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Parashat Shmini: Man's Capacity for Resilience

The inauguration of the sanctuary, that moment after weeks and even months of hard work and preparation for the magnificent portable sanctuary, marks a milestone in the history of the children of Israel in the desert. Like a first portable temple, built by the children of Israel under divine direction, it is not just a place to receive God, but also for Him to dwell among them. "Ve asu li mikdash veshachanti betochem;" "and let them make ME a sanctuary and I may dwell among them."


Although the children of Israel advance together in the camp, it is as if they are establishing a temple or a meeting place, where everyone can gather, to then have the spirituality and attachment to the Lord to such an extent that He can reside among them, among us.


At this crucial moment, Aaron and his sons, the priests, are prepared for their role. They have spent several days preparing for this moment. Now is the time to witness a manifestation where God will reveal Himself to the entire people. However, in the midst of this expectation, an unexpected tragedy occurs.


"The sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, each took his censer, put fire in them, and laid incense on the fire, offering profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. Then fire came out from the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord."


Moses instructs Aaron on the sacrifices he must offer, including a sin offering for himself and for the people. Aaron, despite his fear and humility, approaches the altar to perform the prescribed rituals. This act marks his acceptance of his role as high priest and his willingness to fulfill his responsibilities.


The day of the dedication of the tabernacle is a moment of blessing, prayer, and emotion. But even in the midst of the celebration, as in the dances of Simchat Torah or during the Festival Nova, a devastating tragedy can occur.


From the peak of joy to the abyss of pain. The sons of Aaron HaCohen perish at the height of the activity in the Mishkan. On the happiest and most festive day of their lives, Aaron HaCohen becomes a distraught father.


Moses tries to console with words that sound inadequate, but the text tells us that Aaron remained silent. These two words, "vaidom Aaron," Aaron stayed still, stayed muted as a stone, basically mean that sometimes there are no words. Aaron was perplexed in his grief. Faced with such a great loss, Aaron remains silent.


The ability to maintain silence in critical moments of life and history is an important quality. It expresses awareness that there is something immeasurable and incomprehensible that cannot be defined by our human perceptions. Afterward, the capacity for resilience that each person possesses is put to the test in order to continue moving forward.


Silence is not passivity; it is an active, powerful statement. It is the choice to observe reality, reflect, think, and decide where the process of healing and restoration begins for each of us.


Moses then addresses the mourners, Aaron and his two surviving sons, Eleazar and Itamar, and conveys an important and hopeful message: they are not alone.


This terrible episode is not just personal, it is national. Aaron has brothers, the whole house of Israel is with him, mourning this tragedy together.


Next, he receives instructions on the correct and precise work of the Mishkan from now on. That is, Aaron must recover in his role as High Priest, unique in the People of Israel. He must return to his life and mission in the world. This is the beginning of his consolation.


We change and change the world. The number of people around the world who have changed since last Simchat Torah, for better and for worse, is enormous.


In Israel, delegations arrive to help, document, and accompany the affected families, those of the kidnapped, and to support the brave who defend our national home.


In every Jewish community around the world, voices rise to stop the hate speech that seeks to consume us. On April 14th, there will be another Rally in Ithaca, to support the Jewish Community and the students who suffer from the antisemitism of those who don't understand the suffering and consequences of allowing terrorism to prevail and subsist. It is a global chorus of our extended family: all the good Jews around the world, together with the voices of those whose words resemble the acts of the Righteous of Humanity.


We have changed forever. As we changed after 9-11, as we changed after the attacks in Buenos Aires on the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish Mutual Association of Argentina.


We will continue to demand the release of the kidnapped, the well-being of our brave, and peace for the entire people of Israel and for all the good people of all humanity who take no action in favor of any kind of terrorism, with no political identity of any kind. Just the flag of Israel in the heart of the Jewish People


This Shabbat is called Shabbat HaChodesh because it precedes the beginning of the month of Nisan, the month of freedom and Passover, for which we will ask for a blessing tomorrow.. We read in the specially assigned Maftir portion that we must prepare ourselves to celebrate the liberation as it was instructed to the People of Israel in Egypt.


Let us cleanse our homes of chametz and our hearts of the chametz that prevents us from being free and enjoying our lives.


Shabbat Shalom u'mevorach


Rabbi Gustavo Geier


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