When Moses said kohanim should light the fire, he was talking about the mizbe’ach ha’chitzon, not the mizbe’ach ha’penimi (for which one is supposed to take the fire from the outer altar and not light one oneself). The Torah Temimah goes further and explains that Nadav and Avihu did not deserve punishment for what they did with their own firepans. For this action, they were clearly shogegim; they sinned due to an error, not purposely. Rather, they deserved punishment for assuming that the inner altar was subject to the same rules as the outer altar without asking Moses. They violated the serious law of issuing a ruling in the presence of their master, and thus incurred their fatal punishment.
(To be continued)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.