This weeks Parshah starts off relating the events of the day of the inaugurating the Tabernacle, which took place on the 1st Nissan (Shabbat 87b). This day saw Hashem’s presence finally rest upon the Tabernacle, which proved that the sin of the Golden Calf had finally been forgiven as Hashem had now dwelled his presence upon the Tabernacle (Shabbat 88b).
A good way to get Hashem involved in our lives in modern day is to try and repent for past transgressions that may have been done. Its been taught in the Talmud, that one of the many ways of repenting is by keeping the laws of Shabbat (Shabbat 118b). On this day, Aharon had finally been elevated to earn the status as ‘Kohen Gadol’ and his sons were elevated to the position of Kohanim and they all finally carried out the priestly tasks, bringing three of their own sacrifices on that day to confirm their elevated status. The day of the inauguration of the Tabernacle was a glorious day; however it was marred by the deaths of two of Aharon’s four sons, Nadav and Avihu, their souls flew out of thier bodies, but their bodies remained intact (Vayikra 10:2/ Shabbat 113b).
Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu, innovated an offering in the holy of holies that was not commanded by G-d to Moshe, in turn they went against Moshe's authority (Eruvin 63a), as a result, a fire came from before G-d and consumed them; this stressed the need to perform the commandments only as Moshe directed. However there were other reasons for the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, including, they did not respect their father by not consulting or waiting for him to do the offering first, in turn they broke one of the Ten Commandments. Another reason was that only the Kohen Gadol was allowed to perform the service, in turn they broke that code of respect.
After they died, Aharon accepted the judgment of Hashem without anger and in reward to that, Hashem taught the Torah law to Aharon that a Kohen cannot perform an offering in an intoxicated state (Vayikra 10:9), a state which Nadav and Avihu were in when they brought their offering as they drank wine (Keritot 13b).
The Parshah then goes on to relate the laws on Kashrut (Vayikra 11:1/47). It is believed that the laws of kashrut transform food into an opportunity for spiritual enrichment. The most obvious idea behind kashrut is self control and discipline. It is said that Kashrut imposes certain restrictions on the type of food one can eat. The Torah injunction “Therefore take good heed of yourselves,” (Devarim 4:15) prioritises both our physical and spiritual well being. Jews, who observe these dietary laws (kashrut), must make regular decisions about what they eat, when they eat it and how they prepare their food.
It is said that the dietary laws force us to stop and think about daily activities and deter us from going through life in autopilot. There are many rules, which govern kosher food. For example: An animal must have split hooves and chew the cud to be said to be kosher (Vayikra 11:3)). A sea creature is only considered to be kosher if it has fins and scales (Vayikra 11:9). So most species of fish are kosher (tuna, salmon, etc.). Any food product of a non-kosher animal is also said to be non-kosher. There is also a prohibition against meat and milk being eaten together and gaining benefit from it (Pesachim 24b/ Pesachim 25a), That is said to remind us where our food comes from, the meat is from a dead animal, the milk from a living animal. These are foods that have their origin in living creatures and keeping them separate reportedly makes us aware of their source. Also there is a pasuk in the parshah of ‘Mishpatim’ in the book of Shemot which says how one should not cook meat and milk together (Shemot 23:19).
The Kashrut laws are also felt to be designed to encourage us to view ourselves with dignity and to act with dignity. It is considered that the discipline that we use in choosing the food we eat also has an impact on how we lead our lives and how we treat ourselves and the people around us.
In addition, kashrut is thought to have health benefits. This is because the laws also require all blood to be drained from an animal before it can be cooked; this is done by salting it. It is thought that, as kosher meat contains no blood, it may help prevent the spread of diseases.
This week's Natural Haftorah comes from chapter 6 of the second book of Samuel and relates how a man named Uzzah was struck dead when he disrespectfully touched the Ark featuring the tablets (Shmuel II: 6:7); this was reminiscent of Nadab and Abihu's death related in this week's Torah reading.