שמיני

In this week’s parsha, we read of the puzzling deaths of two of Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu (Vayikra / Leviticus 10:2), when they offer a “strange fire” before Hashem right after the consecration of the Mishkan (Tabernacle).  Not only the event of their death is strange; the ways in which all involved parties react is also odd, chilling even.

Both Moshe and Hashem seem to want nothing more than for Aharon to continue on as if nothing had happened.  Moshe tells his brother: “This is what Hashem meant when He said ‘I will be made holy by those close to me, and will be honoured by the entire nation'” (10:3).  Ibn Ezra, clearly feeling much less uncomfortable with this passage than modern ears might, interprets this to mean that Hashem made Himself holy through Nadav and Avihu, who were close to him (ibid.).  However, this amounts to saying that Hashem saw fit to have two (otherwise innocent?) people killed in order to be honoured by the Israelites.

If this were not enough, Moshe goes on to urge Aharon and his two remaining sons to not show any public signs of mourning, and that “your brothers, the House of Israel, will weep over the fire that Hashem burnt” (10:6).  Not only was this Divine act somehow justified, but the immediate family of the dead will not be allowed to show their grief.

Where is the justice

In being forbidden

To show our grief?

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