As my rabbi is wont to say, if you listen with the right sort of ears you can hear the collective, "Oy..." from the rabbis of the world as we cross into Leviticus. It's suddenly become harder to relate and the narrative style we had become accustom to fades into do's and do not's, and so much blood. For heaven's sake I'm a vegetarian! I grew up around farming, and I kept my own birds at one time and I know what it's like to raise and animal and then to kill it, myself, and to eat it. It's not the least bit of an abstraction or a stretch when Torah speaks of blood, and dashing, and all the bits and pieces. But the troubling part of this segment we're in isn't the bloodshed. Animals as food is the way of the world. God willing, we'll reach a place someday when we stop treating animal based food as novelty, or even necessity, and elevate ourselves to a place where having chicken on shabbos or indeed all life we consume to live is recognized as sacred. This week, it's the death's of Aaron's sons that always causes the squirming in the hoyzn.
Nadab and Abihu are depicted in Torah as being present as Aaron and Moses are starting up the sacrificial rites. Aaron and his sons are the priests and they have to start up their jobs and learn the when, what, where, how and why of the sacrificial cult. Nadab and Abihu grab their censer (a pan for carrying burning coals) and put fire (some burning coals) and incense, and presented this to the Lord, without having been told to do this. Fire came from the Lord and killed them on the spot. So many questions....
I also read this morning about measles. Apparently there have been some big outbreaks around the country again. I saw on Twitter an adult Yiddish enthusiast was heading to the doctors to get a booster as immunity tends to wain over time. That was two day's ago in the Detroit, MI area. This morning on the BBC it was Rockland County NY, where outbreaks are largely concentrated in the ultra-Orthodox communities. In Rockland County, vaccination is not up for discussion after 153 cases had been confirmed. The County Exec, Ed Day, declared a health emergency. In these religious communities vaccination is 50%-60% which is not sufficient. The under 18 and not vaccinated are now under a 30 day ban from public places. Schools, shopping centers, restaurants and places of worship are specifically named and this ban will last 30 days.
All I could see were Nadab, and Abihu, were unprepared by the adults in their lives. The Rabbis have tried to rationalize the reasons that these two young men in Torah were struck down. They were drunk, they were jealous of their elders and hungry for power.... Moses talks to Aaron saying "this is it..." the gifted, the well placed, the above average, the elevated, the elected, they may not disregard the law. Talmud states, "with the righteous, God is exacting even to a hair's breadth."
Not much consolation is it? Aaron doesn't say a word.
Did these two need to be burned by god in front of everyone to make this point? For their sin the people gave up a goat. Aaron lost two of his children, to what could have been just youthful albeit ignorant exuberance in serving god.
I was left wondering how many children must be burned up in fever, and in rash, and in pox? How many have to be disfigured, stunted, possibly made lame for life or even die suffering through something like measles before we say, no, you're getting them vaccinated.
Individuals have a right to worry about what is done to their children. Our broken and abusive American healthcare system which continues to place profit ahead of welfare is also to blame. Vaccine cocktails have become ridiculously convoluted and the scheduled of vaccinations condensed to a worrisome point where I wonder if it's more about "the system's" needs than the patient.
Get the jab, get the ones you love vaccinated. Get you're pets vaccinated for heaven's sake. Public health is your health too!
My father worked in a factory and my mother was a nurse. While we were left at the farm during the day they worked and in my mother's case on the front lines of human health. She was an emergency room nurse until it was too hard to do, she was an ICU nurse as well and finished her career in ambulatory out-patient. She was very protective of our heath as she got to see the consequences first hand.
Men who dies of tetanus, baby's suffering pertussis, bodies broken in local industry, or car wrecks. She was there when teenagers who lost their life became organ donors too. When elderly folks suddenly could see again after cataract surgery. She saw the worst life could do to our human bodies and she worked at repairing and restoring heath to the best of our human ability.
She's retired now, after nearly forty years in health care. She is a faithful woman, who rose before the sun to go to work, and always made time for prayer. But she could also see the miraculous in what modern medicine could do for people first hand and never held that back from us.
Our health as a human tribe is stronger together than apart. Now more than ever we need to see that we are one body of people, on this one earth, in this together.