, drawing near. It is taught that in their zeal, in the excitement of this ‘biggest day of their lives’, in their desire for the ultimate closeness…they knew full well what they were ‘risking’ and wanted to be reunited with their Source…joining their fire to His Fire, their cloud (ketoret- incense) to His cloud. Thus becoming at that moment bodies in a living sacrifice. It is taught that they did not administer the proper discernment because they did not check with Moshe Rabeinu (their teacher), nor did they confer with their Av, Aaron (their father)…and the word ‘respective’ or ‘own’ firepans in the text could suggest they really didn’t even check with one another! It could have been that they truly believed this was the will of God, but because they did not go through the proper channels it does seem like an act devoid of a perfected discernment. Perhaps because they failed to involve themselves with good counsel this hints to an element of arrogance, pride, haughtiness in Nadav and Avihu. Aaron, after suffering the death- acharei mot…of his sons, experiences his very first direct communication from Hashem. Hasher’s very first devarim- words to Aaron are: “Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die- Vayikra 10;9
It is taught that Nadav and Avihu were intoxicated when they entered (it is also taught that they came within the veil of the Kadosh ha’kedoshim, the Holy of Holies- which was not permitted, thus they over stepped their boundaries in more ways that one.) It is taught that they were overcome with the sense of love in their worship, versus following the standard and actual commandment of Hashem…that which they had practiced for seven full days (speaking of the entirety of the ‘given’ revealed creation versus the 8th which speaks of something ‘beyond’). Love can be subjective, the aspect of ‘love’ in worship can unfold into any and everything the human emotion can conceive of. Perhaps this is one reason the Temple service is so very intricately STRUCTURED. There is room for creativity and ecstasy, but it must be tempered with Yare Hashem – the Fear, Reverence which causes us to know before whom we stand- Da Lifnei Mi Attah Omed. Truly, Nadav and Avihu in some way shirked their brotherly connection, being the highest level of leadership- those who would bring Korbanot Hashem. These ‘offerings’ which would bring close the people to God. They were more interested in bringing an ‘extra’ gift of their ‘own’. It is taught they bring their own fire, their own incense, in their own pan, their own way…and one of the biggest issues is that this is at a point in time when ALL ‘eyes were on them’ as the example. Nadav and Avihu certainly did attempt to outdo themselves, the result was that they drew too close and were ‘burned’ with the fire of Hashem’s presence. Pretty amazing when we connect this with Romans 12 and attempt to dig into what Paul is teaching us about our service to Hashem which appears to directly relate to how we serve one another.
Vayikra 10;1 Now Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron, took (lakach) their respective firepans, and after putting (natan) fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed (achal) them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near (karav- come close) Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.’” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.
B’reshit 3;6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took (lakach) from its fruit and ate (achal); and she gave (natan) also to her husband with her, and he ate (achal).
#3947 (v) lakach לָקַח- to take for oneself, to take possession of, to take for a wife, to occupy, to recieve, to captivate, to be taken.
#5414 (v) natan נָתַן- to give, to cause to recieve, to set, to place, to put, to allow, to permit, to teach, to make, to apply the heart to.
# 398 (v) achal אָכַל – to devour, to consume, to taste, to be eaten, to feed.
Again I will call to attention that these texts share a common theme. I suggested last week that like the mixed fruit of the tree, what Nadav and Avihu did at the most vital of moments in which they could have sanctified and cemented God’s declared methodology in worship and service before all the people…they sent a mixed message. You can do this however you feel led, as long as your intent is good and your heart is in the right place. It’s all good. Or is it?
A good student asks themselves when faced with a moral dilemma: What would my parent, my teacher, do in this situation? A good student draws from the experiences that have come before Him, from the tools and ‘commandments’ he has been given to learn, thus he knows the answer and follows that through. This is what it means: “You’ve learned.” That’s real education.
2 Corinthians 6;16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 17 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. 18 “And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.
Ephesians 2; 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
In this ‘partnership with God’ we should always be asking: What would God want me to do? If the answer to that question is ‘veiled’, practice asking for everything: Will this bring me closer to Him?
