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    Fire on the altar – Sh’mini

    Nadab and Abihu destroyed by fire, by Matthäus Merian, c. 1625

    These are some of the suggestions made by the commentators to explain the “strange fire” which Nadav and Avihu brought to the altar (Lev. 10):

    1. They brought fire “from the kitchen”.

    2. They did not work together or consult each other.

    3. They ignored Moses and Aaron when answering religious questions.

    4. They were intoxicated.

    5. They did not wish to marry.

    Each of these explanations has a lesson to teach:

    1. The service of God must not be marred by anything unseemly or undignified; one must hallow the everyday but not cheapen the holy.

    2. Leaders must be a team; the cause will be affected if they are each out for themselves.

    3. Duly constituted authority must be given respect; being young does not make you right and being old does not make you wrong.

    4. One’s personal conduct must be free of excesses; even what is permitted must be taken in moderation.

    5. One must not decide to leave it to others to maintain the human race or to keep Judaism going.

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