All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Friday, 5 May 2017

Heavenly Fires - Dvar Torah for Parshat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

She was the largest of her type and class.

It is said that passengers on the LZ 129 Hindenburg Zeppelin Airship couldn’t tell when she had disembarked as her launches were so smooth.

80 years ago, on 6th May 1937, she caught fire over Lakehurst, New Jersey and crashed into the ground in a coruscating ball of fire. 36 people, including 13 passengers, 22 crew and 1 member of the ground unit died. Among the dead was Captain Ernest Lehmann, highly respected and experienced in piloting German airships, but who was later criticized for often making reckless manoeuvres that compromised the airship’s safety.

The explosion’s cause is still unknown, despite numerous theories propagated since.

On the eighth day, dressed in his magnificent Priestly robes, he faced the throngs of people, staring in disbelief at the sight. The Mishkan (Tabernacle), gleamed in the hazy midday sun, a structure whose presence owed its being to their material and financial contributions.

This was the pinnacle of his life. Yet, the tears rolling down his cheeks weren’t joyful. At his feet, lay the exquisitely clothed bodies of his two eldest sons, Nadav and Avihu. The young priests were devoured by a Heavenly fire, leaving Aaron speechless.

Our Sages are divided about why they brought a "strange fire inside the Holy of Holies. Were they drunk or did they trivialise the location’s sanctity?

In "Acharei Mot" ("after the death"), G-d tells Moses to warn his brother not to enter the Holy of Holies without following the prescribed method of worship. Rashi (d. 11.05) explains that this was to ensure that Aaron didn’t meet the same fate as his sons.

What links the Airship and the Priests?

In both, the protagonists had reached the peak of their careers. Yet, at the very moment when they should be celebrating their achievements, it is dashed away for reasons that aren’t understood.

Perhaps, it was hubris that led to a conflagration of man and machine.

It is precisely at the moment when we believe we’re untouchable that we’re reminded of how we must never abrogate our responsibilities.

Shabbat Shalom.