Pesikta de Rav Kahana taught me how to be a rabbi. It could help you too – in your sacred calling as teacher, parent, or leader in any setting.
Pesikta de Rav Kahana, one of our oldest midrashic texts, contains homilies (sermons/teachings) which interpret the Torah and Haftarah readings for all major festivals. This week’s (4/24/10) Torah portion, Acharei Mot (After the Death . . . of Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu), forms part of the Yom Kippur liturgy.
In Pesikta de Rav Kahana’s discussion about Acharei Mot, we learn of the twelve sins committed by Nadav and Avihu that brought about their death upon bringing “alien fire” – an uncommanded offering – into God’s presence.
It is by taking these sins and turning them into positives that provided me insight on how to be a rabbi. Here are the first three sins and my insights – more follow in subsequent postings. See what you think. Maybe you’ll agree – maybe not – but think about it and then talk about it. We Jews study together.
Sin #1 – They decided halakha (Jewish law) in the proximity of a Rav, one more learned than they, their teacher. As a rabbi I should be careful about kavod (honor) when in any group. I should be sure I know which decisions are mine to make. I must remember that my decisions carry a weight which might make others reconsider how they make and when they make decisions. For example, I might be making decisions in front of a “Rav”, one greater in authority in a situation, but, I might also be the Rav and must clue people in to how they can successfully make decisions in my presence. Empowering people to make their own decisions is very important.
Sin #2 – They entered into the Holy of Holies when not authorized. There are physical “sacred precincts” and there are psychic “sacred precincts.” Following the old cliché, I should not “rush in where angels fear to tread.” I must develop a sense of recognizing, acknowledging, and naming sanctity. I must help to determine kadosh (holiness) and differentiate it from chol (ordinariness) and then work to raise the ordinary to the holy.
Sin #3 – They offered sacrifices that were not commanded. I must guard how I bring forth my gifts for service. If I rush in with my gifts, I deny others the privilege of offering theirs. There is a time when my gifts will be welcome, even commanded, but it is not every time, and I must discern the difference. I should be vigilant in being sure that I do not take on roles that rightly belong to others. I should also teach people when it is their time to bring a sacrifice and how to do so.
Sins #4, #5, and #6 in the next posting.
Shalom, Rabbi/Cantor Anne Heath
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