Passover is this Friday!
Whatever am I talking about (and no, I haven't overindulged today in the Turkish coffee that I love)?
Numbers 9:1-14 says:
And the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying: 'Let the children of Israel keep the Passover in its appointed season. In the fourteenth day of this month, at dusk, you shall keep it in its appointed season; according to all the statutes of it, and according to all the ordinances thereof, shall you keep it.' And Moses spoke to the children of Israel, that they should keep the Passover. And they kept the Passover in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at dusk, in the wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel. But there were certain men, who were unclean by the dead body of a man, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day. And those men said to him: 'We are unclean by the dead body of a man; wherefore are we to be kept back, so as not to bring the offering of the Lord in its appointed season among the children of Israel?' And Moses said unto them: 'Stay you, that I may hear what the Lord will command concerning you. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'Speak to the children of Israel, saying: If any man of you or of your generations shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the Passover unto the Lord; in the second month on the fourteenth day at dusk they shall keep it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs; they shall leave none of it until the morning, nor break a bone thereof; according to all the statute of the Passover they shall keep it. But the man that is clean, and is not on a journey, and forbears to keep the Passover, that soul shall be cut off from his people; because he brought not the offering of the Lord in its appointed season, that man shall bear his sin. And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the Passover unto the Lord: according to the statute of the Passover, and according to the ordinance thereof, so shall he do; you shall have one statute, both for the stranger, and for him that is born in the land.'
Numbers is here talking about Pesah Sheni
or Second Passover, which occurrs on the 14th of the month of Iyar (the "second month"). This is this Friday, May 12. When the Temples stood (and when the Temple stands again, may this be very soon!), any Jew who couldn't participate in the bringing of the Passover lamb (I love roast lamb!) on the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan (it was eaten on the evening of the 15th of Nisan, the evening of April 23 this year; remember, our days start in the evening, not in the morning, see the wording in Genesis 1, evening always comes first) for whatever reason, was obliged to participate in the bringing of the Passover lamb on the afternoon of the 14th of Iyar (this afternoon) & eat it on the evening of the 15th. (This includes children who reached the age of majority between 15 Nisan and 14 Iyar as well as converts whose conversion was finalized in this period.) Those who participated in Pesah Sheni did not have to keep a 7 day Passover festival/holyday (which begins on the evening of 15 Nisan), nor did they have to observe al of the precepts regarding the getting rid of leavened grain products.
Nowadays, Pesah Sheni is marked by minor changes in the daily prayers (one or two prayers, depending on which day of the week it falls on, are not said) and the custom of eating leftover matzah (unleavened bread) from Passover the month before.
There is something here that we orthodox, Jews & Christians, have in common. Please bear with me for a second. Second Passover is linked, both thematically & scripturally, with the deaths of Aaron's sons, Nadav and Abihu, who brought, "strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them." What exactly did Nadav & Abihu do that deserved such an awesome and stunning punishment
And there came forth fire from before the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.
Our Sages offer several reasons as to what motivated Nadav and Abihu to bring fire, which was "strange" because "He had not commanded" it. Some, citing the nature of Leviticus 10:9-11 (one of only two occasions in which God speaks to Aaron alone), claim that Nadav and Abihu were OUI (O
nder the I
nfluence ), i.e. they were drunk. Others suggest that they chafed under the leadership of their elderly Dad & elderly Uncle and were impatient to come into their own.
But there is another explanation that appeals to me very much and which touches on a core principle of Judaism, and of Roman Catholicism as well (if I, the non-Catholic, may be so bold). What happened to Nadav & Abihu is a solemn warning against excessive zeal and against unrestrained passion (in this case, religious fervor). The late Prof, Nehama Leibowitz (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/nleib.html
) writes in her Studies in Vayikra/Leviticus
The Biur elaborates:
Nadav and Abihu were towering personalities; they certainly did not maliciously transgress the word of the Lord. But in their suberabuundant joy they lost their judgement and entered the Holy of Holies to burn fine incense even though this was not commanded by Moses. (...).
Evidently, Nadav and Abihu did not offend against any ritual precepts but sinned by reaching for God through the dictates of their own hearts rather than through the path set by God. Submission to the yoke of Heaven, the ultimate aim of the Torah, was here supplanted by unbridled religious ecstasy. Hence their punishment.
It is neither through momentary passion nor even through self-sacrifice that the religious goal is attained but rather through the discipline spelled out in the precepts of the Torah. Many consider such submission to the commandments, as against spontaneous worship stimulated by personal and subjective sentiments, as mechanical and objectionable. Yet...it was precisely the unrestrained desire to ascend to forbidden heights that constituted an unpardonable sin.
Our Sages say that the men referred to in Numbers 9:6 ("But there were certain men, who were unclean by the dead body of a man...") were Mishael and Elzaphan (see Leviticus 10:4), whom Moses had instructed to haul out Nadav and Abihu's bodies. (Even though the two accounts are not adjacent in the scriptures, the dates jibe; compare Exodus 40:17, Leviticus 9:1 and Numbers 9:1.) Nadav and Abihu wanted to serve God but consulted with no authority other than the subjective whims of their own consciences/moods (and two authorities par excellance
, Moses and Aaron, happened to be standing right there). They went ahead and did what they wanted to do simply because they felt moved to do so. How Protestant, how Reform Jewish. How un-Orthodox Christian, how un-Orthodox Jewish.
Mishael and Elzaphan similarly felt excluded and wanted to serve God. But unlike their cousins Nadav and Abihu, they didn't rush off half-cocked. They went to Moses and asked
. Before rushing off to serve God they first took care to see if He actually wanted to be served that way. We can see that God smiled on them & approved of their consulting the appropriate authority because He then instructed Moses,
"Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: If any man of you or of your generations shall be unclean by reason of a dead body or be in a jouney afar off, yet he shall keep the Passover unto the Lord..."
Look at the difference between sublime reward bestowed on Mishael and Elzaphan and the terrible punishment meted out to Nadav and Abihu.
We, orthodox Jews and Christians, are very much alike. Ours are faiths with authority and discipline. When we have questions about doctrine or practice, we ask our Sages and bishops, respectively, and we are bound by what they teach us because we believe that this is what God wants & how He has instructed us to act, and when we ask our Sages/bishops, we do God's pleasure. Mishael & Elzaphan would have understood. Reform Jews & Protestants are bound only by the subjective whims of their consciences/moods and, in the end, will do whatever they want in accordance with their own rationalizing. Very Nadav and Abihu-ish.
SouthSerb99, run this past your partners! ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š