By: Rolando Kahn
Communications Director, JEWISHcolorado
As we wind down this year’s Passover holiday, we arrive at the Parashat Shmini , the Torah portion that describes the deaths of two of Aaron’s sons, as well as the Laws of Kashrut (what we can and cannot eat according to G*d). In the first part of this story, Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, take it upon themselves to present a strange flame as an offering to G*d, who immediately kills them for bringing this unauthorized offering before him. Some say they were consumed by fire because of their drunken behavior from their previous night’s festivities, rendering them “impure”. Moses informs Aaron that he cannot mourn his sons, saying, “Don’t show your mourning, lest God become angry with the entire community. But know well that your brethren, the entire House of Israel, shall bewail the burning that G*d has kindled. Do not leave this place in the Sanctuary, for God’s anointing oil is upon you.”
How cruel it must seem that Aaron is instructed not to mourn the loss of two of his children. How could Aaron contain his surely unimaginable pain, when the natural reaction must have been to be consumed by grief? The answer may be found in the second part of Moses’ instructions to Aaron: “But know well that your brethren, the entire House of Israel, shall bewail the burning that G*d has kindled.” In other words, the entire community will mourn instead of Aaron, as a complete unit, sharing in the grief that Aaron must bear in silence.
I personally identify with the interpretations of silent grief and turning to your community to help you through your pain. Sometimes, the hurt we feel is so heart-wrenching, so overwhelming, that we circle right back to being still and quiet. The sadness we feel is so intense that we simply do not know where to put our emotions. That’s where our community comes in. Perhaps that is why, as Jews, we are taught to say Kaddish only with a minyan. Perhaps it instructs the mourning ritual of closing Shiva by taking your first steps surrounded by your community. We often forget that we have a whole group of people who are ready and willing to take some agony as their own in the hopes that we will feel better, and therefore, more ready to walk through everything yet still with hope for the future. It is vital that we remember our family and loved ones are fully capable of supporting us, and, most importantly, to turn to our tribe, both figurative and literal, to help us in our times of need.
Please email Rolando Kahn at RKahn@jewishcolorado.org with questions or comments.