Parshas Shemini
Leviticus 9:1 - 11:47

A Mistaken Belief - Tragic Deaths
Exercising Caution

Gematria 46

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of mysticism in Hebrew Gematria is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Paul Sakash, may he rest in peace.

Dear reader, in past lessons we have discussed what a proper sacrifice is. This week we are drawn to the discussion of the procedures in giving G-d a proper sacrifice. One may think, What is so difficult about offering a sacrifice? In this week's parsha we come face to face with the failings of Nadav and Avihu's service in the Mishkon. Their improper service resulted in their deaths.

Commentators point to three areas which culminated in the deaths of Nadav and Avihu. They drank wine prior to serving in the Mishkon. This influenced / disrupted what would have normally been a sound thought process. Being intoxicated they brought strange fire and usurped Moshe Rabbeinu's authority.

The consequences of their actions are tragically sad. What happened was preventable. It wasn't necessary! Yet this is what happens when we humans think we can tinker with the Torah. G-d help us! How can we be so disconnected to think such thoughts?

Unfortunately it happens. Here we have two very righteous men. They were raised in a very virtuous, ethical, conscientious, righteous, environment. How could something like this happen? What went wrong? These were good people who made bad choices.

The point is, if sons of Aharon and nephews of Moshe Rabbeinu and Miriam and grandsons of Levi and Yocheved could make such a tragic error, who is safe? Yet we have Messianics parading around with serious departures from Torah. People who cannot read Hebrew. People who cannot investigate beyond serious limitations.

While the errors of Nadav and Avihu are very serious, their souls are not lost. Their grievously serious errors are nothing in comparison to this group of people who,
G-d forbid, artfully capture Jewish souls.

My dear readers, there is real gold and there is fool's gold. There is real leather and there is simulated leather. There is the Torah and there is the New T. There is worship, honor and glory to G-d and as prescribed in the Torah. Then there is worship, honor and glory that is not given to G-d, that is offered to someone or something else, G-d forbid! Worship, honor and glory belong to Hashem, the Creator, alone. Yet, unfortunately there are those who usurp what belongs exclusively to Hashem and give it to another, G-d forbid!

In this week's parsha we see another angle on this entire matter. Moshe said after the death of Nadav and Avihu, "It is as Hashem spoke, saying, 'through those that are near to me I shall be sanctified, and in the presence of the entire people I will be glorified." Leviticus 10:3

I believe this means that Hashem will use any and all means necessary to be sanctified and glorified to His people. It also means that, unlike what Nadav and Avihu did, there is a preferred way. There is a way aside from the death of Hashem's servants to sanctify Him and to glorify Him to His people. There is the way that Moshe taught in the Torah as Hashem commanded. That path is to carefully follow the Torah's instruction. That way is to carefully follow the instruction as given by Hashem to Moshe. That way does not allow for this Messianic or any other deviation!

Hashem's way is for us to be pleasing to Him. Hashem's way is One, just as He is One. Hashem's way is not fraught with even the most righteous interjections or slightest changes. Hashem's way is separated alone to Him. It does not deviate. So as a result we see two very righteous men die because they mistakenly thought they could bring "STRANGE FIRE" before Hashem. They BELIEVED that they could bring a fire Hashem had NOT authorized! They could have discussed the matter with Moshe Rabbeinu, a man chosen by G-d, a sage, the Torah scribe, but instead they took it upon themselves to make their own decision. They passed on all the greatest potential knowledge and wisdom available to them. They chose instead to rely on their own inferior resources which was tragic.

In the same way today, there are people who BELIEVE that they can bring a strange fire before G-d. WRONG! Like Nadav and Avihu they also have superior resources available to them to determine exactly, without doubt, what Hashem desires. Yet they make the same mistakes as Nadav and Avihu. They BELIEVE that they are right, but they aren't. Then those having a sense of justice, a sense of fairness normally ask questions and seek answers from an already preconceived conclusion. They are not open to the possibilities of the TRUTH conflicting with their preconceptions!

Dear reader, what I believe and what you believe is dangerous if the Torah does not support it! G-d help us all!!

