Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer . . . and they died before G‑d (10:1–2)

Bar Kappara said in the name of Rabbi Yirmiyah ben Elazar: Aaron’s sons died on account of four things: for drawing near, for offering, for the strange fire, and for not having taken counsel from each other. “For drawing near”—because they entered into the innermost precincts of the Sanctuary. “For offering”—because they offered a sacrifice which they had not been commanded to offer. “For the strange fire”—they brought in fire from the kitchen. “And for not having taken counsel from each other”—as it says, “Each took his censer,” implying that they acted each on his own initiative, not taking counsel from one another. Rabbi Mani of Sha’av, Rabbi Yehoshua of Sichnin, and Rabbi Yochanan in the name of Rabbi Levi said: The sons of Aaron died on account of four things . . . : Because they had drunk wine, as it says [immediately following the incident], “Do not drink wine or strong drink . . . that you not die” (Leviticus 10:9). Because they served in the Sanctuary lacking the prescribed number of priestly garments (cf. Exodus 28:43). Because they entered the Sanctuary without washing their hands and feet (cf. Exodus 30:21). Because they had no children… as it says, “Nadav and Avihu died . . . and they had no children” (Numbers 3:4).

Abba Chanin says that it was because they had no wives, for it is written [regarding the high priest], “He shall make atonement for himself, and for his house” (Leviticus 16:6)—“his house” refers to his wife.Rabbi Levi says that they were arrogant. Many women remained unmarried waiting for them. What did they say? Our father’s brother is a king, our mother’s brother is a prince [i.e., Nachshon, the head of the tribe of Judah], our father is a high priest, and we are both deputy high priests; what woman is worthy of us? . . . Moses and Aaron went first, Nadav and Avihu walked behind them, and all Israel followed, and Nadav and Avihu were saying: “When will these two old men die and we assume authority over the community?” Rabbi Yehudah in the name of Rabbi Aivu said that they uttered this to one another with their mouths, while Rabbi Pinchas said that they harbored the thought in their hearts.

Others say: They already deserved to die at Mount Sinai, when they callously feasted their eyes on the Divine (Exodus 24:9–11).

After this incident, the Torah states: ‘Aaron was silent’ (10:3). The Lubavitcher rabbi comments: “Speech signifies comprehensibility. Melody is beyond language, expressing moods which words cannot describe. Silence is yet higher.

The power to be silent at certain moments of life and of history is an important strength. It expresses the awareness that G‑d is infinite, and cannot be encapsulated in our human conceptions of what should take place.

The Talmud tells of an instance in which Moses himself was told by G‑d to be silent. G‑d showed him in a vision all future generations of the Jewish people, and the leaders of each generation. Moses was greatly impressed by the wisdom of Rabbi Akiva. Then he saw the way the Romans tortured him to death. “Is this the reward of his Torah knowledge?” Moses asked. G‑d answered: “Be silent. Thus it arose in My thought.” This is not to say that the Torah advocates a fatalistic approach to life. Before the event, one must do everything possible to prevent tragedy. But once it has happened, G‑d forbid, through the acceptance and the silence we reach a special closeness to the Divine. Our sages tell us that because Aaron was silent, he was rewarded by G‑d speaking directly to him. In our generation, too, there is a need for this power of silence. It is not a passive power, but one that leads to vigorous and joyous action. The Jewish response to the harrowing events of the Shoah is the determined and energetic action to rebuild Jewish family life and Jewish knowledge.

Through our power of silence we too, like Aaron, will merit Divine revelation. G‑d will bring the Messiah, rebuilding the Temple and bringing lasting peace to the world.”

“These are the animals which you may eat . . . But these you shall not eat of those that chew the cud, or of those that divide the hoof . . . “ (11:2-4) The Torah does not list the animals that have both kosher signs (and are thus kosher), nor does it list those which lack both (and are thus forbidden); but it does name the four animals—the camel, hyrax, hare and swine—that have one but not the other (making them, too, unfit for consumption for the Jew).

It is noteworthy that in the 33 centuries since G‑d communicated these laws to Moses, entire continents, replete with many “new” and unimagined species, have been discovered. A number of these hitherto unknown species possess both of the kosher signs, and many lack them both; but not a single one has been found with only one sign. The only such animals on earth are the four species enumerated by the Torah!

Prepared by Devorah Abenhaim

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