An Offering of Love

Shemini By :  Alisa Braun Academic Director, Community Engagement Posted On Apr 15, 2015 / 5775 | דבר אחר | A Different Perspective

What does a feminist reworking of Leviticus 10 sound like? The Indigo Girls song “Strange Fire” (1987) beautifully illustrates how biblical images and stories weave their way into our lives and the art we create. The song exemplifies their signature style: a second-wave feminist message wrapped in a spare acoustic sound, strong rhythms, and soft harmonies. The lyrics allude to the actions of Aaron’s sons as a way of critiquing those within organized religion who wield power and seek to silence voices of personal spiritual expression.

I come to you with strange fire, I make an offering of love, the incense of my soil is burned by the fire in my blood. I come with a softer answer to the questions that lie in your path. I want to harbor you from the anger, find a refuge from the wrath.

Most commentaries on Leviticus 10 have focused on God’s response toward Nadab and Abihu—what specifically caused God’s wrath and how to justify it. Yet in the Indigo Girls’ creative interpretation, God is absent and the focus shifts to the individual who gives the gift of “strange fire,” a spiritual fervor that resides in the heart of any passionate believer. Her intent is pure, to bring into this world love, safety, and mercy—soft answers— rather than hard and inflexible rules. Attacking the “mercenaries of the shrine” who “gamble away our freedom to gain your authority,” the lyrics critique the rigid boundaries of organized religious life in favor of the love we can offer each other.