Blog

227http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2015/04/RabbiLyonsBlog-04_10_2015
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 04_10_2015
04/09/2015 12:00 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
April 10, 2015

 

In this week’s Torah reading (Shemini), we learn about Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu. As sons of the high priest, we assume that the boys would know their way around holy matters. But, Nadab and Abihu bring an “eish zarah,” an alien fire, as an offering to God. Next, a “fire came forth from the Lord and consumed them; thus they died at the instance of the Lord.” Does the punishment fit the crime?

                Moses says to Aaron, “This is what was meant when God said, ‘Through those near to Me, I show Myself holy, and gain glory before all the people.’” Then Torah records, “Aaron was silent.” Aaron’s silence has astonished readers ever since. Perhaps it’s the finality of God’s decree. Perhaps it’s the finality we’ve all felt at times in our life when “we didn’t see it coming” or “we should have known better.”

                Tragedy strikes every day even when we don’t hear about it. It’s called “tragedy,” because it’s an unexplainable event that changes the course of one’s life. Who can fathom a child who is run over by a driver backing out of the driveway; a traveler who boards a plane with a depressed pilot on a suicide mission; or, school children who are caught in the crossfire of a mentally ill classmate? We can’t fathom any of it. Like all tragedies, they result from the price we pay for innocently entering public spaces. To do anything less, however, would be to imprison ourselves at home for fear of ever taking a risk even to cross the street.

                The tragedy we read about in the Torah portion raises the bar, because the task is holy work. Aaron’s sons, though drunk and out of order, were wiped out and Aaron stood silent. It’s as unfathomable to us as it must have been to Aaron. His brother, Moses, not only reports the news but offers a rationale, “Through those near to [God], I show Myself holy, and gain glory before all the people.” In Aaron’s silence there is acquiescence. The high place that Aaron and his sons hold with God before the people comes with an equally high set of standards. Drunkenness is only one reason for God’s wrath. The rabbis add that the sons assumed Moses’ authority when they interpreted God’s command for themselves. It was an affront to Moses before the people.

                Real tragedy falls on the unaware and innocent. No child should die at the hands of an errant driver or a mentally ill gunman, but tragedy also falls on us when we mess up, seemingly irrevocably. Our system of civil justice provides means to restore our standing in the community, but it can’t restore or repair completely the judgment that falls on us by other systems of justice, including religious ones. We are commanded to forgive and forget; but, the emotional burden borne by us takes more time than a single act of contrition or moment of confession. Tragedy breaks down relationships that depend on trust and faith.

                Jewish sources outline in great detail how to seek forgiveness and how to pursue justice. Christian sources outline how to forgive and turn the other cheek. So great are the vicissitudes of our life, which by definition we can’t control, that religion warns us against transgression and provides means to overcome it. The goal is to stand in good stead with God and our neighbors.

                Biblical stories set standards that are often out of reach, but they serve as lessons to live by high ethical and moral standards. Decisions we make every day, let alone when we’re drunk or arrogant, can have unintended consequences. Tragedy is always potentially present. We would do well not to condemn the Biblical story for its severity, but rather to learn that our choices always have consequences, and to the extent that we can, we should make the best choices that we can.


You may contact Rabbi David Lyon here.


Blog Search

Categories

Archives

201806June2
June 2018 (2)
201805May3
May 2018 (3)
201804April4
April 2018 (4)
201803March5
March 2018 (5)
201802February4
February 2018 (4)
201801January4
January 2018 (4)
201712December4
December 2017 (4)
201711November2
November 2017 (2)
201710October2
October 2017 (2)
201708August3
August 2017 (3)
201707July4
July 2017 (4)
201706June4
June 2017 (4)
201705May2
May 2017 (2)
201704April3
April 2017 (3)
201703March4
March 2017 (4)
201702February3
February 2017 (3)
201701January3
January 2017 (3)
201612December4
December 2016 (4)
201611November3
November 2016 (3)
201610October3
October 2016 (3)
201609September4
September 2016 (4)
201608August2
August 2016 (2)
201607July5
July 2016 (5)
201606June2
June 2016 (2)
201605May3
May 2016 (3)
201604April4
April 2016 (4)
201603March3
March 2016 (3)
201602February2
February 2016 (2)
201601January4
January 2016 (4)
201512December4
December 2015 (4)
201511November3
November 2015 (3)
201510October2
October 2015 (2)
201509September2
September 2015 (2)
201508August4
August 2015 (4)
201507July5
July 2015 (5)
201506June4
June 2015 (4)
201505May2
May 2015 (2)
201504April5
April 2015 (5)
201503March3
March 2015 (3)
201502February4
February 2015 (4)
201501January4
January 2015 (4)
201412December3
December 2014 (3)
201411November3
November 2014 (3)
201410October4
October 2014 (4)
201409September2
September 2014 (2)
201408August3
August 2014 (3)
201407July3
July 2014 (3)
201406June3
June 2014 (3)
201405May3
May 2014 (3)
201404April4
April 2014 (4)
201403March3
March 2014 (3)
201402February4
February 2014 (4)
201401January5
January 2014 (5)
201312December3
December 2013 (3)
201311November3
November 2013 (3)
201310October4
October 2013 (4)
201309September2
September 2013 (2)
201308August5
August 2013 (5)
201307July4
July 2013 (4)
201306June4
June 2013 (4)
201305May5
May 2013 (5)
201304April4
April 2013 (4)
201303March4
March 2013 (4)
201302February4
February 2013 (4)
201301January5
January 2013 (5)
201212December4
December 2012 (4)
201211November5
November 2012 (5)
201210October4
October 2012 (4)
201209September2
September 2012 (2)
201208August5
August 2012 (5)
201207July4
July 2012 (4)
201206June3
June 2012 (3)
201205May5
May 2012 (5)
201204April4
April 2012 (4)
201203March5
March 2012 (5)
201202February4
February 2012 (4)
201201January4
January 2012 (4)
201112December5
December 2011 (5)
201111November3
November 2011 (3)
201110October3
October 2011 (3)
201109September4
September 2011 (4)
201108August4
August 2011 (4)
201107July3
July 2011 (3)
201106June4
June 2011 (4)
201105May4
May 2011 (4)
201104April4
April 2011 (4)
201103March5
March 2011 (5)
201102February4
February 2011 (4)
201101January4
January 2011 (4)
201012December5
December 2010 (5)
201011November4
November 2010 (4)
201010October5
October 2010 (5)
201009September2
September 2010 (2)
201008August2
August 2010 (2)
201006June3
June 2010 (3)
201005May5
May 2010 (5)
201004April3
April 2010 (3)
Captavi QixSuite™ - Hosted Marketing Automation Software ©