Double Mitzvah – Shemini (Shabbat of Passover)

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Elijah Blumov. Elijah, a first-time Jewrotica writer and Double Mitzvah contributor, is a student, actor and DJ in Austin, Texas.

Enjoy your sneak peak into “Shemini” and check out last week’s post in this series, Double Mitzvah – Tzav.

Rated PGThe parsha in cue for this week, Shemini, is one of tremendous power. It is, in my view, one of the most controversial passages of the Torah, filled with melodrama and divine fury, controversy and ethical ambiguity. Essentially, this parsha can be broken down into 3 distinct sections: The first, and most immediately alluring, concerns the wrathful death of Aaron’s sons at the hand of God (more on that in a moment). The second concerns some of the basic laws of Kashrut (most notably, which animals are forbidden for consumption) and the third, how one may rid oneself of impurity via the use of a Mikvah or wellspring.

Though at first glance it may seem that the third item in question is a shoe-in topic for sexuality and Judaism, I shall instead choose to focus on the first, for I believe that, in many ways, it brings to the forefront more pressing questions. Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, receive the brutal smite of God’s ire on the basis of what would seem to us a technicality… a mystical technicality, certainly. Nadav and Avihu provoke God by offering what is referred to only as “strange fire”, as an auxiliary offering to the instructed sacrifices to summon God’s presence . Apparently such strange fire is forbidden, for God immediately and seemingly without explanation, takes the youths and immolates them in His own ether-born inferno. To add insult to injury, God expressly forbids Aaron to mourn for his sons, due to the latter’s intimacy in the ritual.

The immediate reaction to this, I would hope, is shock. How could God be so petty? The only explanation for God’s reaction is that He perceived this unauthorized fire as an affront to His divine presence. (God at this time was going through an intense “manifest my visage as a blazing fire” phase). Does this ignorant insult, however, merit death?

One of the most famous and quoted biblical tropes is that we humans are “created in God’s image”. Would this not entail then, that God is an entity possessing jealousy and hatred, delusion and vanity, capable of possessing and exhibiting the same flaws we humans claim as notorious signatures of our race? If we examine God from this stance, it becomes clear that our relationship to God is not one of King to Subject or Parent to Student, or even Teacher to Pupil… but rather we humans, as the concept of the “Shabbat Bride” alludes to, are in a very complex and yet equal relationship with God.

Could the offerings of Aaron’s sons, rather than being declarations of hubris, merely have been a sort of Valentine gift gone awry? God is without a doubt a very temperamental mate, unpredictable, hard to please, and yet inescapable. At times, our relationship with God may seem star crossed—we waver in our faith as we waver in our devotion to our husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends. Ultimately, both these mundane bonds and our bond with God rely on understanding and compromise. It is inevitable that we will spark the indignant humor of a loved one or friend, often through misunderstanding, and such quarrels can often be heart-wrenching, destructive, and filled with sorrow. However, it is through these trials and tribulations that we learn to grow with our partner, further understand our relationship to them, relay our wants and needs in an effective manner, and learn to placate and deal with each other’s imperfections.

Love is godlike — sublime and ineffable. However, so too is our relationship to God love-like, passionate and prolix, fiery and furious. And it is through this avenue of thought that we may slowly gain a panoramic view of what it means to have faith… not to follow blindly, exalt with zeal, or forswear bitterly, but to hold the hand of God in ours and help each other along the way.

Elijah is a college-bound student who has worn the masks of actor, singer, writer, Hip Hop lyricist, and DJ. Elijah is a passionate believer in the fulfillment of one's potential self, and strives for excellence in all aspects of life, from the lecherous to the sublime.