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Offline muman613

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Nadav & Avihu : What really happened over there?
« on: March 24, 2011, 12:57:05 AM »
It has been eight years I have been reading the Torah portion and learning from various Rabbis and Commentators the secrets of the Torah. I would never presume that I know even a fraction of the Torah that our sages learned but I am excited that there is always something new to learn. Sometimes I come across Parashas which I generally grasp and then I try to write my own commentaries on them. But sometimes I come across principles and concepts which I cannot exactly explain even though I have heard various explanations.

The very difficult to understand story of Nadav and Avihu is one such Torah portion. This Shabbat we will read Parasha Shimini which is mostly a joyous portion of the Torah. It recalls the setting up of the Altar and the offerings made to Hashem. It retells the joyous time when Hashems fire consumed the offerings before all of the Children of Israel. I just learned that this portion is read between Purim and Pesach when we observe a leap month. Adar is the most joyous month according to Jewish tradition. The joy of Purim enlightens the entire month.

And yet it is during this joyous occasion that Aarons oldest sons Nadav and Avihu take it upon themselves to make an incense offering to Hashem. This offering was not commanded by Moses. In a flaming conflagration Nadav and Avihu were consumed, leaving only dead bodies.

I am using this story in my signature line at the moment, but I will quote it here for reference:

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Chapter 10

1. And Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them.
2. And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.
3. Then Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the Lord spoke, [when He said], 'I will be sanctified through those near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.' " And Aaron was silent.
4. And Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Aaron's uncle Uzziel, and said to them, "Draw near; carry your kinsmen from within the Sanctuary, to the outside of the camp.
5. So they approached and carried them with their tunics to the outside of the camp, as Moses had spoken.

One explanation I have heard which makes a little sense is that Nadav and Avihu had consumed wine before they did their service and had become intoxicated. This is supported by the very next few pasuks in the Torah when Aaron is commanded that the Kohen must not be intoxicated during the service.

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8. And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying,
9. Do not drink wine that will lead to intoxication, neither you nor your sons with you, when you go into the Tent of Meeting, so that you shall not die. [This is] an eternal statute for your generations,
10. to distinguish between holy and profane and between unclean and clean,
11. and to instruct the children of Israel regarding all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them through Moses.

But the question I have to that explanation is why would they be punished with death if they did not know the commandment beforehand. If there is an eternal commandment to not do the service while intoxicated why wasn't it taught to them BEFORE they did it?

Another explanation I have heard is that Nadav & Avihu did this service without consulting Moses first. This was  sign of chutzpah on their part. They felt that Aaron and Moses were old men and that they would soon inherit the roles of Kohen Gadol. They wanted to exercise their own power, despite what Moses would think. It was because of this chutzpah that Hashem smote them.

Another explanation I just read in a drash I got on an email list is that Nadav and Avihu were unmarried and were not actively looking for a mate. They wanted to get close to Hashem but ignore their responsibility to have children. The commandments concerning being joyous also involve specifically being joyous with your family. Since Nadav and Avihu were not interested in creating joy in their own families they were ignoring what some sages consider the most important commandment.

But what is the most intriguing about this story is the response which Moses made to Aaron concerning this sad event. "This is what the Lord spoke, [when He said], 'I will be sanctified through those near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.' " (Leviticus 10:3) Then it says And Aaron was silent.

How could Aaron be silent when his two eldest sons had just been consumed in a conflagration of fire? What did Moshe mean when he said that Hashem is blessed by those near to me, and before all the people he will be glorified?

I have heard explanations but again I don't know the real answer...

One explanation is that Nadav and Avihu were very holy people. They truly had a desire to serve Hashem and to love him, to cleave to him. Moses says this when he says 'Hashem is blessed by those near to me'. And the next statement means that when Hashems holy ones are punished for transgressions, they are a glorification of Hashems name. This is what 'and before all the people he will be glorified.'

This teaching has a very deep implication. That righteous people may just be judged at a higher level than people who are average and ordinary. Reaching for higher levels actually can be dangerous to your spiritual health because if you step too much to the left, or too much to the right, you may just be punished more than if you did nothing at all.

But Nadav and Avihu did serve Hashem and they did glorify his name. But even so I find it hard to believe that Aaron would be silent. Even knowing that your righteous sons will forever be remembered for sanctifying Hashems name, albeit through a transgression of Hashems will, still would not soothe the heart of a father.

The only explanation is that Aarons emunah must have been incredible at that time. Just as Abraham was tested with the test of the Akeidah, the binding of Yitzak on the altar, so Aaron actually lost his sons to Hashems wishes.

