|This week’s portion begins with the dedication of the Priesthood and the Wilderness Tabernacle for the service of God. It begins with the words, “It came to pass on the eighth day…” Now, I know I wrote about this topic last year, but I would like to expound on this idea because things like this always catch my eye. Did you notice anything strange in the above words? The phrase “eighth day” catches my eye because, how can you have an “eighth day,” when there are only seven days in a week? The Torah could have said something like “Eight days later…” or “After eight days…” Yet, instead it very specifically says “on the eighth day.” Why?|
A short and simple explanation would be; if God created the world in seven days, then anything connected to an “eighth day” could be considered as “out of this world,” or “not of this creation.” In this portion, with the creation of the Tabernacle completed, a journey beyond time and space becomes achievable, because on an “eighth day,” as Mary Poppins would say, “anything can happen if you let it.” On this particular “eighth day,” a portal between Heaven and earth (the Tabernacle) was completed, allowing God and mankind to commune and communicate, one with the other. However, I believe in order for us to better understand this concept we must go back to the very beginning of creation and see if we pick up any clues concerning an “eighth day.”
When reading through the Genesis account of Creation, obviously we find nothing about an “eighth day” mentioned, but theoretically speaking, if there had been an “eighth day” it would have come right after the seventh day, which was the Shabbat/Sabbath. The Jewish sages tell us that Adam and Chava (Eve) ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil on the sixth day, the very day on which they had been created. When God appears to them in Genesis 3, He sentences Adam and Eve to a life outside of the Garden, away from His presence. But because the Shabbat was about to begin God allowed them to stay in the Garden until Shabbat’s end. The first couple in world history sins, God sentences them for their “crimes against humanity” (because their sin still affects us even today) then Adam and Eve spend Shabbat/Sabbath/the seventh day in the garden. And at the end of the seventh day/Shabbat what is supposed to happen? Before we continue, remember that a day Biblically speaking begins in the evening, as it says in Genesis 1 “so [there was] evening and [there was] morning.”
Evening comes first. Now during the creation week “before the creation of the sun and moon, G?d created a great light” (Chabad.com) as it says in Genesis 1, “In the beginning…God said, ‘Let there be light.’” This primordial light was the light, which shone throughout the creation process. Now, “Adam and Eve had  sinned by eating from the forbidden fruit. As a consequence, G?d wished to hide this bright primordial light and expel Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. However, due to the sanctity of Shabbat, G?d postponed His actions and left the light to shine until the end of the sacred day.” (Chabad.com) God allowed this light, which according to the Yalkut Shimoni is “the light of Messiah” to continue to shine in honor of the Sabbath.
Even though mankind did not deserve to share a Shabbat/ Sabbath with this Messianic light, God still showed Adam and Eve the Light of the Messiah and the Calm of His holy Sabbath. Why did God allow them to have this experience? To give them a taste of what He had prepared for them. Even though they would be sent into exile, they could always think back to that one Shabbat they had spent in the Garden with God, encompassed by the light of the Messiah; and they would know that God’s plan was to one day bring them back again, if they would only fully return!
|But in our story however, the sun is sinking, giving way to darkness. Remember, this is the first time Adam or Eve have ever encountered darkness since their creation. The pitch-black eeriness of the night terrified Adam because “darkness and night represent exile.” He was being sent away from the Garden of God and from the Light of the Messiah. But God had something He wanted to give Adam before he left. “Adam,  thought that the darkness would engulf him. [But] G?d  inspired Adam, who took two stones and struck them against each other, and fire burst forth. At that moment, Adam praised G?d and said the blessing ‘Blessed are You, L?rd our G?d . . . who creates the lights of fire.’” (Chabad.com) |
As Adam and Eve, the Father and Mother of all humanity were sent from the Garden, God gave them a key, a reminder of the promise of a day when God would once again dwell with humanity, the promise of a coming “eighth day.” What was the symbol of that promise? Fire. And so every week, as the Sabbath fades, Jewish people all over the world welcome the new week in by the light of fire, a reminder of God’s promise that, He would be with us even in exile, and He will one day lead us to a new day = an “eighth day” when all things will be made new! This is why this portion begins with the words “It came to pass on the eighth day.”The completion of the Tabernacle opened the door for God to interact with humanity. This building was in response to the sin of Adam and Eve and was one step in the right direction for God and man to be reconciled. And guess what appears at the dedication ceremony? It says that, “the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” The “fire and glory of the Lord” specifically “appeared to all the people.”
