In this week’s Torah portion, two of sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, present unsanctioned sacrificial offerings to God. In contrast to the priestly sacrifices, which were commanded in connection to the tabernacle, these personal offerings were deemed “strange fire,” and the results were catastrophic. The offerings are rejected by God, and Nadab and Abihu are consumed by a divine fire.
This week the phrase, “strange fire,” has an added level of meaning for Jews around the world. On Monday, a rocket, which was launched from Gaza into the center of Israel, led to an Israeli retaliation on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. As the blazes and plumes of destruction climb toward the heavens, our hearts are heavy with concern.
Whenever there is an escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza, the ultimate beneficiaries are Hamas and the haters of Israel around the globe. As American Jews, our interest is in the safety of our brothers and sisters in the Land of Israel, and our prayers are for the ongoing security and stability for all who live in the region, but we also recognize that a return to violence is likely to end in more deaths and injuries without making either Israelis or Palestinians safer – strange fire – indeed.
Like the firepans of Nadab and Abihu, whose strange fire led only to death, the fires from missiles and rockets bring similar kinds of senseless destruction. It is my prayer that the leadership of Israel and Gaza can find a way to avoid engaging in a new ground war and employ a strategy for pursuing a sustainable peace.