Shemini: A Summary of the Parashah
After the dedication of the Tabernacle and the ordination of the priests, two of Aaron's sons bring a strange fire before God and are consumed by fire; God then instructs Moses and Aaron regarding which animals may be eaten.
The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!
The Lord had just commanded Moses to tell Aaron and his sons about the different offerings and specific rituals to be given in the Tent of Appointed Meeting. Aaron and his sons were required to remain at the entrance of the Tent of Appointed Meeting for seven days and nights.
On the eighth day, Moses summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel. Moses told Aaron to gather specific animal and grain offerings and bring them before the Lord.
They brought the offerings to the front of the Tent of Appointed Meeting. The entire community came forward and stood before the Lord. Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded that you do so that the glory of God will reveal itself to you.” Then Moses said to Aaron, “As the Lord commands, come forward to the altar and sacrifice your sin offering and your burnt offering. Then sacrifice the people’s offering for their atonement.”
Aaron sacrificed the animals, then lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them. Then Aaron and Moses went inside the Tent of Appointed Meeting. When they came out again, they blessed the people, and the glory of God revealed itself to all the people. Fire went forth from before God and consumed the burnt offering and the fat parts on the altar. And all the people saw, and shouted for joy, and fell on their faces.
Now Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his fire pan, put fire into it and placed incense upon it. Then they brought before God strange fire that God had not enjoined upon them. Then fire went forth from before God and consumed them and they died before God.
Moses said to Aaron, “This is what God said, 'I will be sanctified through those who are nearest Me, thus I will be honored before the entire peoples.'” Aaron was silent.
They carried Aaron’s sons from the Sanctuary to outside the camp. Moses said to Aaron, “Don’t show your mourning, lest God become angry with the entire community. But know well that your brethren, the entire House of Israel, shall bewail the burning that God has kindled. Do not leave this place in the Sanctuary, for God’s anointing oil is upon you.”
Then God spoke to Aaron, saying, “Drink no intoxicating wine when you or your sons enter the Tent of Appointed Meeting so that you may not die. This is a law for all time throughout your generations to distinguish between the sacred and the profane, the contaminated and the pure.”