One reason this story is so interesting is that from my own personal experience I know that losing a son is devastating to parents. I try to find a way to explain why Hashem took my brother from us. While he was not on the level of Nadav and Avihu my brother was a very righteous man, who had many good friends who remember him for the good. My mother just was here to visit last week and I took her to Shabbat services and she asked me some very deep questions. I hope that my answers to her were satisfying.



See also:

http://www.aish.com/tp/i/moha/48923142.html
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Many questions arise as a result of this incident. What was wrong with the behavior of Nadav and Avihu? What motivated them in their strange action? What did Moses mean by his response?

There are many opinions regarding the actions of the sons of Aaron, almost all agreeing that a sin was committed. As to the nature and cause of the sin, the commentaries (based on various Midrashim) differ.
...

http://www.ravkooktorah.org/SHMINI64.htm

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Why did Nadav and Avihu die? What was their sin?

Chochmah and Binah

The Kabbalists explained that Nadav and Avihu erred by separating the spiritual realm of Binah (Insight) from the higher realm of Chochmah (Wisdom). To understand this statement, we must first clarify the concepts of Chochmah and Binah.



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Moses and Aaron were walking along, as Nadav and Avihu were behind them, and all of Israel behind them. Nadav said to Avihu, "When these two elders die, you and I will lead this generation." G-d said to them "Let's see who buries whom." (Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 52a)
« Last Edit: March 24, 2011, 01:22:01 AM by muman613 »
You shall make yourself the Festival of Sukkoth for seven days, when you gather in [the produce] from your threshing floor and your vat.And you shall rejoice in your Festival-you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, who are within your cities
Duet 16:13-14

Offline muman613

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Re: Nadav & Avihu : What really happened over there?
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2011, 01:32:47 AM »
From Chabad @ http://www.chabad.org/parshah/in-depth/default_cdo/aid/39684/jewish/In-Depth.htm



And Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer... And they died before G-d (10:1-2)

Bar Kappara said in the name of Rabbi Jeremiah ben Elazar: Aaron's sons died on account of four things: for drawing near, for offering, for the strange fire, and for not having taken counsel from each other. "For drawing near"--because they entered into the innermost precincts of the Sanctuary. "For offering"--because they offered a sacrifice which they had not been commanded to offer. "For the strange fire"--they brought in fire from the kitchen. "And for not having taken counsel from each other"--as it says, "Each of them his censer," implying that they acted each on his own initiative, not taking counsel from one another.

Rabbi Mani of She'ab, Rabbi Joshua of Siknin, and Rabbi Yochanan in the name of Rabbi Levi said: The sons of Aaron died on account of four things... Because they had drunk wine, as it says [immediately following the incident], "Drink no wine nor strong drink... that you die not" (Leviticus 10:9). Because they served in the Sanctuary lacking the prescribed number of priestly garments (cf. Exodus 28:43). Because they entered the Sanctuary without washing their hands and feet (cf. Exodus 30:21). Because they had no children... as it says, "And Nadav and Avihu died... and they had no children" (Numbers 3:4).

Abba Hanin says it was because they had no wives, for it is written [regarding the High Priest], "And [he shall] make atonement for himself, and for his house" (Leviticus 16:6)--"his house" refers to his wife.

Rabbi Levi says that they were arrogant. Many women remained unmarried waiting for them. What did they say? Our father's brother is a king, our mother's brother is a prince [i.e., Nachshon, the head of the tribe of Judah], our father is a High Priest, and we are both Deputy High Priests; what woman is worthy of us? ... Moses and Aaron went first, Nadav and Avihu walked behind them, and all Israel followed, and Nadav and Avihu were saying: "When will these two old men die and we assume authority over the community?" Rabbi Judah in the name of Rabbi Aibu said that they uttered this to one another with their mouths, while Rabbi Pinchas said that they harbored the thought in their hearts.

Others say: They already deserved to die at Mount Sinai, when they callously feasted their eyes on the Divine (Exodus 24:9-11).

(Midrash Rabbah; Rashi)

Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov stated: The sons of Aaron died only because they gave a legal decision in the presence of their master Moses. What was the exposition they made? They interpreted the verse (Leviticus 1:7), "And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar." This is to teach us, they said, that although fire came down from heaven, it is nevertheless a mitzvah to bring also ordinary fire. (This is indeed the law; their sin was that they rendered a Halachic decision in the presence of their teacher.)

