web analytics
April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Q & A: Harsh Punishments (Part I)


QuestionsandAnswers-logo

Share Button

Question: I find it very difficult to understand the punishment of death that was meted out to Rabbi Akiba’s students. If he was so great, we can assume that his students were of a superior caliber as well. If so, why did they deserve such a harsh punishment?

Zelig Aronson
Queens, NY

Answer: The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 493:1-5) writes, “The days between Pesach and Shavuot have been treated by all of Jewry for hundreds of years as days of judgment and mourning because 12,000 pairs of Torah scholars, the students of Rabbi Akiba, died in this short time period, as the Talmud (Yevamot 62b) relates.” (The Aruch HaShulchan also notes that in the last millennium a great number of Jewish communal tragedies occurred in Europe.)

He continues: “Therefore it has been accepted by all of Jewry from the times of the Geonim not to marry between Pesach and Shavuot.… We also find that they have accepted not to cut their hair during these days, as a sign of mourning….”

The Aruch HaShulchan cites various customs in this regard. Most are of the opinion that the period of mourning is only 34 days. Some start the mourning period immediately after Pesach (Pesach itself is included in the count of 34 days, but excluded from any manifestations of mourning due to its festival status) lasting until the 34th day of the Omer. Others begin from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until three days before Shavuot (the three days of hagbalah). (See ad loc. for more detail.)

To address your question, let us look at the following pesukim (Leviticus 10:1-3): “Va’yikchu bnei Aharon Nadav v’Avihu ish machtato vayitnu bahen esh va’yasimu aleha ketoret va’yakrivu lifnei Hashem esh zara asher lo tziva otam. Va’tetze esh milifnei Hashem va’tochal otam va’yamutu lifnei Hashem. Va’yomer Moshe el Aharon, hu asher dibber Hashem lemor, bikrovai ekadesh ve’al pnei kol ha’am ekaved, va’yidom Aharon – The sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, each took his firepan, and put fire in it and frankincense upon it, and they brought before Hashem a strange fire which He had not commanded them. And a fire went out from Hashem and devoured them, and they died before Hashem. Then Moses said to Aaron: This is what Hashem spoke, saying, ‘With those that are near [dear] to Me I will be sanctified and before the entire people I will be glorified’; and Aaron was silent.”

The Talmud (Eruvin 63) states that Nadav and Avihu, in spite of their unique greatness, erred in that they thought that even though a heavenly fire descended upon the altar, they were to light a fire of their own as well. They did this based on the verse in Parshat Vayikra (1:7): “V’natnu bnei Aharon ha’kohen esh al hamizbe’ach – The sons of Aaron, the High Priest, shall place a fire on the altar.” Though the command in this verse indeed reflects the halacha, Nadav and Avihu were guilty of acting in this manner in front of their teacher, Moses, who had not issued this instruction. The Torah Temimah (Leviticus 10:2) cites the Maharsha (to Eruvin 63) who asks the obvious question: But Moses did issue this instruction in the verse we just quoted! How then could the Gemara state that Nadav and Avihu were punished for doing something without their teacher’s permission?

The Torah Temimah first tries answering this question by examining another example of a biblical figure issuing his own halachic ruling. In the book of Samuel, it states, “Va’yishchatu et hapar va’yaviu et hanaar el Eli – And they slaughtered the bull and brought the youth [Samuel] to Eli” (I Samuel 1:25). The Gemara (Berachot 31b) notes the seeming disconnect between the beginning and end of the verse. Because Samuel’s parents slaughtered a bull they brought the youth to Eli?

The Gemara resolves this problem by explaining that they went out in search of a kohen to slaughter the bull and at that point Samuel asked them why they were searching for a kohen when an Israelite may also slaughter it, as the verse (Leviticus 1:5) states “V’shachat et ben habakar lifnei Hashem v’hikrivu bnei Aharon ha’kohanim et hadam – And he shall slaughter the bull before Hashem and the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall bring forth the blood….” Only the service starting from bringing the blood requires a kohen. The slaughter itself, though, may be done by an Israelite. When the attendants perceived what Samuel had done, they brought him before Eli, who remarked, “You have spoken well, but you are guilty of rendering a halachic decision in the presence of your teacher [Eli referring to himself].” The Gemara relates that Chana then begged Eli to forgive Samuel for his transgression.

This incident, however, is not comparable to the one concerning Nadav and Avihu since Samuel decided the halacha on his own while Nadav and Avihu simply followed Moses’ command (as we mentioned above). The Torah Temimah admits to the dissimilarity between the two cases and therefore explains that Nadav and Avihu erred because they misunderstood Moses’ instruction.

Share Button

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “Q & A: Harsh Punishments (Part I)”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.
America Joins Israel in Canceling Talks with PA
Latest Judaism Stories
Kedoshim

Rabbi Fohrman explains how the Torah provides the building blocks of true love.

Reiss-041814-King

Amazingly, each and every blade was green and moist as if it was just freshly cut.

PTI-041814

All the commentaries ask why Hashem focuses on the Exodus as opposed to saying, “I am Hashem who created the entire world.”

Leff-041814

Someone who focuses only on the bones of the Torah makes his bones dry and passionless.

The following is President Obama’s statement on Passover (April 14, 2014). As he has in the past, the President held an official Passover Seder at the White House. Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to all those celebrating Passover in the United States, in Israel, and around the world. On Tuesday, just as we […]

The tendency to rely on human beings rather than G-d has been our curse throughout the centuries.

“Who is wise? One who learns from each person” (Pirkei Avot 4:1)

In Judaism, to be without questions is a sign not of faith, but of lack of depth.

“I’ll try to help as we can,” said Mr. Goodman, “but we already made a special appeal this year. Let me see what other funds we have. I’ll be in touch with you in a day or two.”

Rashi is bothered by the expression Hashem used: “the Jews need only travel.”

Reckoning Time
‘Three Festivals, Even Out Of Order’
(Beizah 19b)

Two husbands were there to instruct us in Texas hold ‘em – and we needed them.

Question: Why do we start counting sefirat ha’omer in chutz la’aretz on the second night of Pesach when the omer in the times of the Beit Hamikdash was cut on Chol HaMoed?

M. Goldman
(Via E-Mail)

A few background principles regarding the prohibitions of chametz mixtures on Pesach may provide some shopping guidance.

According to the Rambam, the k’nas applies to any chametz on Pesach with which one could, in theory, transgress the aveirah – even if no transgression actually occurred.

More Articles from Rabbi Yaakov Klass
Questions-Answers-logo

Question: Why do we start counting sefirat ha’omer in chutz la’aretz on the second night of Pesach when the omer in the times of the Beit Hamikdash was cut on Chol HaMoed?

M. Goldman
(Via E-Mail)

Question: Why do we start counting sefirat ha’omer in chutz la’aretz on the second night of Pesach when the omer in the times of the Beit Hamikdash was cut on Chol HaMoed?

M. Goldman
(Via E-Mail)

Question: Why do we start counting sefirat ha’omer in chutz la’aretz on the second night of Pesach when the omer in the times of the Beit Hamikdash was cut on Chol HaMoed?

M. Goldman
(Via E-Mail)

Why does the Jewish leap year always consist of two Adars? Why specifically Adar?

Menachem
(Via E-Mail)

Why does the Jewish leap year always consist of two Adars? Why specifically Adar?

Menachem
(Via E-Mail)

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-harsh-punishments-part-i/2012/04/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: