Shemini (Exodus 9:1-11:47) Draw Near To The Sacred Soul of Community

Carole Leskin Photo/Used by permission.
Carole Leskin Photo/Used by permission.

Our portion this week presents us with many challenges and interesting events. The Aaronide Priesthood is firmly established in chapter 9 and immediately in 10 we have the haunting story of Aaron’s sons. Nadab and Abihu, who are killed by God for introducing “strange or alien fire”. This incident has concerned commentators for centuries and no doubt will occupy some of your Shabbat Torah study. We also read in 11 of what living creatures that it is proper to eat and not eat.  So much to discuss.

There is another issue that I wanted to ask you to consider. As part of the discussion on foods, we again meet the concept of tameh or that which makes one impure. I wanted to ask you to just play with this idea a while. What is it that makes us “impure”? I am not talking about food. I am thinking of those things that we encounter that move us off of a life of holiness. We are inundated now by that which makes us impure; of heart, and soul and mind. It is as if we need to survive wave after wave of despair and challenges that make it all too easy to retreat into a cacoon of denial. Maybe this ia a tameh of indifference or apathy?

Between the war in Ukraine, our broken political system, inflation and the challenges of daily life, it is all too easy to retreat, to become even spiritually tameh. Yet, the portion also gives us an insight on how to counter this. Moses instructs Aaron, to “draw near” (9:7). Maybe, if we think about this, we can see that what the portion may be asking us is that to counter thoughts and actions that draw us away from the sacred, in truth, we must come closer to our faith our traditions, our community. Again, it may be that the answer to our current malaise and despair may be in drawing closer to our community, engaging more in our traditions and honoring the relationships we have.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Richardd F Address

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