(Talmud, Eruvin 63a; Rashi)

Nadav and Avihu died because of Aaron's making of the Golden Calf, as it is written: "And against Aaron did G-d verily rage to destroy him; and I prayed also for Aaron at that time" (Deuteronomy 9:20). "To destroy him" means the death of children, as it is written, "And I destroyed his fruit from above" (Amos 2:9). Moses' prayer was halfway effective, so that two died and two remained alive.

(Rashi on Deuteronomy 9:20)

"They came close to G-d and died" (Leviticus 16:1)--they approached the supernal light out of their great love of the Holy, and thereby died. Thus they died by "divine kiss" such as experienced by the perfectly righteous; it is only that the righteous die when the divine kiss approaches them, while they died by their approaching it... Although they sensed their own demise, this did not prevent them from drawing near to G-d in attachment, delight, delectability, fellowship, love, kiss and sweetness, to the point that their souls ceased from them.

(Ohr HaChaim)

And a fire went out from G-d and consumed them (10:2)

But subsequently it says that Moses instructed Mishael and Eltzafan "Carry your brothers from before the Sanctuary" and that "They carried them out in their robes"? ... G-d sent forth two threads of fire into each one's nostrils and consumed their souls, without touching their flesh and without touching their clothes.

(Midrash Tanchuma)

And Moses said to Aaron: "This is it that which G-d spoke, saying: I will be sanctified in those who are close to Me..." (10:3)

This was said to Moses at Sinai, but its meaning was not known to him until the occurrence happened, when Moses said to Aaron: "My brother, at Sinai, G-d said to me: 'I will sanctify this House, and through a great man would I sanctify it,' and I thought that either through me or through you would this House be sanctified; but now I see that your two sons are greater than you or I."

(Midrash Rabbah; Rashi)

And Aaron was silent (10:3)

Because Aaron was silent, he was rewarded that G-d spoke exclusively to him (see below, verses 8-11; ordinarily G-d spoke to Aaron only in conjunction with--or through--Moses).

(Midrash Rabbah)

Said Rav Papa: The merit of attending a house of mourning lies in the silence observed.

(Talmud, Berachot 6b)

In youth, one learns to talk; in maturity, one learns to be silent. This is man's problem: that he learns to talk before he learns to be silent.

(Rabbi Nachman of Breslav)

Speech signifies comprehensibility. Melody is beyond language, expressing moods which words cannot describe. Silence is yet higher.

The power to be silent at certain moments of life and of history is an important strength. It expresses the awareness that G-d is infinite, and cannot be encapsulated in our human conceptions of what should take place.

The Talmud tells of an instance in which Moses himself was told by G-d to be silent. G-d showed him in a vision all future generations of the Jewish people, and the leaders of each generation. Moses was greatly impressed by the wisdom of Rabbi Akiva. Then he saw the way the Romans tortured him to death. "Is this the reward of his Torah knowledge?" Moses asked. G-d answered: "Be silent. Thus it arose in My thought".

This is not to say that the Torah advocates a fatalistic approach to life. Before the event, one must do everything possible to prevent tragedy. But once it has happened, G-d forbid, through the acceptance and the silence we reach a special closeness to the Divine. Our Sages tell us that because Aaron was silent, he was rewarded by G-d speaking directly to him.

In our generation, too, there is a need for this power of silence. It is not a passive power, but one that leads to vigorous and joyous action. The Jewish response to the harrowing events of the Shoah is the determined and energetic action to rebuild Jewish family life and Jewish knowledge.

Through our power of silence we too, like Aaron, will merit Divine revelation. G-d will bring the Messiah, rebuilding the Temple and bringing lasting peace to the world.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
You shall make yourself the Festival of Sukkoth for seven days, when you gather in [the produce] from your threshing floor and your vat.And you shall rejoice in your Festival-you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, who are within your cities
Duet 16:13-14

Offline muman613

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Re: Nadav & Avihu : What really happened over there?
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2011, 01:41:07 AM »
http://www.aish.com/tp/i/moha/48917907.html

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The Talmud teaches that Moshe is compared to the sun:

    "The countenance of Moshe was like that of the sun; the countenance of Yehoshua was like that of the moon." (Bava Batra 75a)

This verse may be a veiled reference to Aharon temporarily achieving a spiritual level comparable to Moshe's.(10) Aharon, in his silence, becomes like Moshe, and worthy of revelation.

