In this week’s Torah portion, two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, take it upon themselves to present their own personal sacrificial offerings to God. In contrast to the priestly sacrifices, which were commanded in connection to the tabernacle, these personal offerings were unsanctioned. As a result, these personal offerings are rejected by God, and Nadab and Abihu are consumed by a divine fire.
In reading this story in the aftermath of the suicide bombing which took place in Lahore, Pakistan on Easter Sunday, the actions of Nadab and Abihu come to light in a very contemporary way. Many commentators argue that Nadab and Abihu are zealots whose unsanctioned actions represent misinterpretations of what the Torah commands.When read through this lens, we see that religious fanaticism is as old as faith itself. We are also reminded of the fact that the zealous misinterpretation of sacred text only leads to destruction.