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Drash on Parashat Acharei Mot 2022

Drash on Parashat Acharei Mot             

Rabbi Misha Clebaner
North Shore Temple Emanuel, Chatswood, NSW

Some things in life are so awesome or awful we think that they could never happen to us. A person may buy a lottery ticket just for fun and to their surprise, they become a millionaire. Another person is finishing some errands in a field, as a storm approaches, and gets struck by lightning.

This is precisely what happened to our ancestor, the high priest or cohen gadol, Aaron, when he lost his two sons, Nadav and Avihu, in Leviticus 10 - a lightning shock of sorrow. In this week's Torah portion of Achrei-Mot (Leviticus 16:1–18:30), we see the subsequent scenes of dialogue between God and Moses. Nadav and Avihu perished as they entered the forbidden area of holiness. In Achrei-Mot, God instructs Moses to pass along the newly articulated laws to Aaron about the acceptable means of entry into sacred spaces.
 
In Biblical times, as with most times before the advancement of modern medicine during the 20th century, infant or child mortality was an ever-present reality. Yet despite this in-your-face reality, the feelings of shock and pain experienced by grieving parents were never dulled. Just After Nadav and Avihu pass away, it is said that Aaron was silent; a jarring description of the spokesperson for Moses and God's Law. After the death of King David's son, Absalom, King David wails his child's name over and over.
 
Although we ourselves may not encounter this most horrific of losses, it does occur within our communities and broader families. On the global stage, Portuguese and Manchester United footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and his partner Georgina Rodríguez recently announced that one of their twins died shortly after childbirth. A terrible lottery of suffering, a chaotic world where any family can be touched by this most atrocious of occurrences. 
 
As we just celebrated our Exodus from Egypt, we retold the story of Pesach and dipped our fingers into our cups of wine to spill out the sweetness to emphasise the bitterness of the child loss experienced by Egyptian families with sons. The acknowledgment of randomness and the ubiquitous nature of child loss is so great that the Israelites brought an offering of thanks each year to express their gratitude that the Hebrew children lived as the Angel of Death passed over their homes.
 
Rabbi Lewis John Eron writes:
"When will I be myself again?”
Some Tuesday, perhaps,
In the late afternoon,
Sitting quietly with a cup of tea
And a cookie...
But not today,
And not tomorrow,
And not tomorrow’s tomorrow,
But some day,
Some Tuesday, late in the afternoon,
Sitting quietly with a cup of tea
And a cookie
And you will be yourself again."
 
I am not sure if we return to our pre-loss "normal", but on that late Tuesday afternoon with our tea and cookie, we may smile or laugh from the memory of our departed loved one; or perhaps we may cry - and that is OK too. 

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