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Parashat Shmini - 5777

Dear friends,

I hope you all had a wonderful and enjoyable Pesah, surrounded by family and friends.

This Shabbat, we return to the weekly readings from the Torah. Shmini is the third portion in the Book of Leviticus.

In the last chapter of the preceding Parasha, we read how Moses was instructed to prepare for the official dedication of the Tabernacle. There were seven days of rehearsals, where the priests learned their various roles in conducting the service in the Tabernacle:

"You shall not go outside the entrance of the Tent of Meeting for seven days, until the day that your period of ordination is completed. For your ordination will require seven days." (Leviticus 8:33)

This week's parasha begins with what happened on the **EIGHTH** day - 'Shmini' - The official day when the Tabernacle will be dedicated, as Aaron the High priest and his sons will do their thing of bringing offerings and offering prayers of atonement on behalf of the people. This is the day that Aaron and his family and Moses and the entire people of Israel have been looking forward to. It has been one year since the Exodus, the Tabernacle has been completed, and today the people will witness whether their work has been accepted by G-d, whether the sin of the Golden Calf has been forgiven, and whether G-d will now dwell among them.

For Moses' brother Aaron, this is the most important day in his life - becoming the HIGH PRIEST.

On this Eighth Day, Moses and the entire congregation gather in the Tabernacle. Moses announces that "today the L-rd will appear to you". Aaron and his sons bring the offerings to the altar as they were directed. Moses and Aaron come out of the inner sanctum and turn to the people and bless them:

"A fire came forth from before the L-rd and consumed the burnt offering on the altar. And all the people saw, and cheered and fell on their faces." (Leviticus 9:24)

So far so good.

However, on this most important and joyous day in the life of Aaron and the people, tragedy strikes. Immediately after G-d's revelation that the offerings have been accepted as indicated by the fire that came down from heaven and consumed them, Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, in a moment of ecstasy and excitement, each took his fire pan, laid incense on it and offered it before the L-rd. This was an alien fire which they were not commanded to offer. The punishment was most severe and immediate. A fire came forth from the L-rd and consumed them, and they died before the L-rd.

We can only imagine the devastation Aaron must have felt. The day of his greatest achievement turned into a day of sorrow and mourning. Moses offers words of comfort, but Aaron's response is total silence. The entire congregation mourns the passing of these two sons, but Aaron and his remaining two sons are told that they must complete the service at the Tabernacle.

I believe that this Parasha has an important message for all of us. Be grateful to G-d for every single day in your life, for every achievement, large or small, and for every blessing you have enjoyed. There are so many unexpected and unanticipated things that can happen over which we have no control. They are part of life. Ours is the duty to recognize and enjoy G-d's kindness in everything that comes our way. A well-known prayer begins with these words:

"Baruch Hashem yom yom." Thank you G-d, for every single day.

Shabbat Shalom and have a great week and a great day to day.

Avram