People have a natural reaction  to blood: most shrink from it, some fear it, and some are fascinated by it. Ancient Temple practices, as in the Desert Mishkan ( from the word "dwelling place: a feminine word, and related to the Divine Feminine, the Shekhinah) consecrated it, and those who touched it, by separating them from the community for a set period of time.

The Torah portion entitled Sh'mini, along with instructions for dipping blood to consecrate the altar, concerns acts of  omission and comission: not doing things the right way, and doing things the wrong way, or indeed, doing entirely wrong things, even unintentionally.

Perhaps Nadav and Avihu did not do things  the correct way, or left out something they ought to have done. Perhaps the strange fire was inspired by drunkenness, or perhaps, it was inspired by zeal: they saw the first appearance of Presence of God,and were so overcome that they longed for it to happen again, even trying to force the issue?  This is one danger awaiting the extremely spiritual person: they can cross over into zealotry, into madness, even, which is why there is a rabbinical warning not to study Kabbalah until one is at least 40 years old. In those days, 40 was an age at which a person was assumed to be fairly well grounded in reality...

In the Haftarah for Shemini which is read when it is NOT, as today, Haftarat Parah, we would have read the story of how King David had the Ark brought to Jerusalem: about the failed first attempt, when Uzzah, whose name means Her Strength, put out his hand to steady the cart upon which the Ark was being transported, because  the oxen had stumbled. Here, it is also ambiguous as to whether he is punished for doing something,ie, putting out his hand or for NOT doing something: not having faith that indeed, God was his strength. Or, perhaps it was because the Ark was supposed  to be carried on tent poles by priests, as in desert times. There is a waiting period after this before King David dares to bring the Ark into Jerusalem, as you can imagine!

In  the Haftarah of the Red Heifer, Parah Adumah, we also have a sense of some things being too holy, off limits, or impure to touch.  As in the consecration of Aaron and his sons, where  blood was  sprinkled, dashed and burned, but not eaten, there is a ritual transferrence at work. The one who offer the sacrifice becomes impure, while the  ashes from the Parah Adumah purify the person who has touched a corpse. In some way, I think (and this is purely my own conjecture), that  just as menstrual blood washes  the one undergoing this time in her cycle, making her off limits, even holy or set apart, the priest who burns the sacrifice has come into contact with life's essence, and is therefore also set apart from the community. Perhaps the priest, a male had participated in something so holy, that just like a person in whom the possibility of life growing exists, he is set apart to give him time to contemplate the experience, his brush with the Divine?

Let's make time, in all the pre-Passover frenzy, to remember our own, and each other's, connection with the Divine.


See Yael's wire art at, where you will find many examples of art as midrash...

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