Community Torah Corner, April 5, 2024

Noga A. '25 and Marissa J. '25
Parashat Shemini 

This week’s parsha is Parshat Shemini. In this parsha, God commanded Moses to tell Aaron and his sons about the different offerings to be presented to the Lord in the Tabernacle. Aaron and his sons brought the offerings to the Tabernacle and the Israelite people saw that following God’s commandments would allow them to see the glory of God. Later, God spoke to Moses and to Aaron, explaining to them that there would be rules for them (known as Kashrut laws) about what they and the rest of the Israelite people could and could not eat. 

Often when people learn about Parashat Shemini they see it as just a long list of the laws of kashrut. There is another theme behind the story of the parsha, and that is Aaron’s reaction to his son’s death. When experimenting and learning about different offerings they could give to God, Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Abihu, perform an unauthorized fire before the Lord. The fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them as a punishment, "va-yidom Aharon” - “and Aaron was silent.”  

In the face of losing both of his sons and encountering death and tragedy, Aaron remained quiet and arguably docile. Some believe this was because Aaron was so full of grief and unable to speak. However, other commentators say that Aaron’s silence was due to the idea that his son’s deaths were justified because they had committed a wrong before God. Regardless of the reason, Aaron’s silence was significant. Our response to tragedy is not always something we can predict, but it is important not to let the sadness or shock overpower us. 

Following the attack on October 7th, our community was and still is devastated, mourning the loss of innocent lives and remembering the hostages who are still in captivity. In hard times we must remember that our voice and our actions can make a difference for us and for our larger community. Just this Sunday, I attended one of the largest “Bring Them Home Now” rallies in New York, demanding the safe return of hostages still being held by Hamas. In the parsha, Moses says to Aaron, “Don’t show your mourning, lest God becomes angry with the entire community."

In contrast to Moses, we as a community have seen the impact of expressing our solidarity and taking action. We are allowed to be angry. We are allowed to be angry at the people who scream “Free Palestine” in our faces. We are allowed to be angry at the people who rip down posters of innocent children held hostage by Hamas. We are allowed to fight back, fight for our people and for our homeland. We are encouraged to come together through peaceful protest and a strong sense of pride. We don’t stay silent amid tragedy.

Shabbat Shalom