The Wisdom of Separation

by Rabbi Nussbaum

April 3, 2020
Nissan 9, 5780
Candlelighting Time 7:08 PM

During the inauguration of the Mishkan, Aron and his sons were obligated to remain in the courtyard of the Mishkan for the entire seven day period which culminated in the eighth and final day. This seven day period of separation also applied to the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest before Yom Kippur and for the kohen who burnt the red heifer for purification of those who had come in contact with a dead person. Ostensibly, this was a time that the kohen would use productively to prepare for his mission incumbent upon him. Targum Yonasan adds another dimension for the seven day period, that each day Moshe would assemble the entire Mishkan, after that they would offer that day’s sacrifices and then he would disassemble the Mishkan until the next day. Apparently in order to properly dedicate the Mishkan it was necessary that it serve as the center for the sacrificial order each day independent of the day before or the next day.

Rabbeinu Bachya offers yet another insight in to the seven day separation period which requires some degree of explanation. He cites a Midrash that these were the seven days of mourning for the two sons of Aron, Nadav and Avihu. However, they did not die until the eighth day of the inauguration so how is it possible to observe mourning for those who are still alive? The Midrash responds that Hashem guards His world, just like He observed a seven day period of mourning before the Flood came and destroyed the world many centuries before. Certainly this is quite puzzling how can one be despondent about the loss of another when that person is still alive and functioning. Obviously Nadav and Avihu participated in the seven day inauguration of the Mishkan as did their two brothers and we are not aware of any advanced planning that they were preparing to deviate from the normal protocol of the sacrificial order until it occurred on the eighth day! Additionally, they could not have known that Nadav and Avihu were going to die on the eighth day so how can we ascribe these seven days of the inauguration as a seven day mourning period?

Perhaps we may suggest that although the loss of a loved one spurs one to appreciate that individual and what his loss means, however, acknowledgment of the importance of a matter can be brought to bear even before that particular issue is relevant. In short, we do not need to be necessarily reactive to what is happening, rather we can be proactive in realizing the significance of essential matters in our lives. The inauguration of the Mishkan which reinstated our prominence of status with Hashem after our downfall with the golden calf was a momentous juncture in our glorious history. Here again we would enjoy the presence of Hashem within our midst and we would bask in His presence. All who participated in orchestrating this to take place were of supreme importance and value to the nation. Hence, even before the demise of the two sons of Aron they were able to envision the significance of each individual and their contribution to the ultimate success of the Mishkan and its impact on each person of the nation and the entire nation in general. We can glean from this that in our service to Hashem we need to be more proactive and think about those matters which are vital to our achievements as individuals and furthermore on the community level. Although at times we need to be reactive as well, however, a proactive stance can be very beneficial in many ways and therefore we must consider its necessity and protracted gains.


Although we no longer merit the Beis Hamikdash, however when we study the laws of the sacrificial order, we can still attain atonement for our sin. CHOFETZ CHAIM