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April 10, 2014 - Image 55

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-04-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

>> Torah portion

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Bloomfield Hills, MI 48301
248-851-7397

Parshat Acharei Mot, Shabbat
HaGadol: Leviticus 16:1-18:30;
Malachi 3:4-3:24.

T

here is a fascinating principle
in the study of Torah called
smichut haparashiyot — that
there must be a connection, apparent
or not, between two adjacent Torah
portions, commandments or stories.
This week, we read Acharei Mot,
which literally means "after the death:'
It is speaking about the
death of Nadav and Avihu,
Aaron's two sons who "died
when they drew too close to
the presence of the Lord"
What interested me about
just the first line of this por-
tion is that it doesn't follow
the actual portion where
the two died. Rather, there
are two portions, Tazria and
Metzora, between them.
Wouldn't it have made more
sense to have the portion
that begins "after the death
of the two sons of Aaron" directly after
the portion that contains the story of
their death?
After some study, I found one com-
mentary that offered this explanation
for the interruption in the narra-
tive. Nadav and Avihu die because
they "drew too close" to God, to the
Holy of Holies. Tazria and Metzora
discuss who may and may not enter
the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Because
Nadav and Avihu clearly didn't know
the boundaries and suffered the most
severe consequences, the Torah had to
be more clear about the laws regarding
states of purity and impurity so that
no one else makes the same mistake.
While I find that explanation sat-
isfying on a "head level:' I am left
unsatisfied on a "heart level:' I want to
know what happened to Aaron after
his sons died. The text made it seem
like he went right back to work with
his brother Moses without interrup-
tion. But I have a hard time believing
that after seeing two of his sons struck
dead before his eyes he was capable of
performing his duties.
I believe that the two portions that
interrupt the flow between Shemini
and Acharei Mot are there to teach us

something else. Often, we are told that
when someone is in a state of impurity,
they must leave the camp. I don't think
it's a stretch to relate that to someone
in mourning. I have often seen in my
work as a rabbi and experience in my
own life the need to be alone — to
withdraw from the world — after los-
ing someone you love.
While I am a firm believ-
er in the power and neces-
sity of shivah, I also believe
that time alone to reflect,
cry, be angry and begin to
heal are of utmost value
after suffering the death of
someone you love.
You have to get used to
the idea of being without
them. If it was your spouse,
maybe it is getting used to
eating alone. If it was your
child, well, you just never
get used to it, and you have to force
yourself to re-enter the world with one
less hand to hold while crossing the
street.
While having someone by your side
while you experience all these "firsts"
and "new normals," there is sanctity in
separating yourself out from the com-
munity for a while before bravely re-
entering. I imagine that Aaron, much
like some of the people he banished
from the community, banished himself
as well.
He left the work of the Mishkan to
his other sons, and he took some time
to be alone. He didn't have to wait
until he was pure once again, but just
until his soul was ready to once again
serve God.
So after some thought, I realize why
there is an interruption between these
two portions. Because even if God
spoke to Moses and Aaron in the two
portions between Shemini and Acharei
Mot, I think Aaron still took time to
himself, until he was once again ready
to serve God and the people. ❑

Jennifer Kaluzny is a rabbi at Temple Israel

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