Parashat Shmini (Eighth)

Sh’mini  – “Eighth” (Leviticus :1 to 11:47) is the Sidra for this week. After seven days of consecration Aaron and his sons are ready to start work as priests.

They perform the offerings as prescribed, the sin offering and burnt offering for his own sin and the sin offering and burnt offering for the sin of the people. Then a peace offering for the people exactly as we previously read in Parshat Vayikra.

Aaron went inside the tent and then came out to bless the people. Fire came out from God’s presence and burnt up the sacrifice that Aaron had laid on the altar.

The two elder sons of Aaron – Nadav and Abihu – are anxious to start playing with the instruments given to them for the Tabernacle worship, so they fill their censers with incense and burn it in the tent of meeting just to see what it was like, but not in accordance with God’s instruction.

God needed to show Aaron and his sons that he was serious about being worshipped in a holy manner. This time the fire that came out was not God’s glory but a fire of judgement that killed Nadav and Abihu. Two of their cousins came to take the bodies away for burial.

Aaron and his remaining sons Eliezer and Itamar were not permitted to mourn the loss of his sons and their brothers. They had to remain on duty in the Tabernacle. The rest of the Israelites however were permitted to mourn for them.

Aaron and his sons continue in their duty of sacrifice. The priests were permitted to eat part of the sin offering but, on this occasion, Aaron burnt the part of the offering he was entitled to eat. When Moses asked him why he didn’t eat it, Aaron replies that after all that had happened to him that day, he wasn’t in the mood to eat anything.

The laws of Kashrut – the distinction between kosher and non-kosher foods – are now defined Any animal with a divided hoof and which chews the cud is kosher while those who do not are treif  (non-kosher).  So cattle, goats, sheep and deer are kosher since they chew the cud and have a divided hoof. A camel which chews the cud but does not have a divided hoof is not kosher. Likewise, a pig which has a divided hoof but does not chew the cud is not kosher.

Birds, other than birds of prey like eagles, vultures and kites are kosher. No insects are to be eaten with the exception of four legged insects with wings, like grasshoppers and locusts.

Rats, lizards and snakes are not to be eaten. Anything that dies of itself rather than being slaughtered is not to be eaten although it could be given to a non-Israelite.  Blood is forbidden and must be poured out on the ground. Fish with fins and scales are permitted but other forms of seafood are not.

Touching the carcases of an unclean animal rendered a person unclean. If the carcass fell into a clay pot, the vessel was to be smashed.

Haftarat Sh’mini                                   הפטרת שמיני

The haftarah associated with this portion is 2 Samuel 6:1 to 7:17. It tells how the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem. The connection between the Torah portion and the haftarah portion is the necessity to handle the things of God with great reverence. Nadav and Abihu died because they thought they could mess about with their censers and the incense. Likewise, Uzzah died when he tries to steady the ark with his hands. At first sight that seems a very harsh punishment. The Ark had been placed on a new ox cart and it wobbled on the road and nearly fell off. But David should have read his Bible. The Ark should never have been placed on a cart. Poles and rings had been made for it and that is the way it should have been carried. If we go back to Terumah we see this

When the Ark gets back to Jerusalem, David dances before the Lord wearing only a shirt. His wife Michal criticised him for dancing like that in full view of the slave girls. For that criticism Michal remains childless all her life.

David expresses a desire to build a Temple to house the Ark, but Nathan the prophet informs him he was not to be the one to do it. One of David’s offspring would do it and we know now that person was to be Solomon.

Messianic Message

Animals that chew the cud have two compartments in their stomachs. They chew the food which gets partially digested in the first compartment then they regurgitate it, chew it again, and finally digest it in the second stomach compartment.

There is a parallel here as to how we should study the Word of God. Read it, digest it, mull over it and digest it again. We can read the same passage over and over and each time we can get something new out of it. We need a guide to understand the Word. That guide is the Ruach Hakodesh, the Holy Spirit.

The divided hoof is also an illustration of the believer who walks a path separated from the path of the world.

We also need to pray for our people who will not study the Torah without the commentaries of the Mishnah and Gemara . Pray that the same Holy Spirit who guides us in all truth would break through and shine the light of Messiah directly onto the words of the Torah to reveal Messiah.

Opinions among Messianic believers about Kashrut vary. Yeshua, in stating that it was what came out of the mouth which defiles a man, declared all foods clean.

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.  Matthew 15:18-20

However, it can be argued that Yeshua was speaking only about hand washing and he would not even have regarded anything not kosher as food.

Peter had a vision where he saw all sorts of forbidden animals in a sheet which was in preparation for his meeting with Cornelius. Acts 10:9-16

Nevertheless later on Peter is rebuked by Rav Shaul  the Apostle Paul for not eating with non-Jewish brothers in deference to some Jewish believers who had just come up from Jerusalem (Galatians 2:11-13)

Possibly it was because there was treif on the table of the non-Jewish brothers but there was nothing to prevent Peter from sitting with them at the same table and ordering the vegetarian option.

The important thing is to allow our brothers and sisters to be free to act according to their conscience and calling and not to stand in judgement for any reason.

I know, and am persuaded in the Lord Yeshua, that nothing is unholy in itself; but it is unholy for the one who considers it unholy.For if your brother is grieved on account of food, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy by your food the one for whom Messiah died. Therefore do not let what is good for you be spoken of as evil—for the kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking, but righteousness and shalom and joy in the Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit)   Romans 14:14-17 TLV

Nadav, Abihu and Uzzah all died because of a profane attitude to things that are holy.

We live in an age where we emphasize the love of God, freedom in worship and how we can easily approach God through the blood of Messiah.

But the New Covenant does not make God any the less holy. Ananias and Saphira learned that to their cost when they told the Apostles they were handing over the whole price for the sale of their property. They didn’t have to hand it all over or even sell their property. They only needed to be honest.         (Acts 5:1-11)

We need to be careful as we use the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Are they real or are they imitations of what other people have done? We need to be honest in our walk and our worship.

for our ‘God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29)

This article originally appeared on the BMJA website and is reposted with permission.