Shabbat Table Talk
Parashat Sh’mini, Erev Shabbat 13th April, 2018
Week of 8th – 14th April 2018
Torah portion: Leviticus 9:1 -11:47 Haftarah 2 Sam. 6:1-7:17
Parashat Sh’mini includes the first celebration of sacrifice in the Tabernacle by Aaron and it contains the instructions on distinguishing the living creatures that may be eaten from those that are forbidden.
The parashah begins on the 8th day, after the completion of the seven-day ordination of Aaron and his sons. Why would it be necessary to begin with an emphasis of it being the 8th day? As the parashah commences, what echoes do we hear? The Talmud compares the first seven days of celebrating the construction of the tabernacle to the seven days of creation. (Etz, p.630) The eight day, then, brings into focus the day after God had rested in creating and it is the first day when the whole of creation begins learning to live as one and whole.
Moses’ first instruction is for Aaron to prepare for himself a calf of the herd for purification and an unblemished ram for burnt offering, at the same time asking also Aaron to call on the Israelites to separate sacrificial offerings for themselves. (Lev 9:2-4). It would seem that Aaron’s first act of sacrifice and purification expiates the memory of his first act of being a leader (in the absence of Moses), to the then wandering nation in the wilderness, where he assisted in the creation of the Golden Calf.
While all who witnessed the appearance of the God’s presence cried out and fell on their faces, tragedy followed suit. “Now Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu, each took his fire pans, put fire in it and laid incense on it; and they offered before the Lord alien fire, which He had not enjoined upon them. Fire came forth from the Lord and consumed them; thus they died at the instance of the Lord.”(Lev 10:1-2) Why was it that when all were in awe and wonder of what had just happened, Aaron’s sons were doing something different and seemingly out of the flow of what was going on? Why would it be necessary to mar the occasion with the deaths of two who were already ordained to be God’s priests for the Tabernacle? Could it be understood that our commitments come with grave responsibility to attune our life and our ways to movement of the Divine in and around us, causing dilemmas, to the point of death to anything that separates us from being whole and one?
Repeated twice in chapter 9, once in verse 4 and again in verse 6, it appears to be the central message of the parashah. Amidst all the preparations and instructions of what and how it is do what is commanded, all is simply secondary to the real purpose of why it is to be done, and that is to welcome the presence of God in the midst of all.
Parashat Sh’mini seems to remind us that each day is likened to an 8th day experience, where creation awaits on us to rediscover that the whole is one and that amidst all the busyness of living, we are to keep alive the understanding that the real purpose of what we do and how we live our lives, is to simply awaken us to the revelation of the Divine Presence in and around us.
Reflection and Discussion: 1. How different would we live our life everyday if we get a glimpse of and remember that it is endowed with God’s presence? 2. How do we live out our commitments and responsibilities differently, if we understand it to be one and the same as contemplating the Divine in all?
Bibliography: Lieber ed. Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary, Travel ed. (JPS New York 2004);
This week’s teaching commentary was prepared by
Sr. Weeyaa Villanueva, RNDM.
Senegal, West Africa Bat Kol Alumna 2010.
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