web analytics
April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Avigdor Miller’

Korach: The Danger Of Quarreling

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Aharon HaKohen is distinguished for his love of peace. Korach earned distinction for failing in this area; his name has become synonymous with dispute and divisiveness. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, found in this story a striking lesson about the danger of argumentativeness and its application to every Jew.

“And he shall not be like Korach and his congregation” (17:5). This verse speaks of two principles. The first is that the memorial created by coating the Mizbeach with the metal from the censers of the dissidents who perished is intended as “a sign for the sons of Israel” (17:3) so that never again should anyone challenge the prerogative of the sons of Aharon as the kohanim of Hashem. The second principle is not to engage in quarrels – not to “be like Korach and his congregation,” allowing ourselves to be motivated by envy or desire for glory or power and thereby cause dissension among the people of Israel.

Thus one purpose of the episode was to serve as a model to warn against quarrels of every kind, domestic or business, between private persons or groups in the community. One should not say that only against Moshe and Aharon it was wrong – but that against others we may quarrel. Or that at least the sin would not be of equal gravity as in the case of Korach. The Torah declares that in every generation all Israelites are held as responsible as was Korach for any form of jealous dissension.

Although this admonition is specifically directed against future claimants to the priesthood, it is actually a general admonition against disharmony and divisiveness, as all admonitions to the nation are also intended for individuals and their private behavior.

All events in the Torah are intended as models and lessons for guidance to individuals in their personal conduct. Rambam writes, “One should hearken to his neighbor’s words and not be obstinate.… Thus the Torah commands (Devarim 10:16): ‘Circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and no longer stiffen your neck’ ” (Moreh Nevuchim 3:33). Although this admonition was said to the nation in reference to certain national misdeeds, it is intended for everyone at all times.

Similar directives for personal behavior are cited by Rambam (ibid.) from various pronouncements concerning the nation. Following this principle, whenever Hashem Speaks to any person in Scripture, or whatever Scripture says concerning an individual or the entire nation, is to be considered as a lesson for the individual behavior of every person and a requirement Hashem demands of all.

Similarly, Rabbeinu Yonah (Shaare Teshuvah 3:17) cites the commandment to “remember the kindnesses of Hashem and to meditate on them, as is said: ‘And you shall remember all the journey’ (Devarim 8:2).” This was said specifically to Israel in general so that the nation would remember the journeys in the wilderness for 40 years (ibid.), yet it is considered an obligation for every person to remember his own journey in life and always to look back with gratitude on Hashem’s many kindnesses to him.

Similarly, the admonition that the king should not become arrogant over his brother-Israelites (Devarim 17:20) is understood (R. Yonah, Shaare Teshuvah 3:34) as an admonition for everyone to follow.

“You have killed the people of Hashem” (17:7). Here the people vouch for Korach and his associates as being as fully accredited as all other sons of Israel. Even though the miraculous destruction of Korach had clearly demonstrated that this was Hashem’s will, they blamed Moshe for proposing (16:18) this punishment. By this statement the people testified that Korach and his company were truly observant and fully loyal Israelites. Had Korach and his associates openly transgressed the least commandment, they would not have been the generous encomium “the people of Hashem.”

In any previous dissension – such as the meraglim or Miriam (17:1) or the complainers (11:1) – Korach had never been named as a participant and it is certain that when Moshe called out “Who is for Hashem, to me!” (Shemos 32:26) and “all the sons of Levi gathered themselves to him” (ibid.), Korach had been among them. Moshe’s prayer to Hashem – “Turn not to their offering” (16:58) – is sufficient evidence of the worth of these opponents.

Shelach: The Merit And The Meritorious

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

One aspect of Divine Justice stipulates that through the decisions we make we help shape the world around us. Good deeds bring in their wake positive outcomes and the reverse is also true. In the mitzvah of the Second Pesach (Pesach Sheni), Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, develops this understanding and finds that Hashem manipulated history specifically for the purpose of making such outcomes happen.

“And those men said to him, why should we be held back from offering the offering of Hashem?” (9:7). Why did Hashem not teach the law of Pesach Sheni to Moshe immediately when the general laws of Pesach had been taught, and why had it been necessary to wait until these men put the question to Moshe?

