During the last few weeks, we have learned about the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) that would serve as the place where the Children of Israel would worship God, the offerings to be made there, and the duties of the Kohanim (priests) in performing the services. Last week, in Parasha Tzav, we learned about the first seven days of the eight-day celebration of the first services in the Mishkan.
Now, in Parasha Shemini, we learn of the final day of celebration. As the service began, Moses summoned his brother, Aaron, the High Priest, to make the offerings. He said to Aaron, “God has commanded you to do this.” (Vayikra 9:7) Our Sages interpreted this verse to mean that Aaron hesitated to approach the Altar, and Moses had to encourage him.
Aaron was ashamed to come forward, because of his sin in making the Golden Calf. Moses explained to him God knew of his sin, but still wanted Aaron to serve as High Priest. Because Aaron showed shame, many rabbis point out this is just the sort of person God wanted ministering to the people, because he was humble and recognized he had shown poor judgment.
The parasha ends with another example of humility – God gave us the laws of kosher animals, including mammals, fish, birds and insects. After giving these laws, God explained “For I am the Lord your God … you shall become holy, for I am holy.” (Vayikra 11:45)
Even though God gave humanity control over the animals as far back as the Garden of Eden, if we are to be holy in what we eat there are certain rules we must follow. What we eat is not only meant to nourish our bodies, but also our souls.
These verses teach me God values humility, and humility comes from understanding the things we have – whether they be personal attributes such as a nice singing voice, athletic coordination, hands capable of making beautiful pictures, or the gift of telling a funny story – are best used not only for our own benefit, but with respect for others. The singer who leads people in a tune to raise their spirits, the athlete who encourages others who are trying to play better, the artist who creates something to give joy to a friend and the comic who brightens someone else’s day – these people recognize why they have been given special talents.