In this week’s parsha, Shemini, Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu offer a sacrifice to God, but bring “alien fire.” “Fire came forth from the Lord and consumed them: thus they died at the instance of the Lord” (Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz, Jewish Theological Seminary). After their deaths, Aaron was instructed by Moses, “you must distinguish between the sacred and the profane, and between the impure and pure; and you must teach the Israelites all the laws which the Lord has imparted to them through Moses” (Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz. Jewish Theological Seminary).
Commentary about the episode, notes, “Aaron is the gentle man of peace who never reprocess but only tries to bring people to God through love and kindness.’” (Reuven Hammer in The Classic Midrash, p. 189). Being a disciple of Aaron is a daily challenge for each of us. Through our humble behaviors and speech, we can live in relationship with God as his vessels spreading the light of Torah to the darkest corners of the world. Rabbi Brad Artson notes, “Our minds cannot master God, but the quest is essential nonetheless. . . . But to seek God, to yearn for holiness and to strive for righteousness, these orient our lives as a magnet positions the needle of a compass, providing us purpose, direction, and hope” (Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies).
The dish that I prepared for Shemini is about recognizing and integrating God into our lives. The dish includes two main ingredients: couscous and tomato stew. The couscous is symbolic of the Israelites while the tomato stew is the consuming fire. The two are blended together after presentation to represent the bringing of God into our daily lives. Rabbi Lazer Gurkow on Chabad.org comments that, “Aaron's dominant trait was Chessed, kindness” (Rabbi Lazer Gurkow, Chabad.org). The concentric circles of the ingredients are also symbolic of the idea of chessed (loving-kindness) and the envelopment one feels when it’s expressed in relationship with another.
Find My Shemini Couscous and Tomato Stew recipe here.