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Shabbat 2 May 2015 – Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Shabbat comes in at 8.09pm & goes out at 9.19pm

The Torah tells us at the beginning of this week’s portion, that the Lord spoke to Moshe immediately after the death of Aharon’s two sons. (Leviticus 16:1)   Despite the suffering and the untimely death, dialogue continues. God tells Moshe to speak to Aharon and Aharon does God’s will.  In fact this may be the central point of the Nadav – Avihu story. Although not understanding why his sons died, Aharon and the priesthood continue on in a relationship to God.

Soon after the first sentence of our portion, Aharon the high priest is commanded to select two identical goats and, by lots, designate one as an offering to God and the other to be pushed over the cliff for Azazel. (Leviticus 16:6-11)   Although these goats are identical in every way, they experience different fates.   Perhaps it reminds Aharon and all of us that sometimes life takes tragic twists and turns — and sometimes it is random in terms of who suffers and who succeeds.

When confronted with such inexplicable suffering I am reminded of the words of Esther Wachsman, mother of Nachshon (the young Israeli soldier murdered by Arab terrorists a number of years ago). She said, “When tragedy befalls us we should not ask ‘why?’ but rather, ‘what shall we do now?’”

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik makes this very point when distinguishing between “fate” and “destiny.” Fate casts each of us into a dimension of life we cannot control. Destiny, on the other hand, “is an active existence in which humanity confronts the environment into which she or he was cast…Humanity’s mission in this world is to turn fate into destiny, an existence that is passive and influenced to an existence that is active and influential.”

 

Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Paul Arberman

April 30, 2015