Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.
There is an expression in English: “The devil is in the details.” It is funny that the enemy is given this attribute. Hasatan השטן, the Adversary doesn’t know anything. All does is copy God. He only tries to be a counterfeit in order to deceive us. God is the one really into details as is revealed in this week’s reading sections. In one place we have Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, who perish for offering unauthorized incense, and in the other one Uzzah who dies for touching the Holy Ark while not being authorized, probably because of not being in a ritually clean state. (Lev. 10:1-2; 2 Sam. 6:6-7). These two stories are very similar and that is why they are read together. Their similarity lies in the lesson that they teach.
Both stories happen at a time of spiritual ecstasy and jubilation. In the incident with Nadab and Abihu, it was the eighth day of the dedication. Fire had just come from heaven and the people saw the glory of Adonai. Can you imagine the jubilation and the spiritual ecstasy? We can easily picture the joy, the shouts, the dancing, the clapping of the hands (Lev. 9:23-24). It was the same when David was bringing the Ark into Jerusalem. We are told of musicians, of dancing, of joy, and merry-ing (2 Sam. 6:5). In both cases tragedy strikes for what could be considered in our eyes, a breach in protocol.
These two events teach us a very important lesson, a lesson often forgotten and ignored by people of faith today. They teach us that religion without the instruction and the parameters of Torah is unacceptable to Hashem. Hashem teaches us how to come to him, how to worship him, and how to honor him. He also told us how not to (Leviticus). Oh, but that goes against our natural instinct and desire for spontaneity. Do you mean that we won’t to be able to follow the leadings of our hearts? We will have to only act in obedience to commands? "Oh, but that wouldn't be natural!" We say. "Where is the spontaneity?" We ask. You mean that it's not just the heart and the intent that counts? Form and format is also important in the eyes of the Almyghty. Really though, when we ask these questions we doubt his ways. It is nothing more than pride acting out in the form of an inability to submit to instructions and wanting things our own way.
We understand that even in this world we cannot approach a high dignitary such as a King or a President without going through protocol hoops. If one were to just barge in the Oval Office in the White House without permission and unannounced he would surely be arrested. If he resisted he might even get shot at. The difference is that in the case of an earthly dignitary, they try to protect the dignitary; in the case of Hashem, the protection is for us.
We simply cannot approach God on our terms and it is his prerogative. Why can't we just obey? But no; people always want to find new ways to approach Hashem. They even borrow ways from the pagans in manifestations that are not from him. The simplicity in which he told us to do things is not enough; we must tweak it and give it our own imprint. It is pride, and the pride of man leads to destruction.
May we learn to be in the details as he is in the details. Obedience is not a small thing: in obeying God we emulate the Master. Even he had to learn obedience through the things which he suffered (Heb. 5:8).
P. Gabriel Lumbroso
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