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Shmini – A thought for the week by Mike Lewis

The story of Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron is very unsettling.  Why did these two young men die?  The explanation that they “they brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them.” seems harsh and strange.  What did they do wrong? Did they act out of arrogance, ignorance or simply enthusiasm?

Arrogance would indicate that they felt that they somehow knew best what to do. Ignorance suggests failure to listen and understand when they were given instructions. Surely, enthusiasm would not be so heavily punished. But the word enthusiasm is derived from the word “theism” which derives from Greek. It is a belief in some form of God as an ideology but without any rules.

Rules may seem irksome but without them chaos can happen.  If the rituals and rules had been followed at Chernobyl, then that accident would not have taken place. Sometimes religious passion can have the appearance of great holiness, but it can also be potentially dangerous. We see this in the world around us today. There is no reason not to challenge rules, but we need to do so from a position of knowledge, respect and understanding concerning that which we seek to change.

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