Parasha: Acharei Mot, Kedoshim

Torah reading:      Leviticus 116:1-20:27  

Prophets reading: Ezekiel 22:1=19

Gospel reading:    Luke 14-17

 

Acharei Mot/Kedoshim      אחרי מות/קדושים      “After the death/Holy”

What is “a strange fire”?

This weeks Torah portion of Acharei Mot begins with a detailed description of the ritual service performed by the high Priest once a year on Yom Kippur (“Day of Atonement”)(The Scapegoat). This service involved the priest entering the Holy of Holies after purification ceremonies and offering sacrifices which were required by God prior to entering ... "lest you die” (Leviticus 16:2).

This weeks Torah portion “Acharei Mot” "after the death of" the two sons of Aaron stands as an memorial as to the incorrect manner in which to enter into the holy place.

What exactly did Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, do to incur such a decree? Leviticus 10:1-2 tells us that Nadab and Abihu took theircensors, and they put fire in them, and placed incense thereon, and by so doing offered strange fire before God and ironically as a result fire came forth from before God and consumed them.

This entire episode seems a bit harsh and even unfair. After all, Nadab and Abihu were putting forth an effort to worship God! It could be said that this Torah portion puts hesitancy in a worshipper of God. So what exactly is the principle being taught here?

The problem was not with the censor (vessels) nor was it with the incense (prayers) but rather was the "strange fire" which they brought before the Lord. Nadab and Abihu were required to get the fire for their censers (vessels) from the Brazen Altar. The Brazen Altar was where sin offerings were made and accepted. Here it represents the first step in the plan of salvation which is repentance.

Our first step in approaching God is the altar!

Bible - Fire from the Heavens

Naturally speaking fire has a dual nature as it can be seen to improve yet also destroy, purify yet also burn, giving light yet also blinds. We see this dual nature of fire in the Bible as  there are a number of stories of fire raining down from the heavens (or coming out of a holy place) and this serves a number of purposes: on one hand severe punishment of man and on the other hand a sign testifying to the presence of divine loving-kindness.

Punishing Fire - Sodom and Gormorrah (Genesis 19:24)

                     - Elijah and Ahaziah (II Kings 10-12)

                     - Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:2)

 

Refining Fire  - The Covenant (Abraham) (Genesis 15:17) burning lamp

                     - Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3:2)

                     - Children of Israel lead by a Pillar of Fire (Exodus 13:21)

 

Isaiah 66:15-16 "For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. (16) For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many."

Matthew 3:8-12 KJV Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: (9) And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. (10) And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (11) I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (12) Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

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