Weekly Parashah

Parashat Shemini

28 Nisan 5781 / April 10, 2021

by Rich Birndorf

This Week's Readings:

Torah: Leviticus 9:1-11:47

Haftarah: 2 Samuel 6:1-7:17

Brit Chadashah: 2 Timothy 4:1-5

The scriptures clearly teach us how we are to live our lives according to G-d’s specific instructions. The challenge for us is: do we choose the correct way, that is God’s way, or do we take the path that seems pleasing, easy, or right in our eyes? In this week’s parashah we encounter men that choose to perform specific tasks according to their own way rather than that which was assigned to them by G-d. In all three occasions the result was fatal. A second complimentary theme is presented in the old covenant, that is the distinction between holy and the common as determined by G-d.

With the consecration of the Kohanim now complete, the Torah portion begins with Moses’ instruction to Aaron regarding the beginning of their service. In particular, there is detail regarding how the offerings are to be presented. However, Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu presented “unauthorized fire” to G-d. We don’t know exactly what they did in violation of the L-rd’s instruction other than it was contrary to the established method He provided to them. What we do know is that the consequence of doing things their way was their immediate death.  Since the passage immediately continues with the statement of the prohibition of the priests from drinking alcohol while serving, the assumption is that Nadab and Abihu were inebriated when they presented their offering, which, according to the text defined the Kohanim’s offering as common or unclean, rather than as G-d has directed the offering to be presented, which was holy. The portion concludes with a summarization of the kashrut laws defining that which is clean or holy and that which is unclean, again equating clean with holy. The division is clearly defined so the people could remain holy because G-d is holy.


The Haftarah portion also retells of a son that decided to do what he deemed best rather than following G-d’s directive. This time the sin is committed by Uzzah, son of Abinadab. Here begins the final journey of the ark of G-d, starting from the house of Abinadab to Jerusalem. David with a host of choice men begins the expedition by placing the Torah on a cart rather than having it carried by the Levitcal family, the Kohathites, as commanded in Exodus and Numbers. This is the first transgression committed. It’s not clear from the text if David or Uzzah initiated the manner in which the Torah travelled; however Uzzah and his brother Ahio ultimately are at fault for driving the cart. The second sin resulted in Uzzah’s death as he touched the ark which was strictly prohibited according to Numbers 4:15. As was the situation with Nadab and Abihu, the result of choosing to do things in opposition to G-d’s command led to instant death to the transgressor.  

In the Brit Chadashah portion just prior to his death, Paul admonishes Timothy regarding his upcoming ministry and the challenges that were awaiting him. He encourages him to be ready at all times to proclaim G-d’s Word or as stated in the NASB, to “preach” the Word. One of the purposes of this was to correct and rebuke those he was proclaiming the Word to. Those he will be confronting would reject “sound instruction” and instead accept the teachings of others that were consistent with their own objectives. As we have previously seen, the result of such actions is destructive or, even worse, fatal. Instead, Timothy was encouraged to continue to present the Besorah with boldness, not becoming discouraged in spite of the challenges of the apathy of the hearers.

Often it’s easy to become lazy in our walk with G-d. Instead of doing things the way that G-d has clearly instructed in the scriptures, we live out our lives in the way we desire. We choose the path that is easy or comfortable. Perhaps we embrace the teachings that are not of G-d, but rather align with our chosen objectives. This leads to a flawed foundation for the way we live our lives, that is rather than doing things the right way, we choose to do things our way.

Instead, our objective should be solely on determining G-d’s purpose for ourselves and living that out without straying off course which frequently is determined by our own aspirations. The only way to do so is to constantly be in His Word. I continue to see this basic truth, that the more time we devote to reading through the Bible, the clearer His instruction is for our life. I have no doubt if we truly live out His instruction, the result will be G-d’s abundant blessings in our lives.