Parashah #26: Sh’mini (Eighth) Vayikra (Leviticus) 9:1-11:47

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #26: Sh’mini (Eighth) Vayikra (Leviticus) 9:1-11:47
Haftarah: Sh’muel Bet (2 Samuel) 6:19
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 5:1-11

• This parashah is covered this week as Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue follows the solar calendar. Therefore, Pesach was celebrated on April 2 which is the 14th of Nissan. according to the solar calendar. The special reading for the Feast of Unleavened Bread was read when Sh’mini was scheduled on the rabbinic calendar, so we will discuss this parashah (26) this Shabbat. We will resume the “regularly scheduled parashot the in two weeks.
One of the main subjects usually covered in this week’s parashah is the story of Nadav and Avihu, two of Aharon’s sons who violated G-d’s protocol for worship making “unauthorized fire before Adonai” (Lev. 10:1). This act of disobedience resulted in their immediate deaths. This subject is covered in the parashah commentary presented in 2023 and I encourage the reader to refer to that parashah on the website at http://www.rabdavis.org under the link for parashot for a detailed explanation of this event.
Today I want to focus the commentary on the correlation between G-d’s instructions for priestly purity, and the behavior of anyone who claims to be a true believer as it relates to the concept of unauthorized fire.
According to 1 Peter 2:9 we (believers) are the new priesthood: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, G-d’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” We immediately notice that nothing has changed. Just as G-d demanded holiness from his people when He initially declared Israel as a holy nation, a priesthood, once the people broke the covenant by worshipping the Golden Calf, G-d removed that special designation and established the Aaronic Priesthood. Subsequently, with Yahshua’s arrival on earth as G-d incarnate, He established a new priesthood consisting of those individuals who choose to love and follow His commands/instructions.

Now I will address a section of the Bible, the details and concepts, all of which directly oppose the agenda promoted by an increasingly progressive secular society that “erases” anything to do with G-d and/or His Torah/instructions and labels anyone who follows G-d’s commands and teaches their children to do the same as “brainwashing” and indoctrinating them in radical fundamentalism. Believers are becoming targets of a growing secular, anti-G-d paradigm just as Yahshua warned his followers.

“In those days, there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The focus of the Book of Judges describes this rebellion by the generation of Israelites that were originally taught the laws of G-d through Moshe. This generation had not seen war with the Kena’ani and G-d was about to give them first-hand experience to test them and see of they would follow G-d’s commands or assimilate into the pagan societies around them. Reference verses in the Book of Judges include 2:11; 3:7; 3:12; 4;1; 6;1; 10:6; 13;1). G-d had repeatedly shown the people how to worship Him and live with each other. He lovingly encouraged them to follow his laws/commands, to do what is right according to Him. But as we examine these verses and look at our society today, there is a majority who will continue to rebel against G-d and His Torah/instructions which is the definition of sin (1 John 3:4-6), thus taking the broad road that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14).

