Business before Pleasure

“…And G-d spoke to Moshe after the death of Aharon’s two sons, when they drew near before G-d and they died…” – Vayikra 16:1

וַיְדַבֵּר ה’ אֶל משֶׁה אַחֲרֵי מוֹת שְׁנֵי בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן בְּקָרְבָתָם לִפְנֵי ה’ וַיָּמֻתוּ – ויקרא טז, א

The above verse seems redundant. Having said that the commandments in this parsha were stated “after the death of the sons of Aharon, when they drew near to G-d,” why is it necessary to repeat, “and they died”?

With these additional words, the Torah explains the nature of Nadav and Avihu’s mistake and the cause of their deaths.

Business before Pleasure

The Ohr Hachaim suggests that Nadav and Avihu’s deaths were not a punishment; their souls expired from sheer ecstasy upon sensing the closeness of G-d. Chassidus explains, however, that their very passing is reckoned as a sin. True, in utter devotion to G-d, a Jew must aspire to rise above physicality entirely. Coupled with that, however, must be a recognition that G-d grants us physical life, desiring that we transform the physical world into a home for Him to dwell and be manifest. It was therefore a mistake for Nadav and Avihu to allow their spiritual rapture to reach a point of no return.

Accordingly, the phrase “and they died” is not repeating the fact of their death, but explaining its cause. What was it that brought about “the death of the two sons of Aaron” and what was their mistake? The fact that “they drew near before G-d and they died;” their desire to experience the closeness to G-d even at the expense of their duty to infuse G-dliness into physical life.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 3, p. 987-988


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