OU Torah Insights Project
pairing of Shemini with Hachodesh
is a match made in Heaven.
Both explore the possibility that human beings can be inconsistent without being
Shemini reports the tragic deaths of
Aharons two elder sons, who brought before G-d a strange fire. The
Talmud amplifies this negative assessment: They conspired against their
father and uncle, Moshe, saying, When will these two old men die and we will
take over the leadership of Israel?
at the same time, Moshe referred to his nephews as holy ones and Chazal
assert that they were superior in Torah learning to both their uncle and father.
How inconsistent can you get?
The supplementary theme of this week, Hachodesh, also marks an inconsistency. To bolster the self-esteem of a nation of slaves, just released from hundreds of years of bondage, the Torah says: This month is yours; it is first for you among the months of the year. G-d gave Israel the duty and power to proclaim the start of new months, thus setting the calendar of holidays.
despite this G-d-given power, the nation of Israel is constantly cautioned to be
humble. How inconsistent can you get?
has become commonplace to assume that people fit neatly into categories. Taking
a conservative or liberal position in one area, for example, brands that person
a conservative or liberal on all matersone opinion serving as a relatively
reliable template for opinions on all other matters.
But our world is crowded with inconsistency. In politics, one cannot win an election without plenty of money for television ads, yet we still call our system a democracy! In the world of business, we pay men millions of dollars a year to play childrens games, while we go begging for volunteers to help feed indigent patients in hospitals! Capitalists promote the virtue of competition, while the financial pages these days are monopolized by reports of major mergers that are rapidly moving the world towards economic oligarchy! At the same time that we denounce church (religious) dominance of state, we revel in state dominance of church (religion)!
is not always a virtue. What
is virtuous is s system of well-thought-out positions, reached individually. For
me, the only rational system is the Shulchan Aruch. Thank you, G-d, for giving us a taste of Divine
reasoning: The Torah!
Sodden is rav of Van Cortland Park Jewish Center in Bronx, New York.