Moving on to Judges 3:7, we read prior to this verse that Adonai tested the people who knew nothing of the previous wars with the Kena’ani by exposing them to it. G-d exposed this generation to the foreigners to see if they would follow the commands of G-d given to their ancestors through Moshe. Unfortunately, the Israelites assimilated to the point of giving their daughters in marriage to the pagans and taking the pagan daughters for their sons and worshipping foreign gods! Judges 3:7 reads “Thus the people of Israel did what was evil from Adonai’s perspective, forgot Adonai their G-d, and served the ba’alim and asherim.
Ba’al was the main god of the Kena’ani. He promised the Israelites fruitfulness, fertility, and prosperity. Consider Wall Street in New York with the sculpture of a bull that reflects this Ba’alim paradigm, which may have begun with an innocent goal of prosperity but has evolved into greed in its worst form. Ashtaroth is always associated with Ba’al. The sexual revolution of the 1960’s was promoted as progress toward freedom, an improved definition of morality. In reality, it is a godless morality. Ashtaroth’s goal is to destroy faith and morality of society and the world. Her technique is cunning and progressive; a stepwise approach lest anyone recognize her agenda for what it is and turn back to G-d. The process goes something like this; the desecration of the sacredness of marriage; sex is now an act that has “no strings attached”; no consideration for love, fidelity, or monogamy.
Next comes the dissolution of marriage. There has been a recent movement in marriage called “intrinsic marriage” where couples consider it acceptable to leave their partners if the romance, love or passion wanes. This melds into the next phase; self-gratification.
Ashtaroth is only interested in her own desires and satisfying them immediately. She has no regard for the consequences of her actions, a characteristic identified in our recent study on the N’filim (http://www.rabdavis.org/studies, noting that Ashtaroth and the N’filim are anti-G-d of Israel and anything associated with Him.
We can see that as previously mentioned, an honest goal of prosperity ha turned into a culture of greed, and self-gratification at any cost, including relationships, including marriage. Ashtaroth is the goddess that promotes what we are witnessing today regarding emasculation of the male gender and the emergence and sanctification of the LGBTQ community, both of which are touted as progress towards freedom of expression.
The third of three pagan deities that have made their resurgence in the United States is Molech, mentioned several times in G-d’s Torah. I mention Molech in this lesson because he is associated with human sacrifice, specifically the sacrifice of children by their parents. G-d’s Torah speaks of child sacrifice as the most serious of the abominations and “as the sign of a nation that has turned entirely against the ways of G-d and become lost to Him” (Cahn, 2022, p. 95).
You may ask why these three pagan deities are addressed in this lesson that seems to focus on G-d’s requirements for a holy people; the Aaronic priesthood during the sacrificial period, and G-d’s punishment for those who choose to worship G-d any way they choose although not authorized by G-d. In the case of Nadav and Avihu, it was by offering unauthorized fire, that resulted in their immediate death. Today unauthorized fire is any form of behavior that is not consistent with G-d’s instructions; speaking in unknown tongues; dog and pony shows that are disguised as uniquely gifted clergy who have the power to heal on demand, claiming the perceived results in G-d’s Name. Other forms of unauthorized fire are such exhibitions as “holy kisses,” running up and down the isles of a building claiming to be filled with the spirit of G-d; changing the Sabbath and claims that man can absolve sins and participating in pagan festivals such as Easter (named after Ishtar/ Astaroth), Christmas, Easter, and Halloween. Eating foods that are clearly prohibited in G-d’s instructions such as pork, shellfish, and animals that do not have a split hoof and chew the cud are choices to satisfy the self and negate G-d’s instructions.
As we consider the concept behind the details of the Nadav and Avihu narrative, we may realize that the problem of offering unauthorized or unbiblical forms of worship and lifestyles is not always as obvious. This is why participation in pagan festivals that are accepted and even promoted by Christianity and sanctioning of foods that are forbidden according to G-d’s laws are mentioned in this commentary. We are told to die to self and live for YHVH/Yahshua (Rom. 6:1-18; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:17-24; Rom. 12:1-2). If we think that how we are living according to all G-d but it conflicts with G-d’s Word, should we not examine His and consider that we may be living for ourselves and doing what we think is right in our own eyes? I submit this is the case because G-d’s laws/commands were not abrogated with Yahshua’s sacrifice. In fact, once we are reconciled to G-d through Yahshua’s sacrifice, we are commanded to negate the desires of our old nature and start living according to G-d’s instructions, just as the Israelites were required to do when they were liberated from Egypt, representing a sinful lifestyle paradigm. The story of the Exodus provided an example of G-d’s deliverance for those who choose to love and follow Him, not “just the Jews.”
