The parents always get blamed. Very often when my parents criticize me, I just retort, “I got it from you, after all!” To which I usually get a “No, it’s from your mother/father, not me.”
The Parsha opens up with Hashem telling Moshe to warn Aharon about going into the Kodesh after Aharon’s two sons died in front of God. It is generally accepted that Hashem was worried that Aharon would be impulsive like his sons and go into the Kodesh when he was not supposed to. But would it not be more likely that the impulsiveness came from their mother? After all, Aharon was married to Nachshon ben Aminadav’s sister. Nachshon was the man who, according to the Midrash, jumped into the Yam Suf on a whim. Why didn’t God warn Aharon’s wife about being too impulsive? Furthermore, Rav Yair Kahn comments in Parshat Korach (in a Shiur that is available on Yeshivat Har Etzion’s Virtual Beit Midrash) that one of the characteristics of a Kohen Gadol, particularly Aharon, is the way he controls his impulses and emotions! Why was there concern about Aharon sinning?
Rabbi Moshe Morduchowitz proposes an answer to our question. Nadav and Avihu’s sin was that they tried too hard to get close to Hashem. They refused to accept the fact that they could not be as close to God as Aharon, so they tried to get closer. However, they tried to get too close and acted improperly, so they died. The Pasuk (10:2) says that they died “before God’ because they were attempting to get closer to God when they died. Perhaps this is why Hashem warned Aharon specifically after the death of his children; both Aharon and his children had a deep-seated desire to be closer to God.
Maybe it is true that these quirks are passed down from parents, but we were looking at the wrong habit. Aharon would never get wrapped up in his emotions, and neither would his children. The problem is, however, that all three had a strong desire to draw closer to God, but the Bnai Aharon got too close and burned for it.
We can learn from here that we while of course we must strive to achieve closeness to God, we must also realize our limitations. Hopefully we will all find a happy medium in our Avodat Hashem, bringing us as close as we can safely come to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.