Torah reading: Sh’mini
A rabbi sometimes has a hard life. People expect so much of him. Actually most rabbis expect a great deal of themselves.
The two expectations don’t always coincide. An example has to do with food. The rabbi expects that his congregation will take the kosher laws seriously; the congregation often expects the rabbi to be more concerned with the mind and not the mouth.
The Torah solves the problem by expecting both. The mind is obligated to concern itself with ideas and ethics; the mouth is duty-bound to keep itself pure by eating only such foods as are authorised by the Almighty.
Both themes are central to this week’s sidra. It wants us to think properly about God, man, life and the world. It also wants us to live a holy life by avoiding any and every type of forbidden food.
THE TWO OTHER SONS
Aaron had four sons. Rashi tells us that after Nadav and Avihu died, God had a message for the remaining sons, Elazar and Itamar (Lev. 11:1).
These sons, according to Rav Naftali Zvi Berlin, were told the statement of the Talmud (B’rachot 63b) that whoever takes in silence his teacher’s anger deserves to become a teacher of halachah.
The Torah says that when God punished Nadav and Avihu, Aaron had been silent (Lev. 10:1-3). Elazar and Itamar were not unaffected by what had befallen their brothers and they actually made a mistake in their halachic reasoning on an aspect of the laws of the sacrifices (Lev. 10: 12-20). Aaron understood their feelings and explained the situation to Moses. So Elazar and Itamar had a lesson in how to react to a situation.
From Aaron they should have learnt silence in the face of tragedy. Eventually they did learn their lesson and we admire them for it, but we admire Aaron even more for the example he set his sons.
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