It is easy to do as many religions promote and people do by picking and choosing a part of Scripture that fits with “itching ears.” However, we need to approach G-d and His Torah with a humble heart, learning to allow Scripture to “speak” to us instead of searching for words that support our personal opinions. Yahshua taught us to continue asking, that we may receive what we ask for according to His will, seeking, that we may find the truth of His Word, and knocking knowing the door will be opened to us (Matt. 7:7-8). Following G-d’s instructions employing these actions, we can prevent significant heartache and even possible death as the result of offering unauthorized fire before our G-d YHVH/Yahshua.
Haftarah: Sh’mu’el Bet (2 Samuel) 6:1-19
This narrative reiterates how serious G-d is about how we are to approach Him and how we are to treat the holy things. The scene is where David is bringing the ark of G-d to the City of David. According to G-d’s command regarding the transport of the ark, it was to be carried on the shoulders of two of the Levites with the poles always in the rings attached to the ark (Ex. 25:10-16; Num.4). However, David decided to transport the ark in an unauthorized way, choosing to use a cart instead. (2 Samuel 6:3). So, they got a new cart and set the ark on the cart and started to transport it, but something happened. Suddenly there’s a death (2 Samuel 6:7). Uzzah, who tried to steady the ark, placed his hand on it, also not authorized by G-d, even in this case.
2 Samuel 6:6, “And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of G-d and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.”
Uzzah knew the correct way to transport the ark as did David. The Levites were the ones who were supposed to carry the ark, the poles were to be put through the little ringlets at the bottom of the ark, the poles were to be placed on the shoulders of these specially chosen men, and they were to balance it as they carried it from one place to another. Unfortunately, David took a convenient route and changed the details to fit the expediency of the hour.
David got terribly upset with G-d when he should have been upset with himself (2 Samuel 6:8). David was angry with G-d, but G-d was angry with David. He contributed to the sin of Uzzah who was a Levite and knew better than to touch the ark, even if it was leaning! We may seek the Lord’s Will and circumvent G-d’s commands in the interest of expediency or convenience, and excuse our poor decision away thinking it does not really make a difference to G-d because we are “all His children.” G-d reminds us many times in the Old Testament and the B’rit Chadashah that if we really have a heart for G-d and desire to have a meaningful relationship with Him, we must take the time to check His Torah for guidance and not “play it by ear.” If we try to cut corners, it will result in hurt and possibly death; either our own, or someone around us.
On the surface, Uzzah seemed to have done a helpful, even noble thing. But he did not do the right thing, and it cost him his life. In this strange circumstance, brought about because David, the leader, wanted to do things his way, the right thing would have been to let the ark touch the earth instead of Uzzah’s sinful hands.
David assembled thousands of people and had glorious music played in celebration of the Ark’s return to Jerusalem. It would have been much better had he quietly followed the instructions and done it right. Enthusiasm must be accomplished with obedience and restraint of soulish behaviors. It might be nice to do a nice thing, but it must be the right thing. The only way we can know what the right thing is, is to
B’rit Chadashah: Mark 7:1-23
This narrative corroborates with our parashah this week. We are not to live according to traditions that conflict with G-d’s instructions such as those things mentioned in our lesson today as examples. Yahshua made it clear the Pharisees made it an art to depart from G-d’s commands in favor of keeping traditions. If you celebrate Christmas, Easter, and other pagan based festivals, if you are a member of the LGBTQ community or other groups that are clearly forbidden in G-d’s Torah, if you follow any of the practices that are clearly delineated in Scripture as abominations according to G-d’s perspective, if you practice hypocrisy as did the Pharisees, claiming to be upright and G-dly but modifying or disregarding G-d’s instructions in favor of tradition, If you eat forbidden foods, it is time to ask, seek, and knock with a humble heart that the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) would convict us of “unauthorized fire” and guide us repentance and a lifestyle pleasing to G-d.
Yahshua makes it clear that “It is what comes out of a person, ‘he went on,’ that makes him unclean. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come forth wicked thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, arrogance, foolishness…’ All these wicked things come from within, and they make a person unclean” ( Mark 7: 20-23).
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart

Additional Reference:
Cahn, Jonathan: ” The Return of the Gods” (2022). Frontline, imprint of Charisma Media; Lake Mary, Fl.