Our lives are like earthen containers which are designed for use in the Mishkon. The outside can be fashioned, decorated and beautified. We can give ourselves a pretty, attractive appearance. Yet the real question, the real mystery is what does the inside of our life contain? What is the container of our life used for? We know! Hashem knows!

The Story Of The Concert Violinist
As a child my father told the story of a concert violinist who would say, "If I miss one day of practice I know it. If I miss two days of practice my peers know it. If I miss three days the concert audience knows it." Then my father would encourage me to return to my studies and do my best.

We may appear as a world renowned musician, artist, professor, author, etc., yet we know when we need to prepare. And if we do not prepare, soon our closest friends know and eventually we are seen for what we really are.

The unique thing here is Nadav and Avihu had just completed a week of preparation, of practice, of purification. Nadav and Avihu wore the priestly garments for service in the Mishkon. To Moshe, Aharon and Kal Yisroel they looked like they belonged in the service of the Mishkon. However something inside the vessels of their lives was amiss. Whatever it was, was known only to Hashem and to them. It resulted in their deaths. They died that day before G-d and in front of Moshe, Aharon and Kal Yisroel. The Torah says, "A fire came forth from before Hashem and consumed them." Leviticus 10:2

They were not sacrifices! The Torah rejects any idea of human sacrifice.

It is clear that even after their period of santification the vessels of their lives were still unclean. Yet we should be careful not to think that any of us are even close to approaching their level of righteousness. One must be careful to remember that Nadav and Avihu were on a very high level. Their area of responsibilities and the strict requirements surrounding them were commensurate with their level of righteousness.

Yet we who are on a considerably lower level have our own areas of responsibilities to Hashem. We are NOT absolved of what Hashem requires of us. We cannot do as we please. G-d will still hold us individually accountable. Hashem will be glorified by those close to Him and by us who are at some distance. Messianics will not escape judgment for their actions. 'One cannot bring a fire that Hashem has not authorized.' Any of us who think we can supercede what Hashem has commanded are mistaken. G-d will judge every action even of us who are not on the righteous level of Nadav and Avihu. Still even though we are NOT on their level of understanding we must be very careful not to mistakenly mislead others with what we BELIEVE to be correct. Everything must be supported by the Torah!

It is the responsibility of each of us to glorify G-d with the contents of our lives. We must clean and remove any toomaw from our vessel so that the contents of our lives do not transmit impurities {"strange fire"}.

The Gematria Mispar Katan making reference to the contents of such a vessel states Cal Ah Sher Bi Soh Choh Yeet Maw, meaning, "everything that is within it becomes unclean." Leviticus 11:31

Yet unlike an earthen vessel man has the capacity for good {Li Toh Vaw} and to be the container, the tent {Haw Oh Heh Law} of {Hashem} "Your Glory" of "Your Honor" {Ci Voh Deh Chaw}. This is what we were making reference to in Parshas Vayakhel {Exodus 35:1 - 38:20 } in the discussion "Jewish Unity: 'Restoring the Mishkon of Yiddishkeit.'" There we compared each Jewish soul to the prayer Mah Toh Voo "How goodly are your tents, O Yaakov, your dwelling places Yisroel" to mean {tents} of learning and prayer in the Jewish home and in the Jewish container which is the Jewish neshama, where Hashem's Glory and Honor reside in the absence of the Bais HaMikdosh.

The problem is obvious: one cannot have a corrupted container and one should be very careful NOT to corrupt the container {home, tent, soul} of another Jew.

The Gematria Mispar Katan for Cal Ah Sher Bi Soh Choh Yeet Maw, meaning, "everything that is within it becomes unclean." Leviticus 11:33 is 46. Li Toh Vaw, meaning, "for good" and, Haw Oh Heh Law, meaning "the tent" and Ci Voh Deh Chaw, meaning "Your Glory / Your Honor" each share the normal Gematria 46.

Other related discussions:

Restoring The Karbon Of Tefilla

Jewish Unity: Restoring the Mishkon of Yiddishkeit


Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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