Parshas Sh’meenee – death of two sons of Aaron

The story of Nadav and Aveehoo.  A tragedy that echoes in the heart of any parent who can feel a fellow parent’s love and heartbreak.  On what could have been the most joyous of days for Aharan haKohayn, tragedy struck.  His two beloved sons, brilliant and special, were struck down by G-dly fire for their sin in bringing “strange fire” “not commanded”.

It is a story hard to understand and one must delve into the different commentaries and explanations to begin to have at least some sort of grasp at what was at stake.

This year, I merited to learn Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch’s explanation and it gave me more than just an understanding at what was at stake here – it gave me a responsibility of how to live my life which I’m not sure I’ll be able to live up to – but at least now I know where the bar is set.

Here’s the understanding.  Pagan culture had sacrifices.  Jews were instructed in sacrifices.  One and the same?  One might think so, if not for the deaths of the two sons of Aharon, which is why Aharon was comforted by hearing that the deaths allowed a crystallization of G-d’s greatness be realized for everyone.

When pagan culture demanded a sacrifice, the sacrifice was at the behest of the giver. The giver brought food, an animal, a child – the idol was subservient to the giver, dependent on the giver for that item.

G-d mandates sacrifices. He gave us the items to give to Him and demands exactitude of what we are to bring.  By sticking to the clearest of guidelines, to the letter of the law, we show we are becoming subservient to G-d and never vice versa.

Nadav and Aveehoo felt elated by a closeness to G-d.  They decided “each man” on his own, not listening to Halacha, not bound by G-d’s commandment, to just bring what they deemed would be a fit tribute.  By doing so, they went against the Jewish principle – that we are subservient to our Creator.  G-d does not need anything from us.  When we bring Him our service, we show our willingness to heed Him by sticking to His exact prescription. The minute we devise our own services and rituals, we are, in effect, bucking the obligation to bow and serve. The moments we bend our wills and curtail our ego and bind our service to the exactitude asked of us, those are the moments that proclaim loudly we know Hashem Hoo Ha’Elokim.



About jewishspectacles

Jewish Spectacles-the kind you look through, not the kind you create!
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One Response to Parshas Sh’meenee – death of two sons of Aaron

  1. Princess Lea says:

    Perfect. I heard this concept for the first time from Rabbi David Fohrman.

    Hashem does not need anything from us. We would not have had a mizbayach to bring karbanos if Bnei Yisroel had not shown with the aygel that it was to soon for them to serve Hashem in abstract terms; the world in general thrived on a sacrifice method, and they knew no other means.

    The world in general migrated to a prayer-based faith system (which we inspired, thank you very much) which reflected a kind and loving Divinity, as opposed to petty and cruel minor deities. I often have to remind myself that davening is avodah, a replacement for the karbanos.

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