SHABBAT READINGS & COMMENTARY

Friday, April 21, 2006 | 
Shemini(On the Eighth Day): Leviticus 9:1-11:47; 2 Samuel 6:1-7:17

Correction and clarification on our last commentary: There are not four days from Jesus’ capture and crucifixion as we wrote, but rather four main people or groups of people: the priests, Pilate, Herod and the Pharisees. Although I see a clear parallel in the three and a half years of the Messiah on earth, when the people were testing and watching Him, to the days between the 10th and the 14th of the first month (see Exodus 12).

Commentary: In the first part of our weekly parasha, we read about fire falling from heaven – once as an act of the Lord receiving the offering and once as an act of killing what was unclean. For a person who wants to live a holy life before God, this “fire from heaven” saves, but to a person who takes God’s Word in the wrong way, this fire can be harmful. We should never play with God’s holiness, otherwise we are playing with fire so to speak.

The first instance of the fire coming from heaven is in Chapter 9. When the Lord received the offering, “The fire of the Lord came out and consumed the burnt offering” and everyone shouted and fell on their faces (verse 24). The second time, when the two sons of Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, offered “strange fire” (hebr. esh zara) before the Lord, something he neither wanted nor asked for, “Fire from the Lord came out and devoured them. And they died before the Lord” (10:1-2).

It is the same “fire of the Lord” for atonement and for death! In Deuteronomy 4:24 we read: “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Thankfully, Aaron had two more sons so the dynasty of the Aaronic priesthood could continue with Ithamar and Eliezer. God even told the family of Aaron not to mourn over the death of Nadav and Avihu, see verse 10:6.

It is interesting that in 2 Samuel 6 we read about a similar case of the consuming fire of the Lord. When Uzzah touched the holy ark of the covenant, God smote him on the spot. And again we find the “good side” of God’s fire on Mount Carmel as the prophet Elijah called down fire from heaven in a showdown with 450 Baal priests before the people of Israel (1 Kings 18).

The second part of our parasha speaks about the dietary laws. “Speak unto the Children of Israel, saying, These are the animals which you shall eat among all the animals that are on earth” (verse 2):

  • any animal with a split hoof and chews the cud (except camels, rabbits and pigs, they are strongly forbidden!).
  • any fish in the sea with fins and scales
  • any birds except for the ones listed in verses 13 to 23.

All this was to be done “to be holy, for I am holy” (verse 44) and “to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten” (verse 47).

This is the basis of Kashrut Laws, the set of instructions of keeping kosher that religious Jews abide by.

Some say, that the very first law in history was a dietary law given by God in the Garden of Eden, not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The sage Rambam, claimed that keeping "kosher furthers physical hygiene". Some researchers have backed up his statements saying “kosher” food is safer and healthier than “unclean” food. For example, oysters and shellfish can contain typhoid germs and poison.

The Bible says that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Jewish sages also have a saying: Our body is a vessel for our soul, as “a tree producing better fruits on good soil.” They say it is a matter of self-discipline, controlling your body and flesh before food tempts one as it did Adam and Eve.
Daniel and his friends in Babylonian captivity insisted on eating “kosher” food (Daniel 1) and didn’t touch anything from the seducing riches of Babylon. And God blessed them for it. This means anyone no matter where he lives can do the same!
– Michael Schneider –

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