In the Torah portion we read on this Sabbath, two sons of Aaron (Nadab and Abihu), take it upon themselves to present their own personal offerings to God. Each of them takes a fire pan, places fire and incense in it, and presents it to God as an offering. The response to these offerings is shocking. Instead of receiving their offerings, God consumes Nadab and Abihu with fire.
This passage has troubled readers of the Torah throughout history. It seems to suggest that innovations and new ways of doing things are not to be tolerated and points to a truth that is as ancient as our faith: People and institutions do not like change.
The truth is that we are creatures of habit. We like what we know, and we know what we like. We like what we grow up with. We like what we have learned, but when it comes to learning new things, we typically put up a lot of resistance.
Our global lockdown is challenging this human resistance to change. Sequestered in our homes, we are forced to find new and innovative ways to connect with each other, shop for food and get work done. In many ways, we are forced to be like Nadab and Abihu, who offer new ways to get to the same end.
It is my hope and prayer that these innovations will not be rejected, and that, when we finally get to the other side of this pandemic, institutions around the world find ways to embrace the new along with the old.