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Friday, May 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Acharei Mos / Kedoshim

In Bemidbar 3 and 26 when Nadav and Avihu are referred to, the pasuk recounts "vayamusu... bahikravam eish zara..." the pasuk recounts the specifics of their sin in bringing the ketores which they were not commanded to bring. However, here, it only says at the beginning of the parsha "b'karvasam ... vayamusu." The pasuk refers to their coming close to HaShem and their subsequent death but there is no specific mention of the "aish zara" as there is in the other references.


The reference to the death of Aharon's two sons is followed directly by the instruction of Aharon as to the proper procedure for entering the Kodesh HaKadashim on Yom Kippur. The procedure is briefly prefaced by the warning that one may not enter the Kodesh HaKadashim whenever they please. Rashi connects the two topics with the parable of the doctor who tells his patient, "Follow these directions so that you don't die the way so-and-so died." But what in fact is the connection between Nadav and Avihu's death and entering the Kodesh HaKadashim?


            The simplest answer might be that according to Bar Kappara in the Midrash, the actual sin of Nadav Avihu was entering the Kodesh HaKadashim. However, R’ Ephraim Eisenberg, zt”l, offers an answer which is concurrent with all the opinions in the Midrash. There are quite a number of opinions quoted in the Midrash as to the actual sin of Nadav Avihu. But with close examination, there emerges a pattern amongst all of them. The central theme seems to be that Nadav and Avihu were trying to reach a degree of closeness to HaShem which was beyond their reach. Their actions indicated a desire to become closer to HaShem but this yearning brought them to act inappropriately. Therefore, their actions serve as a lesson that there are limits when it comes to closeness to HaShem. This is the theme of the Yom Kippur avodah. A Kohein Gadol may not enter the Kodesh HaKadashim whenever he pleases, even if it is to become closer to HaShem. There is a time and place for this practice and it is on Yom Kippur only.

            Perhaps this answers the original question. In this specific reference to the demise of Nadav and Avihu, we are not concerned with the actual actions that lead to their tragic death. We are merely concerned with the motives behind their actions and how they relate to the principal topic, the avodah of Yom Kippur.


            In perek 19 (9‑10), we are taught four different mitzvos with regard to the poor: peah, leket, peret and olalos. The required quantity for these mitzvos is quite small. For instance, the Mishna in Peah teaches that one or two sheaves constitutes leket but three do not, i.e. if one dropped as few as three sheaves, it is still considered too much and may be retrieved by the owner.

            R' Moshe Mintz asks why the Torah commanded us a number of mitzvos of such small quantity instead of perhaps commanding us one mitzva of greater quantity. He answers that perhaps we can understand this with a Rambam on a mishna in this week's perek of Pirkei Avos, perek 3. Mishna 19 teaches "hakol l'fi rov hama'aseh". The Rambam explains that it is better for a person to give a little tzedaka at a greater frequency than to give a larger amount of tzedaka less often (assuming the total amount is the same). Doing mitzvos more often has a more profound impact on a person, even if the quantity of the mitzvos is small. Therefore, the Torah specifically commanded us to do many different acts of tzedaka in the field in smaller quantities, rather than less acts in larger quantities.  

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka


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