This was Hashem’s stratagem to teach a lesson and bestow honor on the righteous ones. “A meritorious matter is caused to be brought into being by means of meritorious men” (Shabbos 32a). Hashem intentionally omitted any mention of Pesach Sheni when He spoke to Moshe on the laws of Pesach, and Moshe was caused by Hashem to refrain from inquiring. This “hiatus” in the Pesach laws awaited the virtuous men who would be honored by having their inquiry and Hashem’s reply recorded in the eternal Torah. Similarly, “Harm is caused to be brought about by guilty ones” (ibid).

The decree to keep the sons of Israel as wanderers in the wilderness for 40 years was actually planned beforehand but was not made known until the sin of the spies, in order to impart the lesson that the sentence of 40 years in the wilderness was caused by the guilty meraglim. Similarly, “Moshe proved worthy, and he caused the public to become worthy” (Avos 5:21): Because Moshe was the most virtuous, he was made the agent of causing the Exodus and the Giving of the Torah, though these events were foreseen and been intended from the beginning (Bereishis 9:27, 15:13-14).

In this episode Hashem teaches another principle as well: Even when a man is absolved from any obligation to perform a mitzvah, he should desire the opportunity to be obligated. These men had not been able to participate in the Pesach sacrifice and they were therefore blameless, according to the principle “The Torah absolves in unavoidable circumstances” (Bava Kama 28b). But it is not sufficient to be absolved, for the loss of the positive achievement is in itself a cause of intense regret in the minds of the righteous.

Because of the merit of these righteous men who longed for opportunities to be obligated in mitzvos, Hashem arranged that the subject of Pesach Sheni be revealed at their instigation. Otherwise, had they not inquired, Hashem would have taught the laws of the second Pesach offering to Moshe together with the laws of the first Pesach offering (Shemos 12).

Similarly, the poor man who has no money should regret the loss of opportunity to perform the mitzvah of charity to the poor. Jews in exile should regret the loss of the mitzvah of terumah and maaser. “The early chassidim longed to bring a sin-offering” (Nedarim 10a) which they could not do because they did not sin. And today we declare our regret that “We are not able to go up and to… do our obligations in Your chosen House” (Mussaf of Yom Tov). In a certain sense, the failure to perform a mitzvah is more regrettable than the sin of performing a transgression.

In Gehinnom the sinner is cleansed of the stains of his iniquities after a period of chastisement, and then he goes on to enjoy the reward for his mitzvos in eternal happiness. Thus the punishment for some sins is limited, but the payment for mitzvos is unlimited and eternal. (Journey Into Greatness)

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Beha’alosecha: Light And Reason

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Each detail in the Torah is laden with meaning. Surely the service vessels of the Temple had great importance and consequence over and above their routine service. In the description of the menorah that stood in chamber outside the Holy of Holies, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, found layer upon layer of meaning.

“Toward the face of the menorah shall the seven lamps give their light” (8:2). The number seven is always the symbol of the creation of the universe from nothing, by the Word of Hashem. “Toward the face of the menorah” is explained by some as the side facing the Holy of Holies; others say it means the wicks of the six branches were turned toward the central post with its lamp. The symbolism of the menorah includes:

1. The gift of life (“The light of G-d is the life of Man” – Mishle 20:27) is a wondrous lamp only Hashem can kindle. The menorah demonstrates that all aspects of life and its resources (as symbolized by the branches of the menorah and their lamps) should be turned with their flames facing the central post (or as others explain, toward the Holy of Holies), which would mean the central principle of complete devotion to the Creator. To emphasize the importance of this principle, Hashem specifically commanded this procedure in this verse, and the following verse again emphasizes this principle: “And Aharon did so: toward the face of the menorah he brought up its lamps.”

2. The creation of light. “And Hashem saw that the light is good” (Bereishis 1:4). This “good” is so sublimely great that we daily devote part of the morning prayers to proclaim its importance and to thank Hashem for it, and we declare that the angels are forever occupied with the function of praising the gift of light. Light is sight, in addition to warmth and food production.

3. The gift of reason. All the achievements for which we have been created are made possible by means of faculties of thought, understanding, remembering, induction and other aspects, including sanity (proper functioning of all aspects of reason). For these gifts, the menorah is kindled. (The prayer for these faculties and the expression of thanks to the Creator for them are given the first place in the weekday berachos of Shemoneh Esrei.)

