The reading of the the Torah this next Shabbat will be Acharei Mot (“after the death of Aaron’s sons”), Leviticus 16:1 – 18:30. From the prophets (the Haftarah) we will read from Amos 9:7-15, and from Hebrews we will read from Hebrews 9:11-28.
These readings from the Torah, the prophets and from the New Testament are all very important. The Torah reading starts with the mention of the death of Aaron’s two sons. Aaron is being limited by God in his approach and personal freedom to just enter into the holy Tabernacle.
God says to Moses:
“Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.” – Leviticus 16:2
What is going on here? Aaron’s two older sons died a hurried death by the hand of the Lord for bringing strange fire to the altar.
From the context of the story it is understood by the rabbinical commentators that the reason why Nadab and Abihu died is that they had drank wine before their service in the holy Tabernacle of the Lord. They understood that these well-trained priests – sons of Aaron, the brother of Moses – were not careful and brought strange fire to the altar because of the wine that they drank.
Aaron, as their father but also as the chief priest of Israel, should have at least limited responsibility for not having impressed upon his sons (educated them better) to take the work of the Lord more seriously.
Now, the Lord has limited Aaron’s own freedom and access to the service of the Lord in the Tabernacle of Meeting. There is something in this that to us in our modern egalitarian world seems not fair.
Why should God put a limitation on Aaron and his service as the high priest of Israel? Well, what I learn from this is that fathers, and family in general, have some limited responsibility for what and how their children behave, and if they sin.
Yes, we do have in the Torah these phrases:
“…keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” – Exodus 34:7 [NKJV]
“The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’” – Numbers 14:18 [NKJV]
God does change His mind some hundreds of years later, and proclaims that the principle of visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation is stopping. Here is the first time that God says that this principle will no longer be practiced:
“In those days they shall say no more: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But every one shall die for his own iniquity; every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.” – Jeremiah 31:29,30 [NKJV]
A much more elaborate text on this change is in Ezekiel chapter 18. The whole chapter deals with this major change in the Law of Moses.
There are two principles that I see here. The first is that Fathers ought to share some responsibility for the acts of their children.
Yes, that responsibility is not direct, especially when the children have grown up and have already left home and have developed their own lives and occupations. But, the principle stated by the book of Proverbs:
“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 [NKJV]
This principle does, in my opinion, put some limited responsibility on the father and even the mother for the outcome of their children. Yes, it is not a punitive responsibility, but it is an a priori red light that says to parents if you want your children to become upright and good citizens, which is good for your children but also good for you as a family, than you better remember that what you invest and sow you also reap!
The second point that is that parenting is a great challenge, not only for the children’s future, but also for the parental responsibility.
The rest of this Torah portion in chapter 16 of Leviticus reveals to us the whole ceremony of the Day of Atonement, “Yom HaKippurim” in Hebrew. Even in our own days, where we don’t have a temple, and we don’t have a high priest, and we don’t sacrifice animals or send the “scapegoat” out into the Judaean desert to die, the Day of Atonement is still the most solemn day of the year in every Jewish community. Especially in Jerusalem.
The report is that over 70% of the Jewish population of Israel actually fasts 25 hours without food or drink and over 50% of Israel’s Jewish population actually visits the synagogues for a period of time. I remember my mother, who didn’t believe in God, and my father, who also didn’t believe in God, making some special preparations for the Day of Atonement. Yes, they didn’t fast from food and drink, but they didn’t make regular meals either.
In chapter 17 of Leviticus we see another law of God that is changed later on in the days of the late kings of Judea. The change is reflected in the book of Deuteronomy.
In Leviticus 17 we have the very clear and very serious command that any animal – a bull, a cow, a goat, or a sheep – that is slaughtered for food must be slaughtered by the local priest in a ceremonial, sanctified fashion. And a portion of the meat is given to the priest and for the altar.
