February 12, 2021
SHEVAT 30, 5780
Candlelighting Time 5:13 PM

            When the nation approached Mt. Sinai in anticipation for receiving the Torah, Nadav, Avihu and the 70 elders gazed at the Holy Presence. Rashi comments from the Midrash that they were actually obligated death for this transgression, but Hashem did not want to mar the joy and happiness of the occasion and therefore delayed their punishment until later. Furthermore, the next verse states that they looked at Hashem while they were eating. Again, a serious offense for such inappropriate conduct in front of Hashem. Rashi cites the Midrash to support his explanation. He also cites the Aramaic translation that does not follow his understanding of the Torah but rather lauds them for their exemplary behavior that they offered sacrifices in honor of Hashem at this propitious time. Other commentators follow the Aramaic translation such as Ibn Ezra, Nachmonides, Sforno and others. Why did Rashi choose to explain the verses in a degrading fashion when the option to explain otherwise was available? Indeed, the Midrashim that Rashi cites concur with this notion that they acted without proper respect.

            Or HaChama cites the Talmud that discusses whether a non-Jew is allowed to offer a peace sacrifice as one who is Jewish is allowed or can he only bring an Olah, a sacrifice that is totally consumed on the altar. The verse here can be understood that those who brought the sacrifice only initially intended to bring the Olah, but they felt so galvanized and therefore emboldened by their spiritual experience that they also offered the other type of offering, peace sacrifice. Additionally, they may have convinced themselves that since they were so close to the conversion process that occurred before the receiving of the Torah, they were practically Jews and therefore entitled to bring that type of offering as well. However, that was a gross error on their part and thus Rashi cites the Midrashim that considered them as acting inappropriately at this juncture. Therefore, although they were actually consuming the sacrifice, since it was not fully warranted, Rashi defines that as a regular consumption of a meal in the presence of Hashem which, of course, was not proper. As the saying goes, the road to that unfortunate place is paved with good intentions. Our Sages state that the difference between entry into the World to Come and Gehinnom is likened to the breadth of a hair. The lesson to be gleaned from here is that the Torah is expansive, granted, but only with the guidelines and instructions that Hashem has set forth and the wisdom of our Sages in their interpretation of the Torah based upon our traditions.   

            When Moshe ascended Mt. Sinai, his prized disciple Yehoshua accompanied him. Rashi questions why this was necessary? Rav Shlomo Kluger explains that Moshe required a seven-day separation for preparation to properly imbibe the Torah and internalize Its astounding wisdom. Yehoshua received the Torah from Moshe and conveyed it to the elders who in turn, transmitted it to the masses. The responsibility upon the shoulders of Yehoshua was tremendous and therefore he wanted to be capable of this mission, motivating him also to undertake a seven-day span of separation. When we absorb and disseminate Torah to others, we must also have that same mindset to ensure that our perception is accurate and our transfer of Torah is infallible.


If one notices the donkey of even his enemy overloaded and requires assistance, we are obligated to help out. Even though the donkey may be only carrying non-essential items, nonetheless we must do our part to help. How much more so when people carry the burden of an organization or a Yeshiva that is difficult, we must step in and assist.                                                                  CHOFETZ CHAIM