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    In Parashat Shemini, we
    read about the dramatic
    events that happened on the
    eighth and final day of the
    inauguration of the
    Mishkan. This was a special
    day, when Aharon and his sons
    worked as kohanim for the first time. Hashem
    commanded that special sacrifices be offered,
    and afterward, a fire came down from heaven
    signifying the arrival of the Shechinah.
    At the beginning of the parashah, Moshe
    gives instructions for what needed to be done
    that day. What’s surprising is that he gives
    these instructions not only to Aharon and his
    sons, but also to the zekeinim – the elders of
    the nation. The pasuk says: “On the eighth
    day, Moshe called to Aharon and his sons,
    and to the elders of Israel…”
    The reason why this is surprising is because
    as we read through the story, we don’t see
    these elders doing anything. They were not
    involved at all. So why did Moshe need to
    single them out? Why did he invite them
    together with Aharon and his sons when he
    gave his instructions, if they played no
    special role?
    The Midrash makes a comment on this

    pasuk, about the importance of zekeinim, of
    wise, experienced leaders. It says that
    zekeinim are for the Jewish People what
    wings are for birds. Just like a bird cannot fly
    without wings, so too, we cannot do what we
    need to do without our elders, our Rabbis.
    Beneh Yisrael had just built a Mishkan, and
    Hashem was coming to reside among
    them. They were now about to “fly” – to rise
    to great spiritual heights. But in order to do
    this, they needed their zekeinim, their
    elders. We cannot achieve religiously without
    the guidance of our Rabbis.
    The building of the Mishkan was intended,
    at least in part, to atone for the sin of the
    golden calf. A number of commentators
    explain that Beneh Yisrael actually had good
    intentions when they made the calf. They did
    not worship an idol; they worshipped
    Hashem using the golden calf as a
    medium. Their sin was that they did this on
    their own, without getting advice. They
    forced Aharon to make a statue for them,
    instead of asking him for advice what to do
    after Moshe did not come back from the
    mountaintop when they thought he would. To
    atone for that mistake, they made the
    Mishkan, in the manner taught to them by
    Moshe. Rather than acting on their own, they

    followed their leader’s
    instructions. And so when
    the Mishkan was
    inaugurated, the zekeinim
    had to be there – to show
    them the importance of
    consulting with wise,
    experienced leaders before
    embarking on something
    Later in the parashah, we
    read of the tragic mistake
    made by two of Aharon’s
    sons – Nadav and Avihu – on
    that day. Nadav and Avihu
    decided on their own to bring
    ketoret. They thought this is what the
    moment called for. They were wrong, and
    they were killed by a fire. Their intentions
    were sincere, but they failed to consult with
    the elders, with the knowledgeable leaders,
    and so they ended up making a tragic mistake.
    Just because we have sincere intentions,
    this does not mean we’re doing the right
    thing. We need to have the patience and the
    humility to get advice, to ask people who
    have more knowledge and experience than
    us. It’s natural to feel excited about our own
    ideas and rush to go through with them. But

    if we don’t ask for advice, we can end up
    making bad mistakes.
    This is especially true when it comes to
    religion. We need to ask questions. Before
    deciding on our own what the Torah wants of
    us, we should consult with those who have
    dedicated many years of their lives to
    learning, who know better than we do what
    the Torah wants.
    By humbly getting advice instead of
    rushing to do whatever we think is right, we
    will, like our ancestors in the desert, be
    worthy of having the Shechinah reside
    among us.