Shmini: Seek the Middle

“Moshe then inquired, darosh darash, about the goat of the sin offering, and it had been burned” (Vayikra 10:16). Judaism has always stressed the importance of the middle position. Ideologically, the Rambam teaches, we should seek the middle ground (the golden mean). We lain with the sefer Torah in the middle surrounded by two people, and a Torah scholar walks in the middle of his entourage. Rosh Hashanah is the first day of the seventh month—the middle of the year—and thus, the most appropriate time for introspection.

Shmini: Comforting Cousins

At times of crisis, true leaders often emerge, be they political, military or religious. Their ability to effectively provide inspiration, motivation, hope, and comfort when needed sows seeds of evolutionary growth in the life of a nation. This is equally true on a personal level, especially when a sudden tragedy strikes. It is in these situations that great people reach for strength and ability they did not even know they possessed. 

Shemini: Counting to Eight

"And it was on the eighth day" (Vayikra 9:1). While this verse is the beginning of a new parsha, the Torah clearly links it to the previous parsha in which the seven-day celebratory festivities for the dedication of the Mishkan are described. Interestingly, next week's parsha, Tazria, also begins with a reference to the eighth day. "When a women conceives and gives birth to a boy, she shall be ritually unclean for seven days...and on the eighth day the child's foreskin shall be circumcised" (12:2-3).

Shemini: Close to G-d

The deaths of Nadav and Avihu have long troubled biblical commentaries. The multiple suggestions put forth demonstrate that—objectively speaking—whatever the true nature of their sin may have been, it does not seem to have warranted the death penalty. Under different circumstances, or had others done what they did, they likely would have been spared. But not Nadav and Avihu.

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