This week’s Torah portion is the third in the Book of Leviticus, Shemini, and it includes a very dramatic, and traumatic event. The Tabernacle in the Wilderness has just been consecrated, and the priests, Moses’ brother Aaron and his sons, are entering into their office. God’s presence fills the Tabernacle, and all is right with the people.
And then, suddenly, disaster strikes. Aaron’s eldest sons, newly ordained priests named Nadav and Avihu, offer what is called eish zarah, strange fire to the Lord. They are immediately struck down and devoured by divine fire, dying before the Lord.
In the aftermath of this tragic shock, Moses consoles Aaron with strange words: “God says, ‘By those brought near to Me I am consecrated, and honored before the people.’”
There is no word on whether Aaron accepted this as a just ending for his sons. The text merely says “Vayidom Aharon”, Aaron was silent.