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Parshat Shmini


In this week's email, we will examine the way in which the Torah suggests that leaders should act in times of trouble. Let's set the scene. Aharon and his sons have been anointed as priests and are being instructed in what to do in the Mishkan to ensure all of the processes are exact and precisely what God ordered. Upon being inducted into the service of God, two of Aharon's sons die in a freak korban accident. Nadav and Avihu, choked by the very essence they were offering up to God. However, as it is later explained, the offering did follow the strict guidelines of Mishkan service.

Following the death of his two sons we see Moses instruct Aharon and his remaining sons:

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֣ה אֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֡ן וּלְאֶלְעָזָר֩ וּלְאִֽיתָמָ֨ר ׀ בָּנָ֜יו רָֽאשֵׁיכֶ֥ם אַל־תִּפְרָ֣עוּ ׀ וּבִגְדֵיכֶ֤ם לֹֽא־תִפְרֹ֙מוּ֙ וְלֹ֣א תָמֻ֔תוּ וְעַ֥ל

כָּל־הָעֵדָ֖ה יִקְצֹ֑ף וַאֲחֵיכֶם֙ כָּל־בֵּ֣ית יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל יִבְכּוּ֙ אֶת־הַשְּׂרֵפָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֖ר שָׂרַ֥ף יְהוָֽה׃

And Moses said to Aharon and to his sons Eleazar and Itamar, "Do not bare your heads and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and anger strike the whole community. But your kinsemen, all the house of Israel, shall bewail the burining that the Lord has wrought

Moses implores Aharon and his sons to resist the temptation of tearing their clothes in mourning, of wailing, of demanding justice for the Lord in fear that such a change in character by the leaders of the Jewish people may spark a loss of faith and hope. Moses encourages Aharon and his sons (and in a way himself as his nephews just died) to pass by the traditional methods of mourning for the sake of the broader community.

Traditionally, people keep to the customs of mourning regardless of their level of observence. This fact only increases the gravity of Moses' request.

Aharon and his remaining sons remain stoic in their obedience of the further instructions given by Moses. They continue to listen as they are told to remain sober in holy places, to separate impure from pure and so on. All whilst carrying a heavy grief that they are incapable of expressing lest the people despair. Such a choice is admirable and tragic. How often do we see our parents, leaders or friends put in positions in which they are unable to fully express themselves as they attempt to protect loved ones? Perhaps harder than the role of being the protected is to be the one who is being protected. The one that remains unaware of why their loved one is acting strangely or secretive. Too often we are quick to judgement.

May we be blessed with the courage to protect each other even at the expense of our integrity. May we also be blessed with the trust and humility to be cooperative participants of protection.

Shabbat Shalom!

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