Moshe comforted Aharon with the knowledge that Nadav and Avihu
were "taken" because they were the "greatest." Rav Moshe Zt'l in Darash
Moshe explained that there is a concept of G-d "needing" certain nishamos
(souls) in heaven. As the Talmud says regarding the death of Rebbi (Judah
the Prince), "The lower beings desired him and the higher ones wanted
him." In some unfathomable equation of circumstance and consequence G-d
recalls select nishamos; however, He only does so if they are the
greatest of the great.
The Talmud relates that Moshe knew that "one of them" would die, and had
thought that it would be either himself or Aharon. With the deaths of
Nadav and Avihu at the seminal moment of the Mizbeach's (alter's)
inauguration, Moshe knew that it was them and not himself or Aharon whom G-
d had intended to "take."
Chazal (the Rabbis) tell us that Nadav and Avihu would openly say, "When
will these two old men (Moshe and aharon) die so that we can ascend to the
leadership of the Jewish nation?" Furthermore, Chazal attributed cause to
the consequences of their deaths. (a) "They performed the service having
drunk wine." (b) "They ruled a Halacha (Jewsih law) in the presence of
their teachers." (c) "They offered an offering that was not commanded and
in a manner that was a desecration." Who were Nadav and Avihu, and what
was their rational for doing what they did?"
"G-d created me with a pure heart and He innovated within me a proper
spirit." This verse in Tehilim (Psalms) applies to each of us as well as
the entire universe. Like the pristine white of an unmarred blanket of
fresh snow all things are created new and pure. Gan Eden (Garden of Eden)
was pure until Adam and Chava sinned. The nation was pure until they
sinned with the Golden Calf; and following the first Yom Kippur the nation
was again pure until Nadav and Avihu offered their "strange offering".
Rav Dessler explains that every pure moment has its challenge. If the
challenge is met successfully redemption is immediate; if not, that
moment's potential greatness is lost forever. There will be other moments
and other challenges, but they will be different and the actuality or
degree of redemption will be different.
The first moment of challenge was Gan Eden. All Adam had to do was not
give into the Nachash (serpent) and the era of Tikun Olam (the perfected
world) would have begun. The Tree of Knowledge would have been granted to
them rather than their taking it amidst rebellion and selfishness. (This
is according to the opinion that the "Forbidden Tree" was the vineyard and
that G-d would have granted them its secrets on the first Shabbos - if
only they had waited.) What they desired was good. How they went about
getting it was bad. History as we know it would have been completely
different. Instead, humankind entered a phase where the Shechina (G-d's
presence) retreated behind the facade of nature making it humanities
responsibility to discover and reveal G-d's presence and intent.
At the foot of Mt. Sinai the nation was "as one being with one heart."
The pure heart was returned to us and the whole of the Jewish people
became as Adam before he had sinned. Had we waited patiently for Moshe to
return with the newly configured "Eitz Hadas - Tree of Knowledge - the
Torah," we could have ushered in the era of Tikun Olam. All of us would
have been a nation of Kohanim (priests) with the singular purpose, focus,
and ordained sanctity to teach the greatness of G-d to the rest of the
world. Instead, we sinned with the Golden Calf and G-d's presence
departed from within each of us. We had returned to rebellion and
selfishness and the Shechina retreated beyond the desert camp. No longer
would we all be Kohanim. No longer could the world be a holy of holies
and all of time be the holiest of times.
Chosen to serve and chosen to teach, Aharon and his sons took center
stage. As Kohain Gadol (High Priest) and as Kohanim, they reflected the
norm that should have been for all of us and the distance we now would
have to travel. Preeminent within the Kohanim was Aharon and all the
Kohanim Gedolim who would one day fill his place. They were the ones who
would be what Nadav and Avihu most desired. That is why the details of the
Yom Kippur service, this week's first Parsha (section of the Torah),
begins with the reference to the "aftermath of the death of the sons of
In the end the issue is always time; the timeless eternity of G-d vs. the
time bound mortality of creation. We must accept that limitation and the
patience life and history demand of us. Had Adam and Chava only waited a
few short moments redemption would have already been. Had Nadav and Avihu
been patient for their turn to at leadership, who knows what they would
have accomplished? We too must be patient; we too must learn how to use
time; we too must learn to trust G-d's goodness and know that He who
controls time truly controls the universe.