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This Shabbos, we will read the Torah portion of Shemini, meaning “eighth.” The Jewish Nation spent seven days inaugurating the newly constructed Tabernacle. Finally, on the eighth day, we were to begin using it in earnest. Hashem’s presence would rest upon it.
It was a joyous time for the Jews. All of their dedication and toil in building the Mishkan would bear fruit! However, there was one incident that threatened to mar this celebration. The Torah tells us that as part of the service, “…Aharon’s sons, Nodov and Avihu, each took his pan and put fire in them. They placed incense upon it, and brought a foreign fire before Hashem, which He had not commanded them.” Immediately after that, “fire went forth from before G-d and consumed them, and they died before Hashem.” Rashi cites the words from this verse, “and the fire went forth,” and quotes the Midrash Rabbah. The Midrash offers several opinions as to what sin it was that brought about their death.
One opinion which Rashi quotes is, “Rabbi Yishmoel says that they died because they had entered the sanctuary after having drunk wine. The proof is that after their death, the Torah warned the survivors that they are not permitted to enter the sanctuary after having drunk wine. This is analogous to a king who had a faithful attendant, etc., as written in Vayikroh Rabbah.”
The Midrash to which Rashi alludes goes on to explain the analogy. “When the king found him standing at tavern entrances, he severed his head in silence and appointed another attendant in his place. We would not know why he executed the first, but for his commanding the second, ‘You must not enter the doorway of taverns.’ From this, we know why he put the first one to death.”
We need to understand this. If Rashi merely wants to show as where to find the source for the analogy, he could have written: “as it is written in Vayikroh Rabbah.” If he wishes to explain the analogy, why does he just tell us the beginning of the explanation, i.e., that there was “a king who had a faithful attendant, etc.?”
The explanation is that Rashi is telling us all that we need to know. Nodov and Avihu were not yet commanded not to enter the Sanctuary after drinking wine. However, because they were faithful attendants, they were expected to realize that it was inappropriate behavior on their own without being told.
I wish one and all a good Shabbos and a happy Pesach!
Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn
Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 12, Page 49
מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש
חיילי “צבאות השם” חיים ועדן עודד שיחיו מאריס
נדפס ע”י הוריהם
הרה”ת ר’ מנחם מענדל
וזוגתו מרת חי’ מושקא שיחיו מאריס
. Vayikroh 10:1.
. Vayikroh 10:2.
. Vayikroh Rabbah 12, 1.
. Vayikroh 10:9.