The Book of Voices

Biblical Microfictions by Joseph Zitt


(Context: Leviticus 10:1)

“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.

I leave it to my sister to exclaim and to dance; I leave it to my brother to lead; I only serve. When I speak, the voice is mine, but the words are the words of my brother; when I give blessing, I echo the texts of the Lord.

“Strange fire”… I had always raised my sons to be righteous, to be good, to make each action more true than it easily might have been, to make each moment more sacred than the one before. I raised them to examine, to devour, to dissect and reinvent each particle of the law that my brother wrote, each breath of wisdom whispered by the breezes that swept past those eloquent tablets of stone.

They knew that God’s love increases when people reflect it with love for him. They knew that we enhance and confirm God’s sabbath by resting with him on the seventh day. So when they saw the fire descend from heaven, consuming the bull, the calf, and the lamb, they rushed to the altar with fire of their own to expand and combine with the fire of the Lord.

And it did expand, and it did combine, and then it engulfed my sons and burnt them as it burnt the offerings. Then the fire returned to heaven, and all that was left was ash, the ash of their bodies and the cries of their mother. And the wind returned from the north and drowned the cries in the howls of the ringing stones, and it mixed their ashes with the sand that covered our resting place, removing from them the promise of ever reaching the land of our dreams, making them forever a part of this now-cursed land.

And I held my peace. Yes, let history read that I held my peace. For that is my lot: I am the quiet one, the one in the middle, loving peace and pursuing peace.

But I am listening. I am listening and learning how to speak my own words. And though I will continue to pray, and will continue to love the Lord, I will hold my peace no longer. And on the most sacred of days, in the most sacred of places, as I stand beyond the veil there in the presence of the Lord, a new strange fire will burn within my eyes. And he and he alone will discover what I feel.

(Next: Sihon.)


April 14, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. I was more familiar with Aaron, of course, than with Moab. 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.

    Comment by bookofvoices | May 4, 2007 | Reply

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