Moses’s brother Aaron, the high priest, decides to challenge God after his sons are killed for mishandling a sacrifice.
“’Strange fire’… and so my sons have died. And so I sit in silence, and so I mourn. I have always been the quiet one.”

As a relatively quiet middle child working in a service industry, and coming from a family that tradition suggests was descended from Aaron, I identify with him somewhat.

In most of the stories about him, he’s pretty much Moses’s (or sometimes Miriam’s) sidekick. This one stood out as a rare instance where he had to deal with stuff of his own.

I had remembered that his sons had died for offering “strange fire”, but not what that meant, or any of the details. I also remembered that the Indigo Girls have a song of that name , but not what it was about.

There’s a long tradition in Judaism of people arguing with God, and even occasionally winning the arguments. I suspect that losing his sons to what must have seemed like a heavenly over-reaction to their over-enthusiasm might have encouraged Aaron to finally speak up for himself.

The more I think about it, the stranger it seems that God would be so adamant about people worshipping him in a precise manner, and killing them if they didn’t. More recent religious texts consider God to be somewhat more forgiving, if peopleat least make an effort. One of my favorite (by the Baal Shem Tov, I believe) tells of a man needing to pray but not knowing the prayers. He recites the alphabet, and trusts God to sort the letters into the right order.


If you need to speak to God, address some other manifestation of divinity within or outside of you, or to examine your life and your world with the quality of attention that some give to prayer, do you use a predefined text or set of actions or practices to do so? If so, how do you find that that helps you with the appropriate focus? If not, how achieve and maintain that quality of attention or prayer? Do you feel that there would be significant consequences if you were to approach it differently?

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