4. The privilege of having the Presence of Hashem among us forever. “It is a testimony to all that are in the world that the Shechinah rests upon Israel” (Shabbos 22B), as is written: “And we shall be distinguished, I and Your people, from all the people upon the face of the earth” (Shemos 33:16), which alludes to the words just before: “By Your going with us” (ibid.).

5. The request for Hashem’s favor toward us: “Hashem should cause His face to shine upon you” (6:25 above). “And the light of Your face, that You favored them” (Tehillim 44:4). Our greatest desire is to find favor in His eyes, and the menorah bespeaks our prayers and our gratitude for His favor.

6. The gift of Torah: “For mitzvah is a lamp, and Torah is Light” (Mishle 6:23). Our greatest gratitude is for this gift Hashem bestowed solely upon us: “And now, if you shall listen to My voice (i.e. if you shall accept My Torah) and you shall keep My covenant, you shall be to Me a unique treasure from among all the peoples. And you shall be for Me a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation” (Shemos 19:5-6). The chief part of this Covenant is the Oral Law: “The Holy One blessed is He made a Covenant with Israel solely because of the Oral Law” (Gittin 60B). Other nations profess to practice some laws from the Holy Scriptures, but they did not invade the sanctuary of the Oral Law, which was unknown to them. (Journey Into Greatness)

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.  For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Naso: A Donation Of Incense

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Parshas Naso is notable for its length, and its length is notable for its redundancy. The Torah minces no words, and therefore we understand that the repetition in the description of the Mishkan’s inaugural service is purposeful and laden with meaning. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that this is a reflection on the importance and centrality of the Mishkan.

“And the nesi’im brought their offering” (7:10).

The purpose of the offerings by the nesi’im was to enhance the honor of the service. When the most important men demonstrate their service to Hashem, the people become greatly influenced. “The princes of the peoples [the tribes] are gathered together, the people of the G-d of Abraham; for when the shields of the land [the leaders] belong to G-d, He becomes greatly exalted” (Tehillim 47:10).

Wealth and power are given solely to be used for adding to Hashem’s honor. “Why is the property of the wealthy confiscated by the [gentile] government? [One reason:] Because they did not use their power to prevent transgressors from sinning” (Sukkah 29A, B). When the wealthiest became reformers and assimilationists, they caused the greatest havoc. Sir Moses Montefiore, who was the most important Jewish dignitary in England, left a tremendous impression on the Jewish nation.

Because the nesi’im honored the service of Hashem, they were given the privilege of offering ketoret. Montefiore, by his loyalty to Torah observance, produced a fragrance of immense honor to Hashem’s Torah; similarly, when any powerful or prominent Jew demonstrates his fervent loyalty to Hashem, it is a ketoret offering to Hashem. All the offerings of the nesi’im were accompanied by the Minchas N’sachim, as required by the Torah, consisting of a minchah offering and also a wine offering as specified in Bamidbar 15. The Minchas N’sachim is not mentioned, for it is understood that this is required; but the ketoret is mentioned because it is exceptional – solely in this instance – that anyone could donate it.

“And he who presented his offering on the first day was Nachshon ben Aminadav of the tribe of Yehudah” (7:12). We might ask why the Torah did not merely say, “These offerings were brought by each of the nesi’im; on the first day was Nachshon ben Aminadav of the tribe of Yehudah, on the second day was Nathanel ben Zuar…” instead of repeating for each of the nesi’im individually all the details of his offering. All brought exactly the same offerings, and therefore it might appear as an unnecessary expenditure of the priceless Torah text merely to repeat again and again the same description.

But we must keep in mind the Mishkan had been declared by Hashem (Shemos 25:8, 29:45) to be His place of residence, thus making this the center of the entire universe. The dedication of the Mishkan was no less important than the Creation of the World: “A Mikdash of Hashem that Your hands established” (Shemos 15:17); “the handiwork of the righteous ones [that fashioned the Mishkan] is even greater than the creation of heaven and earth” (Kesubos 8A), and they are the Creator’s hands. Thus every day of the dedication-offerings by each of the nesi’im was no less momentous than the appearance of a new sun in the heavens that filled the world with its light.

