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Friday, April 17

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini

In this week's parsha, we learn of the tragic episode of Nadav and Avihu, two sons of Aharon who were killed when they brought a sacrifice which they were not commanded to bring. As the story begins, the pasuk (10:1) recounts, "And two sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, took..." I found it puzzling that they are first referred to as the sons of Aharon and only following that are they identified by their names. One might have expected the opposite.

After convincing the citizens of the city of Shechem to circumcise themselves, Shimon and Levi return three days later and wipe out all of the males. There too, (Bereishis 34:25) they are referred to as "the two sons of Yaakov, Shimon and Levi."

At the beginning of Parshas Korach, when Korach's entourage is enumerated, we are introduced to Dasan and Aviram by name for the very first time. They are indeed referred to as "Dasan and Aviram, the sons of Eliav." I am no longer sure which is the exception and which is the rule but perhaps the following thought may explain this discrepancy:

Although the actions of Yaakov and Aharon's sons were met with sharp opposition or death, each group acted with a considerable degree of good intentions. Shimon and Levi's attack on the city of Shechem was hardly an act of selfishness. They were defending their sister and the honour of their father. Although Yaakov ultimately chastised them for their angry attack, their decision was clearly fuelled by noble, selfless intentions.

Nadav and Avihu, as well, were overcome by the Divine presence and the great miracles that were an integral part of the consecration of the mishkan. They brought their sacrifice because they were inspired to do so and as kohanim, the sons of Aharon, they felt it was the proper thing to do. Although both the sons of Aharon and the sons of Yaakov made incorrect judgements, the Torah's recount of their deeds alludes to the virtuous intentions behind their actions by first reaffirming their prestigious pedigree. Dasan and Aviram, contrarily, were driven by selfish motives. Being the sons of Eliav is therefore considered insignificant with respect to their names. They are therefore listed with their names first, indicative of the driving forces behind their actions.

Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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