For Nadav and Avihu, and often within our lives it is not so much a choice between good and bad…freewill is not a decision between good and bad. The reality is that often it is “good or better”, “bad and worse”. We will be enabled to really walk out our faith as if it is a true PARTNERSHIP if we are constantly asking and seeking: What would bring me closer to God? What would God want me to do in this situation?
Sh’mot 24; 1Then He said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadav and Avihu and seventy of the elders of Israel, and you shall worship at a distance. 2“Moses alone, however, shall come near to the LORD, but they shall not come near, nor shall the people come up with him.” 3Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!”…7 Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!”
“נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע Na’aseh v’nishma“–“We will do and we will hear/understand.”
‘The boss’ asks the servant for something, na’aseh v’nishma. “You’ve got it” now tell me how to do it.
Processing – we will do what you tell us to do and we will continually listen and apply the principles as we understand them. We want this partnership. Even when you’re not speaking we’re still listening, we’re still seeking to ‘know’- yada, covenant knowledge of Hashem.
דָּרֹ֥שׁ דָּרַ֛שׁ Darosh- Darash is the very center of the center of the Lev shel ha’Torah (heart of the Torah).
<—–דָּרַ֛שׁ Search Search דָּרֹ֥שׁ —–>
It is as if, in the Hebrew, Hashem has inscribed the very directive for our walk with Him. Seek and keep seeking. And yes, look from the heart, this way into My Torah and that way into My Torah. Through and through and you will find the understanding of what this partnership is all about.
Vayikra 10;16 But Moses searched carefully (darosh darash) for the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it had been burned up! So he was angry with Aaron’s surviving sons Eleazar and Ithamar, saying, 17 “Why did you not eat the sin offering at the holy place? For it is most holy, and He gave it to you to bear away the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord. 18 Behold, since its blood had not been brought inside, into the sanctuary, you should certainly have eaten it in the sanctuary, just as I commanded.” 19 But Aaron spoke to Moses, “Behold, this very day they presented their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord. When things like these happened to me, if I had eaten a sin offering today, would it have been good הַיִּיטַב in the sight of the Lord?” 20 When Moses heard that, it seemed good וַיִּיטַב in his sight.
#3190 (v) yatav יָטַב – to be good, to do well, rightly, well, accurately, fitting, to fit, adjust, to please.
Last week we discussed the greatness of Aaron’s silence upon the death of his sons. We drew an astounding connection to the silence of Aaron and the silence of Avraham when he was asked to bring Yitsach as an olah. The Akedah (binding of Issac) is truly the very first place we are given this magnificent connection to the Temple service and offerings. This is the very reason God set up this system, indeed…to point to what He would bring about in Yeshua. Avraham was asked, we are asked through ‘offerings’: bring the most important thing to you. And the animal takes the place of the man.
This is to set up the picture of the korbanot.
The father and son go together to “The Place”, at that time…the ram was brought instead of Yitsach.
B’reshit 22; 6Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb (שֶׂה seh- sheep, lamb) for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. 9Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram (אָ֫יִל ayil- ram) caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.
So here we are, again at “the place” [for the Mishkan ‘foreruns’ the Holy Temple in Yerushalayim] God would choose forever, where His people would be enabled to come close to Him and find restoration, rectification, relationship. Again, we have fathers and sons…only this time, the ‘ram’ was no where to be found. Nadav and Avihu perished, Aaron was silent and Moshe searched.
Indeed the Lamb of God whom Avraham, in faith, spoke of to his son…was yet to be revealed.
Aaron set an example to us in regard to trust-bitachon in Hashem, even in the most difficult circumstances. Aaron accepted Hashem’s judgment with a deep faith-emunah which displayed the testimony (in this case, without words) that God does have the best interest of each one of us in His plan. There is however a complimentary aspect of the yare- fear-reverence of Hashem which Aaron practiced. He knew that the inaugural offerings had to ‘go on’. This was the Chanukat- dedication of the Mishkan, ‘opening day’…Aaron understood that part of it had to ‘go on’ in the sight of all Israel. For the people, in order that they know they were acceptable and favored of Hashem on that day, Aaron went on. Yet, when it came to the chatah- the ‘sin offering’ that Aaron had offered with Nadav and Avihu for the people for atonement, Aaron did something that should make us stop and think. IF the idea of Nadav and Avihu going outside of the order of Hashem and His service, not ‘sticking to the plan’ was indeed worthy of their being judged and consumed by heavenly fire…one would think that Aaron would stick even more strictly to the appointed service. You can sense this concern in Moshe’s interrogation in the Torah text. I believe Moshe was ‘afraid’ for Aaron and his ‘remaining’ sons. ‘Look at what just happened! I can’t lose you too!’
