This week we read the Torah portion of Shemini. In last week’s Parshah, we read of the seven days of preparing the Mishkan, how Moshe would assemble it each day. This week we finally arrive at the point where the portable sanctuary would be ready for use; it would be used each day throughout the Jews’ sojourn in the wilderness.
The Torah tells us that Aharon’s oldest sons, Nodov and Avihu, participated in this occasion. They offered Ketores – Incense. “… each took his pan, put fire in them. They placed incense upon it and brought before Hashem foreign fire, which He had not commanded.” This was tragic, as the Torah immediately exclaims, “fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before Hashem.”
Why did they receive such a severe punishment? Rashi cites two of our Sages; Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yishmoel. “Rabbi Eliezer says that Aharon’s sons only died because they rendered a halachic decision before Moshe, their teacher. Rabbi Yishmoel says that (the reason they died was that) they had entered the sanctuary after having drunk wine.”
What does this mean to us; what lesson can we learn from this? None of us can even remotely approach the exalted level of Nodov and Avihu. Nevertheless, “they died only because they rendered a halachic decision in the presence of Moshe, their teacher.” No matter how great one thinks he is or how great he is, he must always humble himself before his teacher. No one may declare himself a rabbi and believe that he has no reason to wait for someone else’s ruling. That was the sole reason that Aharon’s sons died; “they died only because they rendered a halachic decision in the presence of Moshe, their teacher.”
However, humility alone does not suffice. One must strive to grasp everything he learns to the best of his ability. As Rabbi Yishmoel said, the problem was that “they entered the sanctuary after having drunk wine.” Wine is the spiritual idea of Binah, meaning understanding, and having drunk wine implies that one is at one with his knowledge. That’s how we must learn. However, when we “enter the sanctuary,” when we are involved in prayer, it must be with the most incredible humility.
The Sages teach us that “we learn the laws of Pesach thirty days before the holiday.” For Pesach, we must remove and destroy all of our Chometz – leavened bread. Leavening, i.e., rising, symbolizes the concept of arrogance. We now find ourselves within those thirty days. May we succeed in removing all of the Chometz from within ourselves.
I wish one and all a good Shabbos!
Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn
Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 12, Pages 49-56
DEDICATED IN HONOR OF THE LUBAVITCHER REBBE
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
DR. MINDEL RIVKA (MURIEL) BAS REB MENACHEM MENDEL SHLOMO ע”ה STITT
PASSED AWAY ON SHABBAT PARSHAS LECH LECHA, 10 MAR-CHESHVAN, 5782
MAY HER SOUL BE BOUND IN THE ETERNAL BOND OF LIFE
IN HONOR OF
The Soldiers of Tzivos Hashem Chaim and Aiden Oded שיחיו Morris
DEDICATED BY THEIR PARENTS
Rabbi & Mrs. Menachem M. and Chaya Mushka שיחיו Morris
. Our Parshah, Vayikroh 10:1.
. Our Parshah, Vayikroh 10:2.