Aharon witnesses the horrific death of his sons; instead of rejecting God or harboring destructive ill will toward God, Aharon accepts God's decree. As we have noted, some commentaries see his acceptance as outward, others inward; some see silence, others a silent prayer. The Rambam sees a lonely Aharon receiving a revelation as he utters praise to God, his religious conviction able to withstand any assault. Like Eliyahu in the dessert, Aharon understands that the word of God is contained in silence, in solitude. Perhaps Aharon now understood what his brother Moshe felt, alone, away from the people, but receiving the word of God.

Rashi (and Maharal) see the silence as the vehicle that elevated Aharon to this new spiritual stratum. Aharon is able to hear the voice of the Divine which one can not hear when speaking.

Rav Nachman of Breslov (Likutey Maharan, mahadura kamma 64:3) understood the same idea in the enigmatic Aggada describing Moshe's vision of the death of the great sage Akiva at the hands of the Romans. Moshe asks to see the reward granted Rabi Akiva for dedication to Torah and is shown the vision of Akiva's tortured body, hung on meat hooks and burned alive. According to the Aggada when Moshe sees the horrific death of Rabbi Akiva, he questions Divine justice, and is told to remain silent:

    Then said Moshe, 'Lord of the Universe, Thou hast shown me his Torah, show me his reward'. 'Turn thee round', said He; and Moshe turned round and saw them weighing out his flesh at the market-stalls. 'Lord of the Universe', cried Moshe, 'such Torah, and such a reward!' He replied, 'Be silent; such arose in My Mind in front of Me.' (Menachot 29b)

Rav Nachman explains that through his silence Moshe can hear the Word of God. When Moshe questions God's Justice he his told to be silent – for by silence from speech and only using the mind one can transcend and understand the Divine Mind and Word. There are times that words are superfluous; they create artificial barriers and prevent us from understanding God's Mind. If one wishes to "arise" and understand the thoughts of God, then silence is the vehicle to arrive at that lofty place.

Aharon's heroic response to tragedy, his ability to contain himself, to resist the more human impulse to build walls and barriers, transported him beyond the noisy, physical plane. His silence allowed him to be like the Sun in the sky, like his brother Moshe, and to hear the Word of God.
You shall make yourself the Festival of Sukkoth for seven days, when you gather in [the produce] from your threshing floor and your vat.And you shall rejoice in your Festival-you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, who are within your cities
Duet 16:13-14

Offline muman613

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Re: Nadav & Avihu : What really happened over there?
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2011, 01:52:05 AM »
One more... I hope that someone finds this topic interesting...

If you do, then post your opinion as to the lesson of this Parasha.

This is the explanation I described in the initial posting... How the punishment of the righteous is a glorification of the name of Hashem...

http://www.torah.org/learning/rabbis-notebook/5764/shemini.html



Silent Justice

In a few days the world will memorialize the Shoah (Holocaust). The Shoah was an event of such enormity and import that it has defined who we are as a nation while defying definition and comprehension. Because the Shoah is unfathomable we have been forced to depend upon Emunah (belief-trust) and only Emunah to keep our faith in G-d’s goodness and Am Yisroel’s primacy.

Emunah demands that we accept the limits of mortal time and intellect. Emunah demands that we accept the limits of available information, now and possibly forever. Emunah demands that we accept the totality of our dependency on G-d while making decisions that impact our destinies in sometimes unpredictable and inconceivable ways. Emunah is accepting G-d as is and leaving unanswered the many questions that have beset humanity since its inception. Therefore, we need to understand what Emunah is and how to teach it to our children.

This week’s Parsha frames Emunah in the silence of Aharon’s pain. Confronted with the deaths of his two eldest sons, Nadav and Avihu, Aharon is silent. (10:3) “... and Aharon was silent.”

In the preceding verse, Moshe offered Aharon an explanation that seemingly did not explain and a rational that seemingly did not clarify. Moshe told his beloved brother that the deaths of Nadav and Avihu were because, (10:3) “I (G-d) will be sanctified through those who are nearest Me, thus I will be honored before the entire people.”

Did Moshe explain to Aharon how their deaths sanctified G-d? Did Moshe explain that their deaths were a punishment? Assuming their deaths were a punishment, did Moshe explain what sin Nadav and Avihu had transgressed to deserve death? Did Moshe explain how their deaths would honor G-d before the nation? No! Instead, Moshe compounded the incomprehensible with the seemingly enigmatic!