After the finding of the book of Deuteronomy in the days of King Josiah, people can kill an animal for food, and not only the priests:
“However, you may slaughter and eat meat within all your gates, whatever your heart desires, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, of the gazelle and the deer alike… When the Lord your God enlarges your border as He has promised you, and you say, ‘Let me eat meat,’ because you long to eat meat, you may eat as much meat as your heart desires.” – Deuteronomy 12:15,20 [NKJV]
We learn from this several very important lessons:
God gave the Torah to Moses in Mount Sinai in front of all of Israel. God can and does change the Torah and the instructions (commandments), like in the case of the children having to suffer because of sins of the fathers.
I believe that this is important for all Bible believers to know and realize, the Word of God is God’s Word. He never gave us the right to change it or add to it!
However He, the Almighty God of Israel, has preserved His right to change and modify His Torah according to the need and time. When I say according to the need, the classic case is with the daughters of Zelophehad:
“Then came the daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, from the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph; and these were the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses, before Eleazar the priest, and before the leaders and all the congregation, by the doorway of the tabernacle of meeting, saying: ‘Our father died in the wilderness; but he was not in the company of those who gathered together against the Lord, in company with Korah, but he died in his own sin; and he had no sons.’” – Numbers 27:1-3 [NKJV]
After hearing the complaint of these daughters of Zelophehad, Moses took up the case before the Lord and the Lord changed the Torah to make justice and establish equality in relationship to inheritance between man and woman. So, yes, God can and does change the Torah according to His standards of justice, righteousness, and just plain fairness.
Here is the text that shows that God heard through Moses the problem and changed the Torah and the custom:
“So Moses brought their case before the Lord. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘The daughters of Zelophehad speak what is right; you shall surely give them a possession of inheritance among their father’s brothers, and cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them.’” – Numbers 27:5-7 [NKJV]
I think that this is an extremely important point for all of us to understand and appreciate the true grace of the Lord and the greatness of His concern and consideration for us His children. The Torah is a living and breathing revelation of the Lord and it is no longer written on stone, but written on our hearts (see Jeremiah 31:31-37).
The heart of God is revealed in the Torah and ultimately in life, death, and resurrection of Yeshua! What a wonderful and living God we have who created this Earth for us, His human children, and placed us here as a preparation for eternity in His presence and in the presence of Yeshua our Savior and God’s own Son, and partner in the creation of this blue ball called Earth!
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” – Hebrews 1:1-3 [NKJV]
The reading from Amos chapter 9:7-15 is also one of the most beautiful texts in the Hebrew Bible. It is a text that reveals God’s universality and His care and concern and control over the world, and not exclusively for Israel.
In fact Jacob (James), in Acts 15, uses this text from Amos to tell us that God has always been concern for all the nations and has never neglected His human children the whole world over. Read this short portion from the prophet Amos and meditate on it. If you have a good commentary of the Bible read it in relationship to this text:
“‘Are you not like the people of Ethiopia to Me, O children of Israel?’ says the Lord. ‘Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, The Philistines from Caphtor, And the Syrians from Kir? Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom, And I will destroy it from the face of the earth; Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,’ Says the Lord. ‘For surely I will command, And will sift the house of Israel among all nations, As grain is sifted in a sieve; Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground. All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword, Who say, “The calamity shall not overtake nor confront us.” On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ Says the Lord who does this thing. ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; The mountains shall drip with sweet wine, And all the hills shall flow with it. I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, And no longer shall they be pulled up From the land I have given them,’ Says the Lord your God.” – Amos 9:7-15
We all ought to say Amen!
After reading this important text that put Israel on the map of the world, and breaks the false security and feeling of exclusivity that often times because a spiritual trap to us as Jews and gives us a false pride for God who has chosen us to be His pride possession (“am segula” in Hebrew). These words of the prophet Amos put us back in perspective.
God is the God of all the Earth and He loves the whole world, and sent Yeshua for the whole world and all of humanity, under His umbrella of grace and love!
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.