Parshat Shemini: Being truthful in our closeness to God’s love

“And it was on the eighth (shemini) day, that Moses summoned Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel.” (Leviticus 9:1)

That was the day that the Divine Presence chose to appear to the people after the heads of the tribes brought their offerings to the sanctuary.

“And they (the priests) took what Moses had commanded to the front of the tent of meeting, and the entire community approached and stood before the Lord. And Moses said: ‘This is the thing which God commanded you to do; and the glory of God shall appear to you’.” (9:5-6)

The commandment is to bring the offerings (to elevate all aspects and dimensions of consciousness to be closer to the Creator) to be united to God’s love, His glory.

“(…) and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fats upon the altar; and the entire people saw, sang praises, and fell upon their faces.” (9:23-24)

“And Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Avihu, each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it; and they brought before the Lord an alien fire, which He had not commanded them. And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” (10:1-2)

Some of our sages say that Nadab and Avihu decided to make their individual offerings in their own way, meaning in an egocentric attitude which was not appropriate. From this episode we learn that every trait and quality we offer to the service of the Creator must be guided according to His ways, and not by our own individual version of how it “should” be.

In the same way that God’s love is unconditional in regards to the sustenance of His creation, we also must be willing to elevate our entire life to His love without strings attached or ego’s agenda. Our love for God must be unconditional as it was manifest by our patriarchs.

There is nothing “personal” or particular in the way we elevate our lives to God, except for us to include all levels (lower and higher) of consciousness in our true desire to be close to His love.

“Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘this is what the Lord spoke, “I will be sanctified through those near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified”.” (10:3)

In this context “all the people” also represent all aspects, traits, qualities, and dimensions or our life aimed to manifest (glorify) God’s love.

This warning also excludes altering our consciousness with something that is not our sober and clear perception when we want to be together with our Creator.

“Do not drink wine that will lead to intoxication, neither you nor your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, so that you shall not die. [This is] An eternal statute for your generations.” (10:9)

By being sober in our perception and awareness we are able “to distinguish between holy and profane, and between unclean and clean.” (10:10)

Then it is quite clear that any artificial means to alter our consciousness in order to be close to the Creator is as unacceptable as ego’s fantasies and illusions as the motivations to do so. We have to live with the truth for our own sake and the sake of others, and even more truthful regarding our desire to embrace God’s love.

We are summoned to live according to His ways and attributes, and that includes what we think, feel, sense and do, and also what we eat. This previous message is consequently juxtaposed to the following verse.

“Speak to the children of Israel, saying: These are the creatures that you may eat among all the animals on Earth (…)” (11:2)

Our sages teach that the act of eating also must be approached with a moral purpose, thus warning us about animals that reflect traits that we must avoid such as predators and creeping species.

“You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping creature that creeps, and you shall not defile yourselves with them, that you should become unclean through them. For I am the Lord your God, and you shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, because I am holy, and you shall not defile yourselves through any creeping creature that crawls on the ground.” (11:43-44)

The parshah ends reminding us again to have a sharp discernment when we approach the material world.

“(…) to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.” (11:47)

In an analogical way it is the same approach when we have to choose between ego’s illusions and fantasies, and love’s ways and attributes. Either a materialistic and egocentric way of life or living a life in the truth of God’s love.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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