Shmini means "Eighth," and it details the inaugural sacrifices of the Eighth Day of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). It continues the theme of resurrection with more details of the olah (whole burnt offering). There is both a first and second resurrection, and as each of the previous two newsletters noted, each sacrifice teaches elements of death, burial, post-mortem experience, and two resurrections. The very next Torah portion, Tazria, explains the circumcision of the male child on the Eighth Day, a prophecy of the Eighth Millennium.
Shmini also holds hints to these human death and resurrection experiences, but let's grab a simple thread that runs through each of the three sections:
- the death of Nadav and Avihu
- clean and unclean animals and carcasses
The sacrifices represent a number of things, but one important aspect of certain offerings is that they represent the offeror of the sacrifice. The soul (nefesh) of the human being is offered, and the clean animal substitutes, for Adonai has never required a human sacrifice. Isaac was merely a type of elevation offering picturing the first resurrection:
They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind: (Je 19:5 KJV)
The multiple offerings in Shmini require death, not just of the substitute animal, but the virtual death of the human soul for the sake of repentance and Torah-ethical living. The life (soul, nefesh) is in the blood, and the animal's blood is the symbolic purifying of the human nefesh: appetites, emotions, desires, and intellect. These aspects of the soul must die in order to live, and the soul is what Yeshua came to save. As it turns out, soul salvation is a critical step in the process of full resurrection and restoration of the unity of spirit, soul, and body.
The death of Nadav and Avihu is the subject of much discussion about what the strange fire was, whether they were drunken when they performed the service, and many other types of speculation based on Shmini's context. The simple answer is that Nadav and Avihu performed a service before it was theirs. They took authority in a spiritual decision that was not yet theirs to make. Aaron had not even had a chance to perform the incense service before they rushed ahead of their father and became...well...extra crispy. Drunk or not, it was a sobering, not just strange, fire.
Avihu's name - "My father [is] he," suggests that Avihu's sin was taking his father's place. He was not his father, and the incense service was not his yet.
Was it their bodies that burned in a supernatural "whole burnt offering," though? It does not appear so, for they were carried out in their garments. The souls, however, were burned, and the bodies removed for burial outside the camp.
This death results in an important statement:
Then Moses said to Aaron, 'It is what the LORD spoke, saying,
"'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
And before all the people I will be honored.'"
So Aaron, therefore, kept silent. (Le 10:3)
In spite of the death of both sons and brothers, Aaron, Itamar, and Eleazer were not permitted to leave the Mishkan because the anointing oil was still upon them. They were not permitted to let their hair go unkempt or tear their clothes (10:6), rituals of mourning for the seven classes one is obliged to mourn: father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, spouse.
Aaron, however, could not bear to eat the guilt offering:
'When things like these happened to me, if I had eaten a sin offering today, would it have been good in the sight of the LORD?' When Moses heard that, it seemed good in his sight. (Le 10:19-20)
Although required to maintain outward dignity in their anointed service, Aaron's inward, silent grief prohibited him from eating the sin offering in the holy place. Indeed, even the average Israelite had to guarantee that his Sukkot offering was not gathered while he was in a state of mourning, for it was most holy:
I have not eaten of it while mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor offered any of it to the dead. (Dt 26:14)
What went on in the Mishkan was life; that which was outside was mingled with death or uncleanness. Both priests and Israelites had to learn how to distinguish between the heavenly ideal and the earth-bound and sin-tainted mixture. This leads to the third section: clean and unclean animals and carcasses.
Before moving on to the unclean animals and spirits, however, let's be mindful of one vital detail. No matter how exalted one's position or how low, a human being's death is to be treated with respect. Aaron was allowed to mourn silently for his sons and skip eating the sin offering. And Moses ensured that Aaron's sons would be mourned properly by all Israel:
But your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, shall bewail the burning which the LORD has brought about.
Even a human who had been hanged as punishment had to be removed from the tree before sundown. Remember how grateful David was to the men of Jabesh-gilead who recovered Saul's and Jonathan's bodies from the wall of Beth-shan (at great risk) to give the bones a proper burial? (1 Sa 31:11-13).
