These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

שמיני, shemini

Posted on March 24, 2011 by Avi Strausberg

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following the priestly induction ceremony, the cohanim are required to camp out in the tent of meeting for seven full days.  they are warned to remain inside day and night, lest they come out and die.  what an incredibly high-pressure, terrifying way to start a new job.  this week’s parsha shmini marks the eight day after their induction; aharon and his sons step out of the tent, ready to start their first day on the job.
on the eight day, aharon brings all the required offerings, following moshe’s detailed instructions, while the people stand on the sidelines waiting.  he slaughters the animals.  he turns the innards into smoke.  he dashes the blood against the altar.  step-by-step, he performs each task perfectly until finally the work is complete.  and then, he steps down from the altar and the people wait for God’s response.
immediately following, aharon raises his hands and blesses the people.  then, he and moshe enter the tent of meeting.  when they exit the tent, moshe and aharon bless the people together.  why did they go inside the tent?  and what happened once inside?
it’s difficult for me to imagine the level of stress and fear that aharon experienced, standing before an expectant people, offering up his very first sacrifices to God.  Torah commentators suggest that seeing no indication that the offering was received, moshe and aharon enter the tent to pray to God to accept their offerings.  i prefer to imagine the intimate conversations that might have passed between the two brothers as they struggled to figure out where they’d gone wrong and what to do next.
i worry i’m not
good enough, to stand before
my people, my God.
you can’t go back now.
you and yours belong to God
you too will know Him.
may we be able to voice our own fears even as we act as leaders for our community,