The moment of Nadav and Avihu’s deaths coincided with the inauguration of the Mizbeach (alter) into national service. It was the eighth day of the Mishkan’s (Tabernacle) dedication ceremony and fire was to descend from heaven and set ablaze the wood pyre arranged on the Mizbeach. It was to be the crowning moment of the nation’s return to intimacy with G-d and their atonement for the Golden Calf. The fire did descend and the Mizbeach was set afire, but along the way the heavenly fire also killed Nadav and Avihu. The glorious became tragic and the joy turned to pain.

What were Moshe and Aharon thinking at the moment of the inauguration and what were they thinking at the moment of the tragedy?

Rashi (10:3) quotes the Medresh and the Talmud in Zevachim. “Moshe said to Aharon: When G-d commanded the construction of the Mizbeach He said that at the time of its completion (Shem. 29:43) ?and it shall be sanctified with My glory.

(The Hebrew word for “glory” can also be interpreted as “those who are honored by G-d;” therefore the meaning of the verse would be, “…and I will be sanctified through those who are honored by Me (G-d).”)

Rashi continues: Moshe explained to Aharon: “I knew at the time of the commandment to construct the Mizbeach that G-d would be sanctified through the death of one of us. I thought that it would be either you or me. Now I see that Nadav and Avihu were greater than both you and I because G-d took them and not us.” It was in response to this explanation that Aharon remained silent.

Moshe clearly anticipated and expected that the “death of G-d’s honored ones” would somehow equal G-d’s glorification. Aharon’s silence, in spite of his personal loss and pain seemed to echo the same acceptance of death equaling the sanctification of G-d and His glory. What does the Torah mean that G-d will be glorified through the death of those whom He honors? What does it mean that G-d is glorified through the death of the righteous?

First and most challenging of all the unanswered questions that have beset humanity since its inception is the question of Divine justice. As limited mortals we are not capable of understanding G-d’s justice because His justice is a reflection of His timelessness and all encompassing knowledge; however, fundamental to Judaism and our understanding of G-d is that G-d is the essence of justice. He is the “Dayan Haemes,” the one and only “Truthful Judge.”

Justice, as it is true for the entire Torah, does not distinguish between the mighty, weak, rich, poor, great, little, significant or otherwise. Whatever distinctions exist in the imposition of Mitzvos (commandments), such as the differences between men and women regarding certain time oriented commandments, are the only distinctions and differences. Beyond them there are no other distinctions or exceptions. Where exceptions do exist they exist for anyone presenting the same set of circumstances. (For example, a life threatening situation that demands an exception from standard expectations and commandments such as Shabbos and Kashrus.)

Likewise, justice should be blind. The list of qualifications for proper judges, “men of accomplishment, G-d fearing, truthful, people who despise money, men who will not pervert justice, will not show deference to a litigant, and not accept bribes,” proves that justice must be indifferent to station or position. Justice cannot take anything else into consideration except the truth, and it is the death of a judicial system when justice shows special deference to the rich, the accomplished, the famous, or the mighty.

The glory of G-d is not that which appears to be “like human,” rather, it is that which is uniquely Divine, that which is unique to G-d and only G- d. G-d is One in a manner that sets Him apart and above all of creation. The fact that we commonly attribute to G-d human qualities is only the limitations of mortal language and comprehension. As the Rambam (Maimonidies) explains, we have no choice but to describe G-d in terms that we can understand. However, the moment we actually believe that G-d has human characteristics we engage in Avodah Zarah ? idol worship. Therefore, the glory of G-d is not that which appear

Justice is uniquely Divine and therefore His glory is directly linked to His justice and judiciousness. When G-d took the lives of Nadav and Avihu He revealed to all that His justice is exacting and equitable. G-d did not take the lives of Nadav and Avihu because they were righteous and innocent. The Talmud lists a number of reasons why Nadav and Avihu were deserving of punishment. True they were righteous. True they were righteous on a level that possibly surpassed Moshe and Aharon; however, “there is no such thing as a righteous person who never sinned.” Nadav and Avihu were magnificent in their righteousness, but they were not innocent; therefore, G-d took their lives. It is the exacting nature of G- d’s justice that makes it uniquely divine and awesome. It is His evenhandedness in all matters that although incomprehensible is the greatest reflection of His glory.

Rashi in Zevachim 115b explains that when G-d imposes justice on the most righteous and exalted His name is sanctified and glorified because everyone sees the even-handedness of G-d. If G-d punishes the righteous He will certainly punish the less righteous and the wicked.
You shall make yourself the Festival of Sukkoth for seven days, when you gather in [the produce] from your threshing floor and your vat.And you shall rejoice in your Festival-you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, who are within your cities
Duet 16:13-14