Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Shmini - 5776

My friends,

This Shabbat we read the portion of Shmini from the Book of Leviticus. It derives its name from the first verse of this reading: "Vahehi Bayom Hashmini" - "It came to pass on the Eighth Day". The eighth day was the first day of the month of Nissan, the day that the Tabernacle was to be dedicated. It's the eighth day after seven days of anointing the Kohanim and practicing what was to happen on this day of dedicating the new Tabernacle.

There are great expectations as the people have all gathered to watch Moses, Aaron and his sons perform the service in the Tabernacle. Aaron and his children do well as a fire descends from heaven and consumes the sacrifice. This indicates that G-d has accepted their offering and now dwells among the people in this new sanctuary.

But something goes terribly wrong. In the middle of all this excitement and celebration, two of Aaron's sons, Nadav and Avihu, offer incense in their incense pans, with 'Esh Zarah', a foreign or strange fire - something that they were not commanded to do. A fire descends from heaven and they are killed. Moses and Aaron and all the people are shocked by this tragedy. Much drama follows in the conversation between Moses and Aaron regarding the loss of two children on this important day in Aaron's life.

Many commentaries dwell on the words 'Esh Zarah', a strange fire. What was wrong with this fire? Can 'strange fire' mean a misplaced zeal and passion? Aaron's sons in their desire to participate in this event brought in a ritual that was not part of the new ritual of the temple. They forgot all the instructions and the seven days of practice.

Today, we see a 'strange fire' in some of our youth and people, who have accepted revisionist history and have taken the Palestinian narrative in how Israel came to exist. They have forgotten that, from the start, the Palestinians and the Arab world have refused and continue to refuse acceptance of the Jewish State in any part of our Promised Land.

The promotion of the BDS movement in so many parts of the world is an 'Esh Zarah - a strange phenomenon that is directed only on the Jewish State.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram