The Voice

A Torah Thought…

This week, we read the parasha, Shemini, from the book of Leviticus. In it, there is a strange story. Nadab and Abihu, two sons of Aaron, were consumed by fire on the day the Mishkan was inaugurated. The Torah states they each took a fire pan and put fire and incense on them and brought before God an “eish zara,” a strange fire. (Lev. 10,1). The Torah is very clear what happens next. Fire comes out from God, consumes them, and they die. 

I want to defend Nadab and Abihu.

It seems that these two “younguns” had their own ideas as to how to communicate with God. They were moved spiritually to do things “their way.” The fire they brought was first and foremost, fire. It was their spiritual and emotional fire. But, it was also strange. It fell outside the boundaries of normal practice. It wasn’t what everyone expected.

A few days ago, a friend sent me a note, with the message “be the voice, not the echo.” I realize that Nadab and Abihu were attempting just that…to propel their voice into their conversation with God.

While I am all for community and subsuming individual needs for the greater good, it seems as if Nadab and Abihu were burned in their attempt to bring personal passion to tefillah. (Yes, there are other issues here that cause Nabab and Abihu problems, but those are for another time.) 

Like these “younguns,” we need to find our own voices in prayer, and not just reflect the echo of those who came before us. For some, our prayerbook resonates with uplifting words. For some, meaningful prayer is found in music. And for others, prayer is not palpable unless done outdoors, communing with the world. Whatever it is for you, channel Nadab and Abihu…be the voice of your own prayer…not the echo.