Shemini

  1. Why did they have to atone now, and not before the prior revelation at Har Sinai? Surely they sinned with the calf – but surely they also sinned in Egypt. They were a nation before – they’d been referred to that way prior to slavery. One answer is that they hadn’t sinned collectively. With the Mishkan and Kohanim, they have a way of nullifying collective sins and thus opening the opportunity for heavenly insight. There are many answers, but the next reading might show us a particularly interesting one.
  2. In this reading we have the Jewish people ‘seeing’ the kavod of Hashem. Perhaps they needed the power of the Mishkan to nullify sins and achieve this. Before they heard a voice, now they see the Kavod. If you see the Kavod – you can physically limit it. You automatically box it. This isn’t so with a voice. They need the Mishkan – a place to turn their creative efforts into spiritual energy – in order to see the glory of G-d (not just things with him as at Sinai). The promise is there, if you do this with your own internal Mishkan, then you too will see G-d in your life.
  3. One of the great questions is: How was G-d sanctified through the death of Nadav and Avihu? The Akeda taught us human sacrifice isn’t a request of G-d. Perhaps the even harder question is how people sanctify G-d? G-d is Kadosh. Do you make Him more Kadosh? We can see an answer by looking later when Moshe hits the rock. There, he deKadoshes Hashem in the people’s eyes by failing to believe him and follow him. He reduces space for G-d’s spirit to grow in our world. Perhaps Kadoshing Hashem creates divinely spiritual space in this world. Perhaps the destruction of Nadav and Avihu Kadoshed Hashem because it reinforced the importance of precise divine command in the spiritual space of their place and their roles.
  4. Moshe thinks they should eat from the offering. He understands that you can’t deviate. So why is Moshe wrong? Why doesn’t Aaron or his sons eat the offering?
  5. The answer is that there is another more basic lesson of Kedusha here – it isn’t associated with lost potential. From Hashem’s perspective the death may have had the purpose of santification. But from Aaron’s perspective, he was still a mourner – his sons’ potential was lost. He was still prohibited from eating from the sacrifice –  the experience of this loss had distanced him from G-d. And so, he was right to burn the offerings.
  6. The switch to Kashrut seems random, but it isn’t. We were just studying when eating couldn’t be connected to Kedusha. How death in the family prohibited even the Kahon Gadol from eating from the offering. Now, we’ll study when certain foods can’t be connected to Kadosh people. One of the foods we always connect to this is the pig. Note that a pig isn’t an ‘abomination.’ It is unclean – like the corpse of a human. It represents lost creative and thus spiritual potential. I’d suggest that the animals that are ‘unclean’ are just that – animals whose carcasses represent lost spiritual potential. Perhaps a live monkey or pig (just based on behavior and intelligence) has far more spiritual potential than a live cow. A cow, however, is inherently a vessel of holiness.
  7. But why do bugs make you impure? They aren’t a high-life form like a monkey. They are teeming. They are low, they eat each other just to keep fueling. They NEVER STOP. They are an abomination, not impure. They are also connected to the ground. The Jews are also described as teeming, prior to the Exodus. They work without any conversion into spiritual energy. They never stop. Kedusha is creating spiritual spacetime for G-d. That spiritual space is best created after exercising your creative potential. But even creative bugs only work – they don’t make any spiritual space. They teem. This lack of spiritual spacetime makes them abominations.

 

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