by Rabbi Nussbaum
VOLUME 95 NUMBER 3
April 17, 2020
Nissan 23, 5780
Candlelighting Time 7:22 PM
The deaths of Nadav and Avihu certainly marred the celebratory mood of the inauguration of the Mishkan. All was proceeding according to schedule and even the Divine Presence appeared as a heavenly fire descended and consumed their sacrifices. How exhilarating and galvanizing an event this was. At that very zenith of joy and happiness, Nadav and Avihu superseded the laws of the sacrificial order and, as a resultant, were severely punished with death. The exact nature of their sin is a discussion among the commentators, however, they felt confident that their lack of protocol was justified. Of course, this begs the obvious question, from where did they derive their permissiveness? Nowhere in halacha is such an obvious insubordination of the law allowed!
At the beginning of the parsha as the preparations for the eighth day are put in to progress, Moshe states, “this is the matter that Hashem has commanded, you shall carry it forth and the glory of Hashem will appear.” His declaration is rather cryptic and Malbim quotes Safra that this was the intent. Aron functioned as the High Priest on the eighth day and surely his entire being was extremely focused on his service on that day to facilitate that indeed Hashem would be ‘pleased’ with their offerings and appear. However, the Mishkan was a representation of the entire nation and its allegiance and devotion to Hashem. Without the ‘participation’ of all, then even Aron’s purity of service on that day would have been insufficient to create the appropriate connection. But what was the obligation of the individual on that day? Each person had to purge his heart of all extraneous desires and passions and only have the sublimity of that day as their mission. Just as Aron, the High Priest offered on the altar in the Mishkan all the sacrifices with complete devotion to Hashem, so too, each person had to dedicate and commit his entire self to the theme of serving Hashem with a totality of purpose and wholesomeness of spirit resembling a burning on his personal altar of all inhibiting personifications of evil. With the entirety of the nation supportive of Aron, then the Mishkan, the physical reality of our spiritual unification with Hashem, could and would exist.
Against this backdrop we can venture to understand the mindset of these two great men. Their scope and range of purity was far beyond the other individuals in the nation and perhaps even more so than their brothers. Certainly they perceived that their preparatory stance had advanced them to a level unsurpassed by others. They had fulfilled Hashem’s mandate at a level of achievement that placed them on a plateau of sanctification nearing that of the angels since they had rid themselves of all ulterior motives and passions that plague the average although elevated person. With this in mind, their joyous spirit directed them to perform at a unique plane of merging their very essence with Hashem. Of course, their obviation of the halacha was not condoned, but this was their attempt to access an unparalleled elating of the simcha that was evolving and rarify it even further.
The upshot of this incredible episode is that the human mind is fallible, even the genius capacity of the greatest can’t parallel what Hashem deems justified and progressive. Moshe did remark to Aron that Hashem told him that He would sanctify the Mishkan with those who are close to him. At this juncture they realized that this was a reference to Nadav and Avihu. Subsequently, we do see the high esteem that Hashem maintained for them. Still, nonetheless, we must always remember that at our greatest moments, Hashem still reigns supreme!
A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
We are commanded to not even once consume food that is not kosher. Once we become accustomed to such foods, it is difficult to part ways from them. CHOFETZ CHAIM