I Corinthians 2; 9…“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11For who among men knows the thoughts of man except his own spirit within him? So too, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13And this is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The natural man does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. For they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15The spiritual man judges all things, but he himself is not subject to anyone’s judgment. 16“For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Messiah.
As we have seen before, Aaron has a greatness which God attests to by His appointment of him as Kohen Gadol. We recall, God did not just excuse Aaron from his participation in the chet ha egel (sin of the calf) because He was (God forbid) ‘saving face’. There was something within that God judged and favored deeply in Aaron haKohen. So too in this case, we see that Aaron’s internal spiritual sensitivity and such a deep connection to Hashem that he is not afraid to be REAL in his faith, unashamed to be candid with his King. God allows Aaron to assess his emotional state and say, “This is not the way it’s supposed to be. I am not where I am supposed to be.” Aaron understands, yes the ‘show must go on’, but I do not have the joy Korbanot require. Korban are meant to be with joy, Aaron knows this. So he explains to Moshe: ‘God wouldn’t want me to take of it this way. I am hurt… my happiness is marred but I understand the obligation still exists- I will do the inaugural offering. But, because I am setting the tone forever for Korbanot, I will not show the people that they should approach without the simchah.’ It cannot be that God wants: our emotional state doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter whether you’re miserable…it can’t be.
Aaron teaches us this profound lesson when he refrains from eating the Chata offering which was to be shared among the Kohanim. ‘I don’t want to eat of it and I don’t think God wants me to either.’
An offering is not a magical thing that brings you close to God
even if your heart isn’t in it.
Korban is a symbol of your intent, representative of what you feel.
Aaron’s heart says: I need to BE THERE, I can’t be that type of person right now.
This is not how I’m supposed to serve God.
We have come to understand that not only are there no vain or arbitrary letters, words or passages in the unified word of Hashem…but especially in the Torah the placement of words and sections of text are also intentional and purposeful. So, after this section of narrative (remember sefer Vayikra has very little narrative) we recieve the instructions regarding clean and unclean foods. Why? Why now?
For our purposes we will call this explicit list detailed in the Torah of what God considered good for consume for the members of His nation of priests and kings: Kosher. It should be clear by now that the lessons Aaron, Nadav and Avihu teach us are directly related to DISCERNMENT. Kosher doesn’t mean “good for your physical body” (Kosher foods can be ‘unhealthy’.) Kosher teaches us something about spiritual health- everything good for you spiritually.
Vayikra 10; 8 The Lord then spoke to Aaron…(10) to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean, 11 and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them through Moses.”…11;1 The Lord spoke again to Moses and to Aaron, saying to them, 2 “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘These are the creatures which you may eat from all the animals that are on the earth….43 Do not render yourselves detestable through any of the swarming things that swarm; and you shall not make yourselves unclean with them so that you become unclean. 44 For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. 45 For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’”46 This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, 47 to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten.
Think of Kosher as a flag. A flag is not intrinsically valuable, it is valuable in that it connects you to the state. (The scripture clearly connects ‘holiness’ with what we put into our bodies.) Symbolic acts teach you something, even if it’s not intrinsic. Kosher is applicable, but it is also educational- these ‘laws’ are teaching us something. I CAN MAKE A CHOICE. This will translate into every aspect of our lives. If a child is taught to discern what they are eating through the standards of God, they will have that engrained in them when choosing a mate. These instructions are meant to allow (and coax) us identify with a certain mission and point us in a certain direction: “You have been set apart as holy to the LORD your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure.” Dev.14:2
1 Peter 1; 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who foretold the grace that would come to you, searched and investigated carefully [darosh ❤ darash], 11 trying to determine the time and setting to which the Spirit of Messiah in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of Messiah and the glories to follow.12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they foretold the things now announced by those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.13 Therefore prepare your minds for action. Be sober-minded. Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you at the revelation of Yeshua Messiah. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the passions of your former ignorance. 15 But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, 16for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives in reverent fear during your temporary stay on earth.
