Children: “you can’t live with them and can’t live without them!” They are our inspiration, our burden. Drive us crazy, change our very dimension, love us, hate us, are us, or not!. Flash back 3000 years to Aaron’s children wandering in the Wilderness.
In Torah, parashah Sh’mini, a mysterious narrative of two of Aaron’s children, Nadav and Avihu. These two of Aaron’s sons are among the 70 leaders of Israel who ascended Sinai in Mishpatim, of Exodus to behold and experience G!d. Their names are interesting, Nadav meaning a volunteer, and Avihu meaning “he’s your Dad” of one who will never become a Dad. They are destroyed, sacrificed, by a divine fire after they bring an “aish zarah” an extra, strange fire as offering. And father Aaron is silent, told not with the typical “sheket”, but rather from a word linked to “blood” as if the blood were drained from him/ his face, “vayidom Aharon“. Moses is harsh, unsympathetic, not allowing mourning, ordering their ashes carried out like the animals of the sacrifice. (Prior comments Links to Holacaust & Taking out the Trash). This narrative is followed, in Chapter 10, verse 9 by a law forbidding wine/ intoxication in the tent of meeting, so that most traditions blame the sons for being drunk and blame them for their own deaths. Yet, Moses say’s they’ve been sanctified and drawn near to God. And God is the power that strengthens us during loss, as in the morning prayer, Psalm 30: “You turn my mourning into dancing, and clothe me in joy, so that my soul might sing to you and not be silent – from that same word as Aaron’s stillness: yadom” . Listen to Debbie Friedman’s version of that psalm here. So I have always agreed with the minority opinion, that the boys were beautiful, and holy, and died young, not “deserving” to die.
This week, the Union for Reform Judaism’s Ten Minutes of Torah comments by Rabbis Elyse Goldstein and Ari Lorge agrees. As I read their comments this morning was sparked (no pun intended!) to powerful connections in the world and my life.
Rabbi Goldstein writes of Philippe Petite, who was walked tightropes prepared to die a “beautiful death in the exercise of (his) passion!” and Ari Lorge writes about our roles as prophets. What if your passion were your prophecy: A cause to dedicate your soul to, with all your heart and soul and your everything (from Shema)? Well I met a man last month who embodies just passionate causes, and urged all the students in the audience to be the same way for their own causes. I’m Diversity committee co-chair at the community college where I teach, and the man I met was Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr. I then bought and devoured his book, In Peace and Freedom. Bernard taught us that the assassination of Dr. King was a failure, because King had already “given” his life completely over to the cause, so it could not be taken from him. It is an inspiring lesson and story from both men, also pictured in the Movie Selma
What is your passionate cause? This second fiery connection for me is Environmental Conservaiton. Climate Change is a destructive “fire” threatening our lives and that of our children, perhaps fueled by our yetzer ha-ra. I attended the Climate Rally in NYC in Sept 2014. I followed Rabbi Arthur Waskow and Greenfaith there, enjoying the music of Josh Nelson and Neshamah Carlebach. I brought along my then 16 year old son, who blew shofar as Arthur chanted an Eichah for the earth. (that’s him at the rally, posing with the unicorn on Noah’s ark) I am currently reading Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything” about the successful attempt of Wealthy, powerful Right wing groups, worshiping the idol of power-capitalism to torpedo the Climate change response. It is shocking and upsetting. But Klein lays out an alternative of a just society which cooperates to solve the life-threatening heating of our Home, the only place in the Universe we know can support us. Nadav and Avihu died by alien fire. I am seriously worried that our children, my children will be consumed by this alien fire. This is a cause worthy of our passions. It is the most urgent issue of our times.