Thoughts on Shmini

canstockphoto0885276This Shabbat Israel and the Diaspora begin to deviate on the Torah reading schedule, because in the Diaspora Shabbat is the last day of Unleavened Bread while in Israel Unleavened Bread ends on Friday. This means that technically the mo’ed is over for us in Israel while practically we still will not have chametz until Sunday morning. As I said this influences the Torah reading schedule that Israel reads Parashat Shmini, Leviticus 9:1–11:47[i]while the Diaspora reading is for the Second Sabbath of Pesach, Exodus 33:12–34:26 & Numbers 28:19­–28:25. The Haftarah for Shminiis II Samuel 6:1-19 (Sephardic tradition).

Parashat Shminibegins, And it was on the eighth day, that Moses summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel. That Moses summoned them on the eighth day is appropriate for this Shabbat. Rashi suggests that it was on the first of Nissan that the Mishkan was erected and that Aaron and his sons entered into it to be consecrated for the service of the Tabernacle (Leviticus 8:1-36). The act of consecration was to take seven days. On the eighth day, after Aaron and his sons were consecrated and set apart for service, their first act of service was to offer the assorted sacrifices on behalf of the rest of Israel. When Aaron finished the preparations for this first intermediary act,

Aaron lifted up his hands towards the people and blessed them, (Numbers 6:22-27). He then descended from preparing the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offering.And Moses and Aaron went into the Tent of Meeting. Then they came out and blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fats upon the altar, and all the people saw, sang praises, and fell upon their faces. (Leviticus 9:22-24)

Rashi suggests that the blessing that Moshe and Aaron pronounced over the people would be echoed by the words of the Psalmist,

And may the pleasantness of the Lord our God be upon us, and the work of our hands establish for us, and the work of our hands establish it. (Psalms 90:17)

One of the reasons for this was to assure Bnei Yisrael that they had been both forgiven by HaShem for the sin of the molten calf and that their work and building His dwelling place among them had been accepted. The author of 1stJohn wrote,[ii] If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness, (I John 1:9).

Dr. Alex Pattakos, suggests that,

…forgiveness can be one of the most powerful things we do. Like any muscle, however, it has to be exercised to work well. Forgiveness can be very complicated. Sometimes we think that it equates forgetting, diminishing, or condoning the misdeed, but it really doesn’t. It has much more to do with freeing ourselves from its hold. Our ability to live our lives with love, understanding, and generosityis impeded when we don’t forgive.[iii]

It has been suggested, however, that not only do we need to forgive others but at times we must either forgive ourselves and more importantly accept that HaShem has forgiven us. When asked about the greatestcommandment Yeshua quickly responded with Shema Yisrael, and then followed with you shall love your neighbor as yourself, (Mark 12:29-31). According to Yeshua, loving HaShem and loving our neighbor there is no other commandment greater than these. But at least in reference to our neighbor, the love is as yourself. Loving one’s self is not to be a narcissistic type of love that is self-centered and self-focused, but one that is exemplified in the parable of the so-called Good Samaritan, (cf. Luke 10:25-37). Hence as Dr. Pattakos concluded, “Our ability to live our lives with love, understanding, and generosityis impeded when we don’t forgive,” forgive not only others but ourselves as well. The idolatry of the molten calf episode could well have spelled the end of Bnei Yisrael (Exodus 32:10), but HaShem relented and forgave Bnei Yisrael and had moved from the mountaintop, separated from the people, to the Mishkan in their midst. He forgave Israel and now Israel needed to accept that forgiveness so that they can move on in their journey with ADONAI.

In the Haftarah, it would appear that this issue of self-forgiveness is one that King David would have to learn as well. II Samuel 6:1-19 records the first attempt of David to move the Ark from Baale-judah, the modern site ofKiriath-Jearim, to the Jerusalem, the City of David. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Avinadav were tasked with transporting the Ark. We are not told whether they were Levites, specifically the Kohathites, those who were tasked with the transportation of the Ark in the Torah (Numbers 7:9). What we do know is that Uzzah saw the cart make a precarious move and the Ark about to fall – he reached out to steady it and died as sure as did Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2). But where Nadab and Abihu did something that was asur,prohibited or banned, Uzzah seemingly did not. Commentators both Jewish and Christian have sought the reason for Uzzah’s death for years – unsuccessfully.

…some scholars argued, may himself be innocent, but he died because of King David’s decision to transport the ark atop a cart rather than have it carried on the shoulders of Levites as he’d done before. No matter what the theological justification, however, the simple explanation remains unchanged: God did what God wanted to do because God is above morality and beyond explanation. We may require reasons, but He does not.[iv]

Sometimes, life is simply unfair, and we cannot find rhyme nor reason. In times like that we can get angry with HaShem, just as David did (II Samuel 6:8), and we can become terrified of the LORD, (II Samuel 6:9). But eventually, we have to get over the issue, deal with it, and decide that the LORD is God and that there are some things we just don’t understand. Earlier I mentioned that King David had to learn to forgive himself because I subscribe to the explanation that David was responsible for Uzzah’s death because he arranged for improper transportation of the Ark. David had to come to the point where he forgave God, as well as himself for his actions. We must do likewise in our walk with the LORD. If we want to live and walk in the joy of the LORD, regardless of whether things are fair, we must learn and be willing to walk in forgiveness toward all involved.

Shabbat Shalom

[i] Unless otherwise noted, Tanakh references are from The Complete Tanach with Rashi Commentary, https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htm

[ii] Readings from the Apostolic Writings are from Tree of Life(TLV) Translation of the Bible. Snellville, Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society, 2015 – https://www.biblegateway.com

[iii] PsychologyToday, October 19, 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-meaningful-life/201710/forgive-or-not-forgive

[iv] Life is Unfair by Liel Leibovitz, http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/29806/life-is-unfair

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