Shemini – Head in Heaven, Feet On the Ground

The 8th day of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, is a day for a more intimate celebration of Sukkot  between G-d and the Jewish people. It is also the day we complete the year ago, at this time, I shared with you the mysterious demise of Aaron’s, the Kohen Gadol’s, two sons Nadav and Avihu, which is described in this week’s Parsha of Shemini. They enter the holy of holies in what is described as an intoxicated state and die. The ostensible reason given by a simplistic translation is that this was the punishment for having been inebriated at a moment of intense holiness. But this begs the question: how could such learned and responsible individuals be so irresponsible as to be drunk at this crucial moment? Clearly a deeper answer is required. So Kabbala and Hassidus explains that their so-called intoxication was a state of intoxication with G-d, having elevated to higher states of consciousness. In their state of intense bliss they chose not to return to reality. From which we learn, that a desire to remain ’high’ is so antithetical to the purpose of creation that G-d removed them from any future role. But let us focus on their motivation, albeit that their ultimate decision was tragically unwise. Their intent was characterized by their passion for G-dliness. The behavior exemplified strength of conviction, commitment and a quest to reach higher and higher. These are good messages we can take from their spiritual trajectory. We too should seek enlightenment and ecstasy in a world of purpose, design and spiritual infinity. But we cannot allow this to become excuses for escapism from the seemingly mundane and ordinary. G-d’s purpose of creation is that we operate in the here and now – the material, elevating it through Mitzvot and kindness. Don’t dispose of the baby with the bathwater. Strive for higher and nobler. The head can be in the heavens, but the feet have to be firmly planted on the earth.