Mourning and respectful burial is an important obligation of the living to the dead. In the upcoming Resurrection book, we'll look at why it's so important not just to the living, but to the dead as well. Without these essential courtesies of death, the mourner cannot complete the seven-day and thirty-day periods of mourning that help him or her to move to less soul-intensive periods of grief in a healthy way. Going on as if nothing happened is not an option, as well see in Part Two, Kaddish.
Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash
The last section of Shmini is the itemization of clean and unclean animals. There are several key verses, but here is one:
...and the pig, for though it divides the hoof, thus making a split hoof, it does not chew cud, it is unclean to you. You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you. (Le 11:7-8)
It is not prohibited to touch the LIVING animal, but its carcass. If you've ever wondered why unclean spirits seemed to just appear in the Gospels after four thousand years of Biblical silence, Leviticus provides evidence for the phenomenon. Unclean spirits have been around since the beginning. After the fall, human beings became vulnerable to their activities, and Leviticus provides the "whole armor" answer to resisting them.
The sacrifices for the "soul," or nefesh, substituted until Yeshua came. The cost of these sacrifices urged the righteous toward repentant and increasingly better behavior and faith. Obedience to the Word has always been one's salvation and life-defending armor. Yeshua taught that the Light (Torah is a light and the commandment a Lamp) in one's house is a defensive measure against demons who would return in greater numbers if someone only swept the house clean after an unclean spirit left.
Unclean spirits are attracted to unclean animals if they cannot find a human host. One example is the pigs into which the demons requested to go when Yeshua cast them out.
And the demons begged him, saying, 'If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.' (Mt 8:31)
Don't eat such animals, for they pollute the "vessel" of the body first with plain disobedience, since they are prohibited, and second because the carcasses may have released unclean things looking for a new "vessel" to fall into!
As for any earthenware vessel into which one of them may fall, whatever is in it becomes unclean and you shall break the vessel. (Le 11:33)
For this reason, Israelites needed to keep their clay vessels carefully covered as much as possible. The lid was as important as the vessel! Since human beings have souls housed in clay vessels, these also need to be "covered" by being clothed in obedience to both the Spirit and the letter of the Torah.
Ironically, water can be both a contaminant and cleanser. If a carcass falls on seed, and then it is touched by water, the seed is unclean. On the other hand, to break the power or close the door to uncleanness from contact, one IMMERSES in a mikveh, or living, gathered water:
Nevertheless a spring or a cistern collecting water shall be clean, though the one who touches their carcass shall be unclean. (11:36)
Yeshua is that cistern of living water, a mikveh (a Hebrew wordplay on "hope") for Israel. It makes no sense, though, once Yeshua has cleansed us, to work at a slaughterhouse for pigs with all those dark, spiritual creepy-crawlies looking for a disobedient host!
Just because one eats unclean things, however, does not mean that he or she is demon-possessed. Most of the time, human beings eat such things because they are ignorant of the Word or deceived. The Father is merciful, but that open door is one of many things described in Scripture that makes them much more vulnerable to spiritual oppression. The life (nefesh) is in the blood, even for a pig, so if one does not want to "eat" the appetites, emotions, desires, and intellect of a pig or lizard, it's best not to eat it whether the blood is drained or not. Let pigs do what they were created to do...forest soil management. Pigs are foresters, not food. Save the pigs!
The three themes of Shmini are related. If we want to inherit the Eighth Day, the World to Come beyond the Seventh Millennium, and come to perfection, we must manage death in life. For ourselves, this means obedience to the Word daily and immersion in Yeshua. For our deceased loved ones AND our own healthy cleansing from the grief of death, this means following the prescribed rituals of mourning and respect for the corpses of the dead.
Part Two of this article on death and resurrection along with exciting news on our efforts to sustain disadvantaged children in a Torah-based, safe environment will follow in a special newsletter within a day or two.