Each of the nesi’im came with his offerings and incense to enhance the splendor of Hashem’s palace. If we would understand the vastness of the importance of Hashem’s residence among the sons of Israel, we would surely realize that each day of the dedication deserves to be repeated in the Torah.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Bamidbar: A Unique Awareness Of Hashem

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

The Generation of the Wilderness was unique in the history of Israel, as Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains concerning the first verse of Bamidbar. Israel was slated for a special mission in the world, and this mission was begun with a special forty-year inauguration in which Israel gained an intense and unmatched closeness to Hashem.

“In the wilderness” (1:1). This subject cannot be properly understood without recognizing clearly the following guidelines:

A) Never again in the history of the holy nation was the Presence of Hashem among our people demonstrated as strongly and as clearly as in the wilderness. The Mishkan was the most holy sanctuary we ever possessed and Hashem was recognized by the Wilderness Generation in a manner far beyond any other genration or period in history.

B) Never again was our nation concentrated together in one area as they were in the wilderness. Such total national unity was never repeated.

C) Never again did our nation possess a leader who even partially approached the greatness of Moshe.

D) Never again did our entire nation have such a protracted era of leisure to study the Torah.

E) Never again was the nation isolated from the influence of the nations of the world as totally as in the wilderness. When Moshe blessed Israel and prayed for the nation’s optimum happiness, he said: “And lsrael dwelt in security, alone is the fountain of Jacob” (Devarim 33:28).

He thereby enunciated the two chief purposes for which the nation had spent 40 years in the wilderness: 1) betoch (security of trust in Hashem alone) and 2) badad (isolation). By living in an environment where a multitude could not survive, they gained the awareness that Hashem is the sole source of our sustenance. By clustering around the Mishkan; by the powerful influence of Moshe; by the clouds of glory; and by the daily mann, lsrael learned the awareness of Hashem in all aspects of l. Here they gained the attitude of total isolation from the nations and their ways. Thus the wilderness was the grand preparation for lsrael’s future history.

In addition, the period of the wilderness was the model of the great test of this world: the test to recognize Hashem and His kindliness.

“And you shall remember all the way which Hashem your G-d has led you these 40 years in the wilderness, in order to afflict you, to test you, to know what is in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He afflicted you, and He caused you to hunger, and He fed you the mann which neither you or your fathers knew, in order to make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but by all that comes from the mouth of Hashem does a man live. Your garment did not become worn out upon you, and your foot did not swell, these 40 years. And you should know in your heart that as a man chastises his son, so Hashem your G-d chastises you” (Devarim 8:2-7).

“For Hashem your G-d has blessed you in all the work of your hand; He has known your walking in this great wilderness; these 40 years Hashem your G-d has been with you; you have lacked nothing” (ibid. 2:7).

These verses seem contradictory; if they lacked nothing, how can it be said that “He afflicted you and He caused you to hunger” and that “Hashem your G-d chastises you?” But this was part of the test in the wilderness, and it serves as a model for the test of all mankind in every generation. Actually, they lacked nothing essential; and even when their circumstances seemed hopeless, Hashem was waiting in concealment to test them, but the help was prepared for them and was sure to come. The wilderness period supplied episodes of apparent crisis and seeming disaster or what appeared to be great discomfort and privation. But it was all a phantom, planned for the purpose of testing the people; Hashem was always nearby to succor them that they should survive. And all that happened was done solely “to do benefit to you in your end” (Devarim 8:16).

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.
For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Parashat Emor: Learning Compassion

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

The Talmud tells us that compassion is one of the three traits that distinguish the nation of Israel (the others are shame and kindness). The Torah abounds with commandments that exercise this quality, and Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that they are given for exactly that purpose. Among these commandments are those that protect the welfare of animals. About these, Rabbi Miller explains that the true compassion we must learn is not for the animal but for ourselves.

“And an ox or a sheep, him and his son you shall not slaughter on the same day” (22:28).

This applies solely to cattle, sheep and goats but not to non-domestic animals, even the permissible species.

“If one should pray: ‘You, Hashem, are merciful even to the nest of a bird,’ we bid him be silent” (Berachos 33b). Two reasons are given: 1) He explains the mitzvah as a mercy, but the release of the mother bird is a decree of Hashem which we fulfill as His servants and our intention is only to serve Him. 2) If the purpose was compassion, the same law should apply also to deer.

