First, I want to apologize for sending out today’s post without a closer reading. I can see many mistakes I wish I had taken the time to correct. New tricks to be learned for this old dog. I will persevere.
And more thoughts about Nadav and Abihu: it is, as I say of most of the Torah, one of my favorite stories. I have always identified with the boys (young men in my mind, excited and energetic) in their eagerness to draw close to god, and I’ve often gotten impatient with a god who is so impatient with us: the RIGHT way to draw close to god . . . the RIGHT way to pray . . . I have been that young person, rushing through my life, searching, always searching for . . . myself! My goals: be a parent. All I ever wanted was a child to love. Once that was accomplished, the world opened up to me! I had time and desire to see what was going on here, on this planet. I could expand my horizons; I could breathe; I could find an inner calm that helped me move from the bull in the china shop model to a more thoughtful, patient person. It’s taken lots of years and lots of work! Which is paying off in that I have a clearer image of what/who/when/why god is, and how to draw closer to this glorious universe, and how to maintain a more nourishing relationship with less ups and downs.
In my changed understanding of my responsibilities — that I have to listen as well as talk!, that I have to give another person time to think and make decisions and not expect everyone to move a warp speed, changing my mind at the slightest breeze — I understand Nadav and Abihu in a more nuanced way: their passion is the passion of youth, impatient and focused on the one bright light, without seeing all the shadows.
They remind me of the waiter I met this afternoon, a young man of 37 who is passionate — idealistically passionate! — about Bernie Sanders! There is no way, he said, that he could ever vote for Hillary Clinton, who is beholden to Big Business. Many of my friends, in our 70s, think that we need a politician, who can play the game. Nadav and Abihu did not know how to play the game, did not want to play the game. My heart goes out to the brothers, and to our waiter, and to every idealistic person eager to work for change, following their passion.
I leave you with these words from Rabbi Elyse Goldstein in her drash (words of Torah) at reformjudaism.com:
“On Wednesday, August 7th, 1974, a 24-year-old Frenchman named Philippe Petit stepped out onto a steel wire strung across the 130-foot gap between the tops of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York — close to 1,350 feet above the ground. After a 45-minute performance he was asked, “Weren’t you afraid that you were going to die?” While conceding, he replied, “If I die, what a beautiful death, to die in the exercise of your passion.”