Monday, March 17, 2014

Shabbat Parah

Shemini, Leviticus 9:1-11:47 & Num. 19:1-22

By Rabbi Rabbi Steven Pik-Nathan for Reconstructionist Jewish Communities

Strange Fire ... a Midrashic Reconstruction on Nadav and Avihu

The parashah this week is Shemini. Instead of a traditional d'var Torah I am sharing with all of you an original midrash I wrote about Nadav and Avihu. These two sons of Aaron, the High Priest, after seeing Divine fire come down from heaven and devour the first sacrifice made in the newly-dedicated Mishkan (Sanctuary), decide to take matters into their own hands. They bring a "strange fire" before God, that God had not commanded them, and their punishment was that they were then devoured by Divine fire. The rabbis have commented on this for years, questioning whether Nadav and Avihu were simply brash, arrogant upstarts, or if perhaps there was another reason.

I like to think of Nadav and Avihu as the first Reconstructionists.

Unfortunately, they were a little ahead of their time and so they suffered the consequences. Once you read my midrash you'll understand why I say this.


The time had finally arrived. The animals had been slaughtered exactly as God had commanded. They had been placed on the altar. Now they had only to wait.

Aaron, the High Priest, and his sons Elazar, Ithamar, Nadav and Avihu had followed God's instructions as relayed to them through Aaron's brother Moses; now they were to see the results of their actions. For the first time they were making a sacrifice on behalf of the people in the newly dedicated Mishkan, the portable desert sanctuary.

As they stood waiting there suddenly appeared a blinding light in the heavens. A bolt of Divine fire descended upon the altar. In an instant the slaughtered animals were consumed. The sacrifice had been accepted by God. Enveloped by smoke, the smell of charred flesh permeating their nostrils, they could feel the presence of God within and around them. And yet as quickly as it had appeared, so too it dissipated as with the smoke from the sacrifice.

Continue reading.

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