Understanding Hashem by Binyamin Jachter


We all are taught about Nadav and Avihu’s Aveirah, but little did we know that we are usually exposed to just one opinion. Many Mefarashim present different answers from a wide variety of perspectives. Rav Shmuel Goldin presents a fine layout of answers in his “Unlocking the Torah Text”. We can then use these answers to find a special reason to why this Parashah is very appropriate for this week.

Rav Goldin begins with one side of the arguments. These Rabbanim couldn’t believe that Hashem would have such a harsh punishment if Nadav VaAvihu simply brought a Korban to Hashem at the improper time. One such idea is that they were drunk, which we learn by it the juxtaposition of the command to the Kohanim to never be intoxicated while doing the Avodah to the Nadav Va’Avihu devastation. Alternatively, we could say Nadav VaAvihu were punished because they made a Halachic decision without consulting Moshe Rabbeinu. Both of these answers explain the punishment of Nadav VaAvihu but they do not seem to fit with the straightforward reading of the Pesukim.

Now we come to an interpretation that fits with the straightforward meaning of the Pesukim, the outstanding approach presented by the Ramban. He begins by noting that there are three Pesukim that address what Nadav and Avihu’s sin. One appears in our Parashah, Vayikra 10:1, another in Parashat Bemidbar, Bemidbar 3:4, and one in Parashat Pinechas, 26:61. A common phrase appears in all of them, “a foreign fire.” This Korban was specifically directed to the “fire” of Hashem’s Midat HaDin. They didn’t comprehend that Hashem is one and not one deity composed of different attributes. They failed to accept the concept that Hashem is one.

We are now coming out of Purim and heading towards Pesach. We can easily see Hashem during the Makot but we have to look deeper to find Hashem in the Megilah. We can compare this to our answers from before. According to some (Megillah 12a), we ended up with punishment on Purim because we had gone to Achashveirosh’s party and had mingled with the people, and eating non-kosher food, direct violations of the Torah. On the other hand, during Pesach we experienced harsh punishment to shorten our time of exile because we did not properly comprehend and relate to Hashem, and as a result we were reduced to the 49th of 50 levels of Tumah.

There have been two primary reasons for our suffering, parallel to the explanations of the suffering of Nadav VaAvihu, disobeying the Torah and not relating properly to Hashem. How do we avoid repeating our mistakes of Mitzrayim and Persia? How do we remain or become steadfast and righteous Jews? The solution was just as the Ramban pointed out. We simply need to take small steps toward realizing the greatness of Hashem. We can strive to become as great as we can be to try and reach to Hashem, by following the path set forth by the Torah and the Chachamim. Making an effort to understand the 13 Midot of Hashem or delving deeply into the Gemara to understand as much as we possibly can are ways to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. May we all be able to realize our potential in observance of Torah and our understanding in Hashem.

To Each His Own by Rabbi Joel Grossman

Purifying Old Habits by Alex Haberman