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Me? Wrong? -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 04/13/23

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

April 13, 2023

22 Nisan 5783

Parashat Shemini

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably never paid that much attention to Tennessee politics. Nonetheless, I have to admit that I was quite surprised when the Tennessee House of Representatives expelled two democratically elected members for exercising their constitutionally protected right to express themselves. Representatives Pearson and Jones have since been returned to their positions by the people who elected them in the first place. It will be interesting to see how the “colleagues” who expelled them will respond to their return. Will they dig in their heels or will they acknowledge that, perhaps, expelling members of a deliberative body for deliberating is a bit of an overreaction? If they look closely at this week’s Torah portion, they would do well to follow the example of Moshe. In the aftermath of Aharon's two son's – Nadav and Avihu – being devoured by fire in the Tabernacle, Moshe began to monitor the actions of the Priests a little more closely. When he noticed that Elazar and Ithamar – Aaron's two remaining sons – did not eat their portion of the purification offering, he quickly criticized them. By not following the rules, Elazar and Ithamar risked jeopardizing the status of the entire nation before God. The commentaries on this interchange portray Moshe as being angry with them. However, Aharon quickly pointed out that Moshe was incorrect in his interpretation of the law. After all, Elazar and Ithamar were still in mourning over the deaths of their brothers, and a Priest in mourning was not permitted to eat of the sacrifice. Moshe had two choices at this point. He could have pointed out that Aharon and his sons were instructed not to mourn for Nadav and Avihu because of the curious circumstances surrounding their deaths. Therefore, they were obligated to eat the sacrifice on behalf of the community. Or, Moshe could admit that he had been harsh in his interaction with his brother and nephews. He could admit that even if they did not observe the rituals of mourning, Aharon and his family were still suffering. In Leviticus 10:20, we find out Moshe's response: "And when Moshe heard this [i.e., Aharon's explanation] he approved." Moshe realized that the Aharon and his family had suffered enough. So, instead of rebuking Elazar and Ithamar or blaming God, Moshe admitted his error. He allowed their healing process to begin. If only we were blessed with leaders who could admit when they make a mistake. Shalom, RAF.

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