Serving God through Fear- yare… I do what I am told. Serving God through love- Ahavah… I will do whatever feels right. A spirit taught, wholesomely compounded emunah in Hashem will contain BOTH of these elements. I’ll do it, then I’ll understand it. This is the strength we get from our avodat Hashem. When it comes to the ‘unclean’ or to ‘sin’, perhaps one shouldn’t explain through reason ‘this is why this is good or bad for me…’ or to say: “I didn’t like that anyway, yuck.” Perhaps one might say, I absolutely enjoyed it. I wanted to do it…but I am not going to because Hashem doesn’t find favor in it. Because HASHEM said so. “Loving You is greater than understanding you. Will You help me to strive for both?”
Let us remember to always be asking: What would Yeshua want me to do? ‘This’ may not be ‘bad’ but WILL THIS BRING ME CLOSER TO HIM? We are the Mishkan, “the place” is for us, the korbanot…for us. Therefore everything we say, think, do, eat, write, read, listen to…everything can be translated as an act of worship- divine service- avodat Hashem. Let us know that Hashem doesn’t want robots, nor does He need puppets to perform His will. He desires genuine partners. Yeshua is the head, we are the members and tools in His hands. Let us be REAL with Hashem as Aaron was, knowing that the heart being in it…the joy in the service makes the closeness authentic. Life changing. Let us never cease the search, looking into the ancient days and those who came before…seeking ahead of us and the wonders about to be revealed, which ARE revealed in every season and time. I pray you will continue to be blessed in these days- make them count!
To tie into last week’s lesson
on Depression and finding Simcha:
A prayer against depression, and for Simcah in avodat Hashem (Divine Service)!
Master of the world, I am grateful for all with which you have blessed me. You sustain every creature from a human being to a tiny fly. Never, do you forget my family or me as You continually provide for all of our needs. With all that You give me, I may sometimes forget to be thankful and appreciative. Some of this stems from the sadness and depression into which I often slip. I know that there is no reason to be sad as you provide so well for me, but being human I am far from perfect. I cannot say I do not know how to be happy because truly I do. All I have to do is look at the family and friends I have. I think about what I lack rather than all that I have, which is more then I need.
We are taught that the greatest joy comes in the heartfelt walking out of Your commandments and the blessing of being a part of the remnant. As easy as this should be, I seem to live without realizing how blessed I am. When I perform your commandments, there are times that I do so without reflecting on their importance and meaning. Please help me remember and recognize all the good that surrounds me.
Lead me to a life with the utmost joy and harmony in my heart. One of the ways to attain joy is to dance and sing praise. Sometimes laziness overcomes me and I don’t want to exert myself. Please aid me in dancing and singing with joy and may all my sadness turn to joy. Let the judgments of myself and the remnant be full of mercy and not strict. Whatever sins I have done before You may You blot out in Your abundant mercy. So many sins weigh heavily upon my shoulders, please lighten the weight and help me to make a new beginning in my avodat Hashem.
Assist me please Hashem in my emunah and bitachon. I know that my lack of emunah is the reason for much of my sadness. Help me to increase my emunah to believe that my future and destiny is very bright ahead of me. It is in You, Hashem, that I trust: Hashem is my salvation, my Yeshua. Please give me assistance that I should always put in all of my effort into my everyday activities, both physical and spiritual. Thank you Hashem for taking the time to hear my prayers and for looking past the mistakes I have made while overcome by depression. B’ahem Yeshua HaMashiac, Amen!
Resources: see homepage and My Resources entry for where I go to compile these entries. Much of this week was inspired by and came from the teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Katz http://www.shlomokatz.com/ and Rabbi Ari Kahn http://rabbiarikahn.com/ as well as Rabbi Gordon’s lessons on the Parasha from Chabad.org, and shiurim by Rabbi Jonathan Ziring, see: http://www.yutorah.org/rabbi-jonathan-ziring/