Parashat Shemini

In the fast paced world that we live in, sometimes we do things a little too fast. In some cases, we may be so eager to reply to an email that our tone is inappropriate or unprofessional. In other cases we may even hit “reply all” with a personal message, that will be broadcast to an entire listserve. This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Shemini, states that Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, died because they brought an “Esh Zarah,” a “strange offering” (Leviticus 10:1) to God.

Commentators have spent hundreds of years trying to decipher the meaning of “Esh Zarah.” The Midrash in Leviticus Rabbah 12:1 is quite convinced that Nadav and Avihu were intoxicated when they brought this offering, since God immediately tells Moshe to tell the Kohanim, “drink no wine or strong drink” (Leviticus 10:9)  directly after the deaths of Nadav and Avihu. Whether or not Nadav and Avihu consumed alcohol prior to bringing an Esh Zarah to God, this Midrash cautions us about human impulsivity. Nadav and Avihu may have had good intentions with regard to their offering but they acted rashly and uninhibitedly. Perhaps Nadav and Avihu were eager to serve God, the same way in which we may be eager to serve each other by staying in constant communication via email and social networking. Let’s think about how we contribute to the communities and social networks around us. We can work to strive for more precision in our daily correspondences with each other and with God.

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