Welcome to Shemini (Eighth), this week’s Parasha (Torah portion).
· Leviticus 9:1–11:47
· 2 Samuel 6:1–7:17
· Mark 9:1–13
This week’s Parasha study is called Shemini, which means ‘eighth’. The name arises from the opening verse:
“On the eighth [shemini] day Moses summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.” (Leviticus 9:1)
Last week in Parasha Tzav, YAHUVEH instructed Moses to command Aaron and his sons in how to prepare for their duties and rights as kohanim (priests).
For seven days, Aaron and his sons stayed at the Tent of Meeting as part of their ordination process. On the eighth day, Moses called for them to begin presenting the offerings (קָרְבֳּנוֹת, korbanot) to YAHUVEH.
These offerings were given as a kind of “welcoming ceremony” to greet the arrival of YAH’s SHEKHINYAH, RUACH HAKODESH!
“Then Moses said, ‘This is what YAHUVEH has commanded you to do, so that the glory of YAHUVEH may appear to you.’” (Leviticus 9:6)
It took a full seven days of preparation before they could begin this new and holy function as priests who serve YAH in the Mishkan (Tabernacle), where the GLORY OF YAHUVEH came to reside.
New Beginnings Start with “Eight”
While the number seven represents completion – such as YAH’s creation of the universe, the number eight often represents new beginnings:
· On the seventh day, ELOHIM rested and blessed it, declaring it as a set-apart, holy day of rest. On the eighth day, however, work resumed once more – only this time, human beings began stewardship of ELOHIM’s creation by tending and caring for the Garden of Eden.
· The eighth day is, therefore, a type of anniversary of the Creation.
· Eight souls were saved during the Mabul HaGadol (Great Flood).
· The eighth day is considered a day of covenant (brit), for it is on this day that every Jewish male infant is to be brought into covenant with the Almighty GOD through the rite of circumcision, called Brit Milah in Hebrew.
· David was the eighth son of Jesse and Israel’s first great king from whose lineage HAMASHIACH, the MESSIAH, would come.
Other occurrences of eight include the following:
· There were eight spices of incense. As well, the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) had eight articles of clothing.
· Often the weeklong festivals of Passover and Sukkot (Tabernacles) are given an additional eighth day of celebration, such as Acharon shel Pesach (Final Day of Passover) and Shemini Atzeret (Eighth Day of Assembly) on Sukkot.
The Beginning of the Year
Coming into active service in the Mishkan on the eighth day was not the only indication of new beginnings in this Parasha.
The consecration of Aaron and his sons, as well as the desert Tabernacle, took place exactly one year after the Exodus from Egypt, in Nisan – the first month.
Nisan is the beginning of spring, when the rainy season comes to an end, the fruit trees begin to blossom, and the fields are carpeted in wildflowers.
The Hebrew word for ‘spring’ is ‘aviv’. This word can be divided into two parts: ‘av’, which means ‘father’; and ‘iv’, which has a numerical representation of 12. Thus, aviv (spring) is seen as the father of the twelve months of the year.
Passover, which occurs in this first month of Nisan, is the symbolic “FATHER” of the twelve Tribes of Israel as a new Nation.
Therefore, the entire Hebrew calendar has a spiritual connection to the formation of the twelve Hebrew tribes, and the service of the priests represents a new beginning for all of Israel.
The Beginning of Wisdom
On the eighth day, the preparations for YAH’s glorious entry into the Mishkan (Tabernacle) were over, and Aaron and his sons began their priestly ministry. (Leviticus 9:1)
But something went terribly wrong!
Nadav and Avihu, Aaron’s two eldest sons perished in the blink of an eye – devoured by the consuming fire of YAH’s wrath. Why? The Torah says they offered “strange fire,” which YAH had not commanded.
“Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered strange fire [zarah] before YAHUVEH, contrary to His command. So fire came out from the presence of YAHUVEH and consumed them, and they died before YAHUVEH .” (Leviticus 10:1–2)
The Hebrew word ‘zarah’ (זָרָה) carries the connotation of being ‘foreign’ or ‘another kind’.
What was Aaron’s response to such a disturbing family tragedy? Silence. (Leviticus 10:3)
There is a well-known saying that “silence is golden,” and Aaron's response to this tragedy is perhaps an example of this. At a time of great grief, Aaron remained silent rather than speak out in angry accusation against ELOHIM.
When we go through painful trials in life or when tragedy strikes unexpectedly – whether illness, accident, or even death – one of the best initial strategies may be to keep our mouths closed until we have control over what we will say.
Solomon, in all of his wisdom, penned the verse: “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.” (Proverbs 17:28)
We see this truth with Job’s friends.
After witnessing his terrible situation, they just sat beside him in silence. It is probably the best thing because when they finally opened their mouths to speak, foolish accusations poured forth.
Although it is not clear the exact nature of Nadav and Avihu’s sin, YAHUVEH’s command soon after their death may suggest that they went into the Tent of Meeting in a drunken state.
Just a few verses later, YAHUVEH tells Aaron, “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the Tent of Meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.” (Leviticus 10:8–9)
Although the Bible permits the drinking of wine in moderation, it has no place among those in position of spiritual leadership while they are actively serving YAHUVEH.
Alcohol can dull one’s senses and prevent a person from distinguishing between right and wrong, clean and unclean – one of the specified functions of the priesthood.
Just as it is unwise to “drink and drive,” it can be equally dangerous in a spiritual sense to “drink and serve YAHUVEH.”
In any event, it is evident that these sons of Aaron were careless in the face of YAHUVEH’s Holiness.
The Fear of YAHUVEH
Some think that YAHUVEH’s wrath for disregarding HIS Holiness is limited to the Old Testament GOD of “law and justice.” They think that under the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), we are “under grace” and, therefore, immune to YAHUVEH’s judgment.
However, the account of Ananias and Sapphira reveals that this is a fallacy.
This New Covenant couple brought an offering to the apostles in Jerusalem and lied to the RUACH HAKODESH about how much money they received for the sale of their property.
“Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 5:1–2)
For lying to YAHUVEH, both Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead. (Acts 5:4–11)
Although YAHUVEH is merciful, patient, compassionate, and slow to anger, we must not take these qualities for granted, nor test the LORD our GOD by treating HIS holiness carelessly.
YAHUVEH is equally just and Holy. For this reason, HE is called a “Consuming Fire” throughout the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) and Brit Chadashah (New Testament).
May we all walk in a healthy fear of the LORD, which will keep us on the narrow road that leads to life.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)
YAHUVEH is gracious in extending to us a new beginning, and in these last days HE is extending a new beginning to the Jewish People.
"Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the WORD about MESSIAH (YAHUSHUA)." (Romans 10:17)
SHABBAT SHALOM FROM TORAH KEEPER!
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