Two-Line Torah: Shemini 5776–Strange Fire



March 28, 2016

In Parashat Shemini, Aaron offers sin, burnt and well-being offerings to the Divine to bless the people. Then his sons, Nadav and Avihu, bring an offering of “strange fire” that was not asked for and they are consumed by fire. Aaron is silent.

The question is asked: what did Nadav and Avihu do wrong?

Rashi suggests that the two young priests were correct in how they performed the ritual, but their mistake was in bringing an offering that was not commanded. This would suggest that the “how” of how we do Judaism is as important (if not more important) than the “what” of what we do Jewishly.

The story pushes the question of the limits for Jewish communities:

Who in our communities are made to feel as if their offerings are strange fire? What are the consequences for doing Judaism differently? Who are the Aarons on our campuses, silent in the face of marginalization?

Rabbi Melissa B. Simon is the Hillel Director and Jewish Chaplain at Muhlenberg College.