Parashas Shemini

This week’s parasha describes the beginning of the avodah, the service in the Mishkan, Tabernacle, by the Kohanim, priests. In the middle of the celebration of beginning of the use of the Mishkan, two sons of Aharon HaKohen, the High Priest, Nadav and Avihu, bring a strange sacrifice and are killed by fire as punishment.

Instead of complaining to Hashem, Aharon accepts the decree and continues with his role in the service of Hashem in His home. Hashem then commands the Kohanim regarding proper conduct during the service and different laws about eating and drinking within the framework of being Kohanim.

Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohein disagree about a point in how to bring one of the offerings, and Aharon HaKohein convinces Moshe Rabbeinu that he is correct!

Next Hashem teaches us the laws of Kashrus, of keeping kosher! In the Torah you will find listed lists of permissible and forbidden animals, fish, birds, and insects! Immediately following these listing are the laws of tum’ah, ritual impurity. The parasha ends with the law against eating creepy-crawly creatures (like beetles and scorpions!) and reiteration that we must be careful about what we eat because Hashem is holy and made us holy too!

Parashas Parah is a special excerpt from Parashas Chukas that talks about the ritual purifying process after having contact with the body of a meis (dead person).

There are many fascinating topics contained in this week’s parasha, and one of my favorite ones is the story of the passing of Aharon HaKohen‘s two sons Nadav and Avihu.

Upon hearing of the death of his sons, Aharon HaKohein did not protest, cry, or complain. Instead, he was silent. He quietly accepted the will of Hashem and continued with his service, saving his mourning for a different time and place.

What is so special about this silence of Aharon HaKohen?

One of the most elusive things in our day and age is silence – true quiet, with no technology buzzing (did you ever notice the hum of just a refrigerator in an otherwise silent room?), beeping, or ringing. No other people around, nobody to interrupt – just blessed peace and quiet is so hard to find!

It is cited numerous times throughout the Tanach and the Oral Torah that silence is one of the best traits somebody can acquire. Did you ever find yourself sitting across from somebody on a bus, in a car, or on a plane and felt the need to make conversation? When somebody finds out bad news, G-d forbid, you just don’t know what to say. When somebody gets angry, they want to throw back a hot, stinging retort.

Stop. Think. This is a time you can remain silent, like Aharon HaKohen. Whether it’s to let yourself (and your neighbor) think, to allow somebody to grieve or rejoice, or to allow somebody to cool down after an upsetting incident, silence is one of the most powerful tools that we have in our toolkit.

When you’re quiet, you can hear the birds chirping. When you’re quiet, you can hear a baby laughing. When you’re quiet, you can reach deep inside yourself and truly find out all kinds of things that you miss when you’re lost in the loud hustle and bustle of daily life on our planet.

Can you think of a time when the best course of action was to remain silent? Were you able to stay quiet long enough to make an impact, on yourself or others?

Listening to the silence of my dining room at 4:00am on a Friday morning. Seriously! It’s pretty loud ;) I hear a radio from upstairs, the hum of my laptop as well as that from the fridge and freezer in the kitchen, and the rhythm of my fingers typing on the keyboard.

Wishing you a great Shabbos!