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In this reading we continue with the sanctification ceremonies of the Tabernacle and the Cohanim (Priests.) Starting with Chapter 11, we are given the Laws of Purity that God has commanded for all people. But before we get to the first of these laws, the Dietary Laws (Kashrut, or Kosher Laws) we have to deal with an unhappy incident: the death of Aaron’s two oldest sons, Nadab and Abihu.
Chapter 10 describes the events that led to the death of these men, and the aftermath of their actions. Nadab and Abihu were under the influence of liquor, and took it upon themselves to take fire that was not from the sanctuary (“strange fire”) and place themselves in their father’s position by offering it to the Lord. Their punishment was to be struck dead by God. Aaron was told (by Moshe as instructed by God) not to mourn for what happened. Aaron and the other priests (his other sons) did not eat of the sacrifice and although this was another rebellious action (as High Priest he was to partake in the eating of that sacrifice), the Rabbi’s explain that Aaron’s answer to Moses meant that they all felt unworthy and spiritually unclean because of their emotional pain. Moses accepted this as understandable.
Chapter 11 contains the commandments regarding Kashrut- the Kosher Laws. I could write a book on this chapter alone, but all I will say today is that whether or not there is an explanation for these laws that makes sense to a human being, God is not required to make us understand why he does what he does, or why he tells us what to do. He is God, we are his creation, his children and his authority is over us from eternity past and will be over us until eternity future. The only “reason” we need to obey the Kosher Laws is because God said we should. In fact, that is the only reason we need to obey any of God’s commandments. And if that isn’t enough for you, then you need to be more concerned with the strength of your faith and trust in God than what’s on your table.
The message for us today is what Moses tells Aaron that God says, right after Nadab and Abihu are executed, and this is in Leviticus 10:3:
“…I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”
The meaning of this, as explained by the Rabbis, is that God holds those who are closest to him and who have been given authority to lead his people to a much higher standard of behavior than others. Unlike most of the world, where if you have a greater level of social or political power you are extended more privileges (meaning you are not subject to the law like others), with God the more power you are given the more responsible you must be with that power. Consequently, when the people see the example of righteousness that their leaders provide, God will be glorified in their eyes, as well.
The Talmud says, “With the righteous, God is exacting even to a hair’s breadth.” What this means to us is that as we are more obedient, more self-disciplined to act in righteous ways and more of an example of how God wants all people to worship him and treat each other, then God, himself, will be glorified in the eyes of all that see us.
In other words, the more godly we become in our everyday lives the more people will respect and admire God. Think of it like this: when you hear a concert orchestra play a beautiful piece of music, you admire the composer even more than the ones playing his music.
Going forward let’s remember that every day we must watch our tongues and be aware of what we do so that we will not be held accountable for doing anything that reflects poorly on ourselves, for when we do that we dishonor the Lord. I know the pain of dishonoring God for I do it constantly; I get comfortable in a situation or with people, and I act more like myself which, inevitably, leads to me doing something that dishonors God. It really hurts, and I am embarrassed to confess it, but confess I must. Why? Because I want to hand my sin over to God, but you cannot give away something that you do not own, right? Therefore, before I can give away my sin, I must own it, or should I say, own up to it? If we excuse our sins, we don’t “own” them and will not be able to give them up to the Lord. Yeshua took on our sins, but he can’t take them away from us- we have to give them to him. That’s a difficult word to understand for many because they just want to believe “Jesus took on your sins” and there’s nothing you have to do. WRONG!! What we are learning from the Torah today is that if you profess to be a Believer in God and Messiah, then you are to be held more accountable for your actions, and as such you must confess and take ownership of the sins you commit. That is the only way you can be free of them: once you own your sin, you can give it up to Yeshua who is able to take it from you, but only when you offer it up to him.
Yeshua doesn’t take your sin away from you automatically- you have to offer it up to him, and unless you “own” it you cannot give it away.
We are to be holy, as God is holy, and that is a very, VERY difficult calling. We will fail, we will need to try and try again and again to be better, and we need to remember that the closer we get to God, the more accountable we are for our actions. It is a constant uphill battle against ourselves and our Yetzer Hara (evil inclination; iniquity) but with God’s help and by calling on the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) for guidance and strength, we can do it.
As you will often hear me say, we can never be sinless but we can always sin less.