As any parent or pet owner can attest, objects of temptation must be kept out of reach and probably out of sight as well. When there is something we want and know we can’t have, there is often a greater sense of temptation to see how close we can get without getting caught or hurt. A child might enjoy looking at the flame of a candle, but a few inches can mean the difference between enjoyment and a burned hand. A child and a dog might have fun playing together, but one too many pulls on the dog’s tail can easily result in a scratch or bite. The question is do our relationships have similar boundaries and what are they?
This week we read a double parshah, Acharei Mot-Kedoshim. Parshat Acharei Mot deals with what happens after Aaron’s sons have offered up strange fire to God and with forbidden relationships between human beings. The structure of this section of text pushes us to look at our relationships with both God and others and see the boundaries and intimacies of each relationship. Parshat Kedoshim deals with what is known as the “Holiness Code” that helps us to understand how we can walk in God’s ways and create a community of relationship and understanding.
Chapter 16, verse 1 of Vayikra states “And God spoke to Moshe, after the death of Aaron’s two sons, who came too close to the presence of God, and died.” We learn earlier in the text that there are boundaries to how close the general public, and even the priests, are allowed to come to God. There are boundaries and borders around Mount Sinai when God dwells there, and even Moshe never sees God face to face. Nadav and Avihu, two of Aaron’s sons, are intrigued by the presence of God, and when it came time to make offerings, they overstepped the boundaries and were burned, literally.
This text begs us to ask, what does it mean to be too close to God? We know that we are not supposed to make idols or use God’s name in undesirable ways. We’ve learned that we are created in God’s image, betzelem Elohim, which suggests that in certain ways, God is actually inside each of us. Perhaps when we look at this story of Nadav and Avihu, it is a reminder that we can’t push boundaries or limits too far. As we strive towards connection with the Divine, with our heritage, spirituality and religion, we must also remember that pushing too hard or too fast might lead to a spiritual death instead of spiritual growth. Just as building our relationships with others takes time, energy and effort, so too building our relationship with God requires patience, humility and introspection.
As we read the words of our Torah this week, let us continue to build our relationships with the Divine and with one another, but let us understand the small and steady steps necessary to ensure positive future growth.
ללמוד To Learn: ללמד To Teach: לשמור To Keep: לעשות To Do: Chapter 19 of sefer Vayikra, the book of Leviticus details the laws of how we are to deal with one another. Read through thesemitzvot and challenge yourself and/or your family to pick one to focus on for the coming week. See how this changes the way you view others, yourself and the world around you.