Torah Talk – Parasha Shemini ( Leviticus 9:1–11:47)

This is the final Torah Talk before Passover, which begins Friday night. Listen here.

Here’s Chaim Amalek’s running commentary on the show:

WHY are goyim so dumb?
If a Jew tells a goy to suck off a rabid dog and when he attempts to do so he gets bitten, is the Jew to blame?
It costs more to be a Jew than it does to be a goy. We have to pay for tuition for yeshiva, kosher food.
Also, if the money for these positions is coming from the goys, so what?
Luke, what is to be done with the Jews? I say expel them to Israel.
Anti-Israelism is one way to attack Jews that is acceptable.
Of course they were staring at her.
The goy can express his desire to serve God by serving the Jew.
And the yellow ones can do our science. For yidden there is only torah. Torah is our art.
Protestants, many of them, feel that if you don’t accept Jesus, then you will go to hell no matter what sort of life you have lived.
Mormonism is the way to go.
Best women
Natural blondes.
Jews may not be big on contributions to art, but without us, there’d be no atom bombs, let alone H-bombs.
H-bombs are our cathedrals.

Women should not study Torah. They should bake bread and raise the kids, maybe work a job so the husband can spend his days learning torah.
Bad sign, yawns.
A Jew without a goy is like a farmer without oxen.
The goy will miss us once the Chinese take over.
A lump of burning coal left on its own soon grow cold.
Every fat Jewish women of child bearing years is a posthumous victory for adolf hitler
There are not many fat Jews in Manhattan.
Except for me. 350 pounds and rising!
Give me thick steaks, cheeses, chocolate.
If the Holocaust really happened, then why do so many Jews still have gas ovens?
ask her that question and she will be yours
Only the Holocaust can save you now.

I say you should write a piece for the LA Jewish Week entitled “Ten Good Reasons to Hate the Jews”
Certainly it would be worth another cover.

* Was It Rational For Egypt To Enslave The Israelites?

* Whatever alien fire is, I fear that it attracts me. “In the third reading (עליה, aliyah), fire came forth and consumed the sacrifices on the altar, and the people shouted and fell on their faces.[11] Acting on their own, Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his fire pan, laid incense on it, and offered alien fire, which God had not commanded.[12] And God sent fire to consume them, and they died.”

You can still be a rebel and live in Orthodox Judaism, you just can’t be an indiscriminate and kneerjerk rebel. You can’t kindle strange fire in the sanctuary, so to speak. There are atheists and cheats and heretics and free thinkers and fornicators and adulterers in Orthodox Judaism, but if you are going to violate communal norms, you need to do it quietly if you want to stay within the community. Don’t bring your strange fire to shul.

The closer you get to holiness and to holy people, the greater the need is for you to be on your best behavior.

I was seeing this girl who was in and out of Orthodox Judaism. One minute she’d be boasting about her kinky hookups and the next minute she’s be walking around the apartment reciting tefillin and this was fine around a certain edgy crowd I knew on the outskirts of Orthodox Judaism, but when she was at a Shabbat dinner at the rabbi’s place asked him if it was OK to drive on Shabbos if one felt unsafe walking, she had gone too far. There’s no way an Orthodox rabbi can grant you permission to do that.

“Philo interpreted Leviticus 10 to teach that because Nadab and Abihu fearlessly and fervently proceeded rapidly to the altar, an imperishable light dissolved them into ethereal beams like a whole burnt-offering and took them up to heaven.[28] Thus, Nadab and Abihu died in order that they might live, exchanging their mortal lives for immortal existence, departing from the creation to the creator God. Philo interpreted the words of Leviticus 10:2, “they died before the Lord,” to celebrate their incorruptibility and demonstrate that they lived, for no dead person could come into the sight of the Lord.”

Another way for me to understand “strange fire” is to interpret it as narcissism. Many religious leaders are narcissists.

Sam Vaknin says:

God is everything the narcissist ever wants to be — omnipotent, omniscent, omnipresent, admired, much discussed, and awe inspiring. God is the narcissist’s wet dream, his ultimate fantasy.

