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Vayikra/Leviticus 10:14 You shall eat in a clean place, you and your sons and your daughters with you.
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This instruction - referring to the breasts and right thighs of the ox and ram, the people's offerings of peace or well-being that had been waved and raised beforeHaShem on the first day that Aharon and his sons officiated as ordained and inaugurated priests (Vayikra 9:18-21) - is given in the shadow of the death of Nadav and Avihua, two of Aharon's sons. Aharon had offered the sacrifices in the prescribed manner and then blessed the people; HaShem showed His acceptance of the offerings and the process by sending fire to consume the offerings. Nadav and Avihu rushed forward to offer their own - unauthorised - offerings of incense and are struck down by fire. Moshe gives instructions for the bodies to be removed from the camp and tells Aharon and his two remaining sons not to mourn or show any signs of distress. HaShem Himself then speaks directly to Aharon about not drinking wine or intoxicating liquor when on duty in the Sanctuary.
At this juncture, perhaps sensing that Aharon needed to do something practical in order to keep control of his emotions, Moshe picks up the procedural threads of that first day's priestly work: Aharon and his (now) two sons must consume the remainder of the grain offerings in the Sanctuary, but are entitled to share their portions of the peace offerings with their sons and daughters - this is their due portion of the peace offerings. Aharon almost certainly didn't feel at peace right at that moment, but detailed instructions that he and his sons needed to carry out provided an escape valve, a means of breaking the stunned shock and horror that they had just experienced in seeing two of their immediate family struck down before the L-rd.
Nevertheless, asIbn Ezra observes, this instruction is repeated to Aharon by HaShem on another, slightly more auspicious, occasion: "The gift offerings of their contributions, all the elevation offerings of the Israelites, I give to you, to your sons, and to the daughters that are with you, as a due for all time; everyone of your household who is clean may eat it" (B'Midbar 18:11, JPS). Ibn Ezra points out not only that "both males and females may eat the breast and the thigh", but that the whole immediate household of the priest is provided for in this way: "The same applies to slaves in your household, whether home born or purchased, and even to a daughter who, being widowed, has moved back home". Essentially only two conditions apply: the person eating must be in a formal dependency relationship with the priest, and they must be ritually clean.
There is, however, a third condition for the consumption of the priests' portions that is also given with the first expression by Moshe: "in a clean place". Ibn Ezra simply says "Even outside the sacred enclosure", butRashi offers a fuller explanation: "Although many of the offerings may only be eaten in the courtyard of the Tabernacle or Temple, the peace offerings may be eaten within the Camp of Israel, because it is clean from impurity as those suffering with tzara'at have been excluded." This reflects the regulations both about tzara'at sufferers to come shortly - "He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp" (Vayikra 13:46, NASB) - and for cleanliness within the camp in general: "the L-RD your G-d walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that He may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you" (D'varim 23:14, ESV). During the time in the wilderness, of course, the "Camp of Israel" was easily defined: it was the camp! During the days of the Temple, however, the entire city within the walls of Jerusalem beyond the grounds of the Temple had the status of the Camp of Israel in the wilderness.
Another particularity of Moshe's instructions is that it includes the phrase "you and your sons and your daughters". Rashi is quick to point out that this only applies to the eating of the peace-offerings and not to the allocation of them: "You and your sons are included in the apportionment, but your daughters are not. But if you give them food from your portion, they are permitted to eat of these holy things". The daughters are not entitled to their own portion, but they may be given and may eat from their father's or husband's portions. The priesthood is an exclusively male institution, with the status of priest passing only through the paternal line, from father to son: you are a priest because your father is or was a priest. Only the priests are allowed to eat the non-burnt components of the sin and guilt offerings, inside the Sanctuary; they are most holy. But the peace-offerings, while still offered to G-d, their blood splashed against the sides of the altar and with their fats and memorial offerings going up in smoke on the altar, are only considered to be holy, a lesser degree of holiness than most holy. The rules for location and consumers are therefore relaxed a little to allow consumption in a clean rather than holy place, and by the priest's dependents as well as the priest.
Is there a significance to sons and daughters? The Talmud quotes an interesting word play bringing children and peace together:
Rabbi Elazar said on behalf of Rabbi Chanina: Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as it is said: 'And all your children will be students of the L-rd and your children will have abundant peace' (Isaiah 54:13). Do not read , 'your children' but , 'your builders'. b. Berachot 64a
The words for sons, and daughters, , both come from the root verb , to build. Leaving the consonantal text unchanged, but simply revocalising it, allows the word 'your children' to have the meaning 'your builders'. Our children are the next generation, the ones who will build the future, the ones who can build for peace. The Rabbis have long taken the verses "If you walk in My statutes and observe My commandments and do them ... I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid" (Vayikra 26:3-6, ESV) as teaching that the L-rd promises peace for those who study the Torah: it is impossible to walk in and observe something that you have not studied diligently; if walking is going from place to place, then walking in the Torah means careful study, comparing verse with verse. Peace, then, is the reward for study and building generations of those who in their turn study and observe G-d's instructions.
Children, both sons and daughters, are built by parents, both mother and father. A peaceful home, where there is , shalom beit, is built by a mother who observes the commandments of the home: lighting candles, baking challah and bringing up her children to fear - that is, to be in awe of - the L-rd for, "The fear of the L-RD is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10, ESV). This is a clean and holy place. The peaceful home is led by , a man of valour, who alongside his work to provide for his wife and family, faithfully studies the word of G-d, sharing insights with his wife and children and teaching them the things that he has learned by hearing the Spirit of G-d, "a disciple of the kingdom of heaven ... who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old" (Matthew 13:52, ESV). These are holy people living in a holy place. And our children, both sons and daughters, will share the burden of bringing up their children, the next generation and creating their homes and families to be holy before the L-rd.
In our days, as believers in Messiah Yeshua and without a Temple or sacrificial system, our peace-offerings - those things we bring to G-d to be shared by both G-d and ourselves, those things that are a sweet and pleasing aroma rising before the L-rd - are well-ordered lives, built around time with G-d studying and sharing His word, that produce the good fruit of more generations of disciples, both own children who are disciples, and disciples made and won in the world. That is the fruit of which Moshe speaks, when he talks about the wave offering and the heave offering that are to be offered to G-d.
Rav Sha'ul tells us that "[Yeshua] Himself is our peace" (Ephesians 2:14, NASB), that He has "made peace through the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1:20, NASB) and that we are to "Live in peace with one another" (1 Thessalonians 5:13, NASB). So we live in Him, "we have peace with G-d" (Romans 5:1, NASB). We, our sons and our daughters, have been brought near to G-d and reconciled with Him in Messiah. We, our sons and our daughters, can share in and share out the holy things of G-d in and from the holiness that He has given us in Messiah.
Further Study: Hosea 2:18-23; John 4:31-34
Application: Where are your sons and your daughters? Are they eating and sharing the things of G-d in a clean place? Should you, like Job, "rise early and offer burnt offerings for them ... lest they have sinned and cursed G-d in their hearts" (Job 1:5, ESV)?
© Jonathan Allen, 2014
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