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Archive for May 22nd, 2006

Self-Will, Devotion and Strange Fire…

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on May 22, 2006

Parasha “Bamidbar” Bamidbar 1:1-4:20

“And Nadav and Avihu died before the LORD, when they offered strange fire before the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children; and Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the priest’s office in the presence of Aaron their father.” (Bamidbar/Numbers 3:4)
“And Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And there came forth fire from before the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.”(Vayikra/Leviticus 10:1-2)

This is a really interesting text. Two of Aharon’s son’s are killed when they go to do service in the Mishkan(Tent of Meeting) – but for what are they killed? The text in Bamidbar is not very forthcoming with an explanation, so we have to look at the parallell text in Vayikra for an answer – they offered fire before the L-RD about which they had not been commanded – it not being commanded by G-d, but coming from their own intense devotion, their own desire, rather than the inspiration of G-d, made it foreign to the House of G-d.

Some Sages suggest that they were drunk, and brought the incense offering as a result of being intoxicated – this is indicated through the fact that in Vayikra 10:9 “‘Drink no wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tent of meeting, that ye die not; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.” Torah doesn’t prohibit something unless there is a reason, a practical example of behaviour that is unwanted or inappropriate.

Other Sages suggest that Nadav and Avihu were so intensly devoted to serving the Eternal One that they misused the privilege in an attempt to draw even closer to G-d than even their Father, Aharon, and that they were killed for that attempt, for wanting more of G-d than the rest of the Priest and the People. This would be indicated by the words “which He had not commanded them.”

The nature of a command is that it is spoken from G-d to us – i.e it is G-d who approaches us through His Mitzvot. Nadav and Avihu turned that order on it’s head and decided to approach G-d, basically without being invited and therefore without being properly prepared. They went individually, not in concert with each other, nor in concert with the other Priests, which in a sense made them vulnerable.

Rav Kook suggests that they failed to see the dynamic between the Sacred and the Mundane, the Spiritual and the Physical, that they lacked the understanding that if you “go up the mountain” you have to “come down the mountain”.

“The noble sons of the High Priest, Nadav and Avihu, drew their inspiration from the wellspring of Bina. They sought the spiritual pleasantness that characterizes this elevated realm, the limited grandeur that is accessible to our world. Due to their profound awareness of personal greatness, however, they mistakenly saw in the holy realm of Bina the ultimate source of reality. They placed all of their goals in this spiritual world.”

They forgot that they were serving the People before G-d as well as G-d before the People, and wanted to remain within the Spirtual/Sacred Realm, keeping the Insight and Beauty of Torah and G-d to themselves. Basically, they went for themselves, and not for G-d or for the people. The Strange Fire were their own strong but misguided desire to learn about the Mystery of G-d without sharing the knowledge with the rest of us as leaders and teachers.

Drawing near to G-d is all good – and we are supposed to, we are commanded to walk with G-d and to offer up our supplications and our gratitude – we are supposewd to have a relationship with G-d, but we are not supposed to stay “on the mountain” – we need to tend to the Mundane, we need to pay attention to the people around us, because ultimately, they the one’s we serve.


Sources: Parasha in Depth, Parasha Shemeni
The Error of Nadav and Avihu


Posted in Torah, Weekly Parasha | 8 Comments »

Congratulations, you just killed…

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on May 22, 2006

Beethoven….a friend of mine just posted a blog on the Topic of child abuse, arranged marriages and how we as a civilized society should deal with the same…and while I understand exactly how she feels as I am from an abusive family myself, and all that – it is a fact that if my parents had been prevented from having children I would not exist. And if my parents hadn’t been abusive I would not be the person I am today.

“I mean come on, we have medical tests which will tell us the sex of the unborn baby; whether that unborn baby has a serious medical condition that requires immediate medical intervention. Why are there no policies in place for spotting people who might be dangerous as parents. We owe it to ourselves and the generations that follow to find this cure for abuse and nip it in the bud.”

Yeah, it would very nice if we could look into the future, either through tests or through some psychic method, and see exactly what kind of people babies are going to turn into, so that we could prevent abuse, murder, violence and other horrors. But it wouldn’t be ethical.

My parents had a Free Will – they could make a choice to abuse or not to abuse. They chose to abuse – and I suffered as a result of that. But it also brought me some blessings I would not have gained had my parents not abused me. Compassion – I have the ability to feel and show compassion. Emotional Intelligence – I am highly sensitive and intuitive when it comes to feelings and the finer points of social interaction. On top of all my other skills, such as verbal expression through writing an speaking, I have a passion and a ‘no-nonsense’ attitude towards issues of bullying, child abuse, human rights and Justice, that makes me a good advocate on those issues.

I doubt I would have had that passion or that no-nonsense attitude if I had not been born.

For every step we take towards using our knowledge to curb Free Will, we also take a step towards a society where in the end only those who have curbed everybody else have any Free Will, and I really don’t think that is a Society we want. I think it is a good thing that we cannot detect child abusers, rapists, murderers and war criminals through genetic tests, because if we erraddicate those people, we might end up erraddicating a future Beethoven or Einstein.


Posted in Child abuse | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

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