God gave fire to Adam and Eve as they left Eden; God led the Israelites in a pillar of fire when they left Egypt, and finally, here God appears to the entire nation in an all-consuming fire, devouring the offerings of the altar. God’s fire is revealed all throughout the Bible. He is “the God who answers by fire” according to 1 Kings 18. And as it says in Hebrews 12, “our God is a consuming fire.” Therefore, if God is fire then I believe it would do us well to heed the old maxim “Never play with fire.” In this portion we read about the deaths of two of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu (Nadab and Abihu). The verses state that, “Nadab and Abihu…each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord…So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” The Tabernacle has just been dedicated, everyone has just witnessed the glory of God, and suddenly amidst all of the excitement something very tragic happens. Two priests get carried away and approach God in an improper manner, in a way that “He had not commanded them.” These two had “played” with the fire of God and had gotten toasted before Smokey the Bear could even say a thing (if you want more on this topic please check out my website).
|God expects a lot from those He selects to represent Him. Nadav and Avihu, whatever their intentions, had disrespected God, Moses, Aaron and the Children of Israel. Everyone had gathered to collectively worship and serve the God of Israel, but these two decided that they were going to do things their own way. Why did they not seek advice from anyone or talk it through with each other? The Book “Growth through Torah” tells us, “Before doing something that is questionable, make certain to consult someone who is older and wiser.”In some ways, their assumptions were their downfall. Do not offer strange fire before the One who is the All-Consuming Fire. Unfortunately, this Spiritual thrill-seeking spirit of Nadav and Avihu seems to have lived on despite their passing. Just as the fire of God descending to earth was a rare occasion in the days of the Israelites, it is the same today. The job of a priest was not to daily wait for the miracle flame of God to come down and consume the sacrifices. The job of a priest was to keep “the Divine fire alive by feeding the flames of the altar, [so that] the amazing glory of the LORD [would] not blaze out…” (FFOZ)|
In our individual lives, how do we approach the L-rd? Do we demand fire, flames, miracles and/or wonders? Is our faith in God based upon some sign or miracle? For if we put our faith in God because of a miracle, then we will surely leave Him on account of a miracle. Our faith must be based on more than just fire from the sky…First Fruits of Zion writes concerning the desert Tabernacle, “There were probably some Israelites who felt as if something was amiss. ‘Why has this Tabernacle become so spiritually dry?’ they might have wondered. Perhaps they went looking for other tabernacles where God’s Spirit was ‘really moving.’ Some people are always looking for spiritual fire. They are in constant pursuit of emotional highs…” God is not calling people in pursuit of “spiritual experiences.” God is looking for faithful men and women who are steadfast in their walk after Him. These are the kinds of people who will truly see the fire of God; and when faithful men and women are grabbed by the power of God the world begins to move. Because these people have God’s word “in [their] heart like a burning fire, shut up in [their] bones…” The world moves towards a new day = the “eighth day,” when the people of God begin to prepare themselves and the world for the coming redemption! So next time you see a flame/fire, think of it as God’s symbol to humanity that even in the darkness of exile, there is hope, and through the many various trials, God’s promise of a new day, a day which is “out of this world” is on the horizon ahead! May it come soon and in our days!
Grace and Peace from God’s Bondservant,
311 thoughts on “Parsha Shemini “Eighth” Leviticus 9:1-11:47”
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