From Far And Near

We can reach God by engaging with the world around us and connecting to others and the earth.

Commentary on Parashat Achrei Mot, Leviticus 16:1-18:30

“And the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, When they came near the Lord, and died. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to Aaron your brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place inside the veil before the covering, which is upon the ark; that he die not; for I will appear in the cloud upon the covering.'”

Your Torah Navigator

1. Why did the sons of Aaron die?

2. Why were they punished for coming close to the Lord? Isn’t that a good thing to do?

3. Why does God warn Aaron about approaching the holy of holies?

4. What is the cloud of God?

Talmud–Tractate Sukkah 28a

They said of Jonathan b. Uzziel that when he used to sit and occupy himself with the study of the Torah, every bird that flew above him was immediately burnt.

Midrash Rabbah–The Song of Songs 1:53

Once as Ben ‘Azzai sat and expounded, the fire played round him. They went and told R. Akiba, saying, ‘Sir, as Ben ‘Azzai sits and expounds, the fire is flashing round him.’ He went to him and said to him: ‘I hear that as you were expounding the fire flashed round you.’ He replied: ‘That is so.’ He said to him: ‘Were you perhaps treating of the secrets of the Divine Chariot?’ ‘No,’ he replied. ‘I was only linking up the words of the Torah with one another and then with the words of the prophets, and the prophets with the writings, and the words rejoiced as when they were delivered from Sinai, and they were sweet as at their original utterance.

Your Midrash and Talmud Navigators

1. What is the meaning of the fires in these two texts?

2. Are these fires good or bad?

3. What are the differences between the fires?

4. Are these fires a result of enlightenment?

A Word From Near And Far!

There are many ways to reach God and to reach “inner peace” for one’s self. One may think that by devoting all his life to God and disconnecting completely from the world, he will achieve enlightenment. One may think that sitting at home complacently when the world around us is collapsing is a solution. One must know this isn’t the way of God.

We are all created in God’s image, thus we have the power and the obligation to make the world around us an active place to live and work in. We have the obligation to use the most mundane things to make this place an inhabitable world. A place where we feel a connection between us and the world and between us and God!

It is important to realize that the same concepts of caring and connecting with the people around us and the land around us apply to the Land of Israel and the people of Israel, even though it seems so much easier to close our eyes and be oblivious to the needs and struggles of our brothers and sisters. We must wake up and say, “Enough is enough!” For 2,000 years, we have been persecuted for no reason. We cannot afford to stand by idly and allow persecution in our own land. It is our obligation to our heritage to our people to stand up from far and near, to get together and say: “Enough!”

Provided by Hillel’s Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning, which creates educational resources for Jewish organizations on college campuses.


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You are fire and I am mere flesh.