The narcissist idealizes and devalues authority figures. What greater authority figure is there than God? In the idealization phase, the narcissist tries to imitate authority figures. They cannot go wrong. The narcissist regards these authority figures as bigger than life, bold, brilliant, perfect… As the narcissist’s unrealistic expectations are inevitably deflated by reality, he begins to devalue his former idols. They are dumb, mediocre… The narcissist goes through the same cycle with his relationship with God…

Even when devaluation, disillusionment, and iconoclastic despair sets in, the narcissist continues to pretend to love God and to follow him. The narcissist maintains this deception because his continued adherence to God, proximity to God, confers on the narcissist authority… Clergy, politicians, intellectuals, all derive authority from their allegedly privileged relationship with God. Religious authority allows the narcissist to indulge his sadistic urges and to exercise his misogyny. Such a narcissist is likely to torment his followers, abuse them… He is looking for obedient and unquestioning slaves upon whom to exercise his capricious and wicked urges. He transforms innocent religious rituals into a cult. He preys on the gullible. His flock become his hostages. Religious authority secures for him narcissistic supply. He craves attention, adulation, affirmation, applause. His co-religionists, his audience, are transformed into a source of narcissistic supply. They obey his commands given in the name of God. They admire him because he’s close to God.

The bigger the narcissist’s enemy, the more grandiosely important the narcissist feels.

The narcissist forms a relationship with this overpowering entity to overpower others. The narcissist becomes God vicariously through his relationship with Him. He idealizes God, devalues God, and then abuses God. This is the classic narcissistic pattern.

A common rabbinic interpretation of this story is that Nadav and Abihu were drunk.

I hate being around drunk people because they act stupid. I try to avoid alcohol because I have an addictive personality. I don’t want to get to like alcohol, so I limit myself to a sip of wine at kiddush and when I have the option, I prefer grape juice instead of wine.

“According to the Sifra, Nadab and Abihu took their offering in Leviticus 10:1 in joy, for when they saw the new fire come from God, they went to add one act of love to another act of life.”

Their strange fire was an act of love, just like the illegal immigration to America that Jeb Bush describes as an “act of love.”

* “Rabbi Levi (or others say Rabbi Jonathan) taught that a tradition was handed down from the Men of the Great Assembly that wherever Scripture uses the term “and it was” or “and it came to pass” (וַיְהִי, va-yehi), it indicates the approach of trouble (as וַיְהִי, va-yehi can be read as וַיי, הִי, vai, hi, “woe, sorrow”). Thus, the first words of Leviticus 9:1, “And it came to pass (וַיְהִי, va-yehi) on the eighth day,” presage that Nadab and Abihu died on that day.”

* There is a lot of attention in the Torah about what you should eat. I normally don’t like to eat bread because I am in danger of lapsing into pre-diabetes. But because of the care I take with my diet in avoiding bread six days a week (bringing my blood sugar level down from 106 to 96, anything below 100 is safe, while a score of 101-125 is pre-diabetes), on Shabbos I can eat bread as required during the three meals, even though I don’t want to, but it is religious required (unless it would cause me an adverse health reaction). I was raised a vegetarian. I’m not able to eat meat even though you are supposed to on Shabbos.

* The highlight of my week is learning Tanya. This is weird because it is not a work accessible easily to someone who has not grown up in Judaism (just like kabbalah), but if you find a good teacher, he can open up the text.

Criticism on Wikipedia: “It has been suggested that the Tanya’s concept of two souls, and the statement that the souls of the Gentile nations of the world are different from those of Jewish souls, emanating instead from the realm of evil, either has the potential to develop into, or to provide support for racism,[9] or that it endorses a kind of “metaphysical racism”,[10] or that it is “a dangerous and indeed racist idea and contrary to normative Jewish belief.”[11]

The description in the Tanya of soul differences follows on from a particularist-universalist debate in Judaism concerning the meaning of Jews as a chosen people. Among Medieval Jewish philosophy, Yehudah Halevi follows a proto-kabbalistic approach that distinguishes Jewish and Gentile souls, while Maimonides describes a universalist rationalist approach. Kabbalistic mysticism follows Halevi, developed in Hasidism. However, non-literalist, universalist readings have been found among Kabbalists and Hasidim. In normative Chabad, righteous Gentiles have souls similar in Divine receptivity to Jewish souls, while Jews can be distanced from Divine consciousness. Consequently, the Tanya has been read as describing two universal levels of psychological consciousness.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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