In Tents: Shmini 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Sigmund Freud believed that there are no accidents, that all of our actions stem from some kind of intention, whether we realize it or not. Do you subscribe to this belief? If not, to what extent do you live with intention?

As we resume our weekly Torah portions, we find Moses and Aaron inaugurating the Mishkan (portable sanctuary), and curiously entering and exiting the Tent of Meeting. This takes place just before Aaron’s two oldest sons are suddenly and tragically killed:

The Pitch: “Moses and Aaron then went inside the Tent of Meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the Presence of the Lord appeared to all the people.” – Leviticus 9:23

Swing #1: “Why did Moses not instruct Aaron concerning the incense ceremony before, when he had taught him the other sacrificial procedures? Moses did not go with Aaron to instruct him in the incense procedure, but to prepare him for a tragic occurrence in which incense was to be involved, namely, the death of his sons Nadav and Avihu who were devoured by fire when they brought their incense with ‘strange fire before the Lord’. Scripture relates that when this tragedy struck, Aaron took it with exceptional self-control for, like all exceedingly righteous men, he was willing to accept even sorrow with serenity and gratitude. It was this ability to praise the Lord even for tragedy and to accept suffering with serenity that Moses went to teach Aaron in the Tent of Meeting. The solemn moment when Moses and Aaron entered the Tabernacle for the first time was the most fitting occasion for Moses to teach Aaron ‘concerning the incense’, to be calm, and to praise the Lord even for the crushing sorrow that was to befall him because of an offering of incense; namely, the death of his two sons.” – Imrei Shofar

Swing #2: “Moses said, ‘May it be God’s will to cause His Shechinah to rest upon the work of your hands! May the Lord, the God of your fathers, increase your numbers a thousandfold and bless you, as He promised you!’ They responded, ‘May the favor of the Lord be upon us/Let all that we put our hands to prosper/O prosper the work of our hands.’” – Sifra

Swing #3: “For what purpose did Moses and Aaron enter the Tent? None is cited, and it can only be conjectured: (1) so that the divine presence might descend … (2) to pray for the emergence of the [Divine Presence] from the adytum.” – Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16

Late-Inning Questions: How do our commentaries attempt to explain Moses and Aaron’s brief detour into the Tent of Meeting? Does one explanation seem more sensible than others? When we note other people’s behavior, does it behoove us to hypothesize the reasons for their every move, or are some actions simply random? Should it then matter why Moses and Aaron went in and out of the tent?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: I hope you’ll show your support for our lay leadership as we pass the torch to our 2017-18 board. We’ll install the new board at our services tomorrow morning. Please be there to offer them luck and your suggestions for the upcoming year.

The Big Inning at the End: The Toronto Blue Jays expected to compete for a playoff spot once again this year. But they have started the 2017 season with a 3-11 record. At what point should a team begin to panic that they are playing far worse than any other team in the big leagues? Or is it silly to draw any conclusions with the season less than 10% complete?

Shabbat Shalom!