Hashem does not need our agency for mercy upon the mother bird, and He Himself can bestow His mercies without our aid. He gave us mitzvos to do His will, which is the highest achievement of mankind. Therefore we serve Him out of gratitude to our Creator. But the Creator gave us the mitzvos (which we do solely to serve Him) with the intention that we refine ourselves by means of His service (Vayikra Rabbah 13:3).

“Rabbi Shimlai taught: Torah begins with the doing of kindness and concludes with the doing of kindness” (Sotah 14a), which implies that all that is between the beginning and the end is also for kindliness. But the kindliness of which Rabbi Shimlai speaks is actually the kindness of Hashem to us, because the study of Hashem’s Torah and the fulfillment of His precepts are the very greatest forms of Hashem’s kindliness to us. And we learn that while we gain the perfection of doing the will of Hashem, we are also at the same time acquiring more perfect qualities of character, of which this mitzvah is one example.

The law (22:27) that prohibits a korban less than eight days old applies solely to offerings. For ordinary use, if we know the gestation had been full term, it may be slaughtered as soon as it is born (Shabbos 136a); otherwise we wait until the eighth day. The second law, that the mother and the offspring should not be slaughtered on the same day, applies also to non-korbanos. In the first case, if he transgressed and slaughtered before the eighth day the animal is not permissible to be eaten. In the second case, if he slaughtered the mother and offspring on the same day, we may eat them (the shochet must wait until the following day).

This commandment forbids the slaughter of the offspring and its mother even many years after the birth, when animals have already lost any awareness of kinship. Thus we perceive that Hashem gave this law because of His compassion for us – for we humans would consider it cruel to slaughter both the parent and the offspring in one day, even though the animals themselves have already lost any emotions of kinship. Thus it becomes evident that these are not laws to protect the emotions of the animals but rather to train the holy people in the character trait of compassion upon all His creatures.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.
For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Insights From The Plague Of Leprosy

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Although the tzoraas affliction is no more in contemporary times, it teaches lessons that are eternal. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that foremost among these lessons is the greatness of Torah leaders and their wisdom. Another lesson: The opportunity the affliction presented to the afflicted for repentance and self-improvement.

“To Aharon the kohen or to one of his sons the kohanim. And the kohen should see the nega and the kohen shall shut up the [man of the] plague seven days” (13:2-4).

For the sake of brevity the verse could have stated, ”He should be brought to one of Aharon’s sons, the kohanim,” but we see that it is preferable that Aharon himself should be consulted if possible. We are hereby taught that we should always seek the most authoritative Torah opinion if it is available.

The leper is entirely dependent on the verdict of the kohen. He is brought to the kohen (13:2), and the kohen must see him (here, and 13:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 20, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 34, 36, 39, and 43); and similarly in the case of leprosy of garments and leprosy of a house, the kohen is constantly mentioned. Now the kohen becomes the central figure in this man’s life. No other lsraelite is as dependent on the kohen. (Even if a non-kohen is a great Torah scholar, he does not have the authority to declare the man unclean or to pronounce him clean [Negaim 3:1 and Arachin 3a]. Even an Elder of the Sanhedrin can do no more than to instruct the kohen, but the actual pronouncement must be made by the kohen.)

The benefit Hashem intended was to bring us into contact with the Torah teacher; and the most beneficial contact is with the greatest Torah teacher. Thus, when a question of kashrus arises, we should perceive that Hashem caused this question to arise in order that we meet the Torah sage who may have for us instruction and counsel even more important for us than the kashrus question.

When the sage is greater, the encounter with him is so much more valuable. “Righteousness, righteousness you should pursue” (Devarim 16:20); ”Go after the best beis din… after the sages in the Marble Chamber” (Sanhedrin 32b). Not only will the greatest sages give you the truest opinion, but their influence upon you will also be the most effective: “to Aharon the kohen.”

Each time the man came to the kohen with a heart hovering between hope and despair, we can be certain the kohen did not coldly render his decision but spoke words of encouragement and consolation and urged the man to exert himself in prayer and in repentance. After his contact with the holy son of Aharon, he certainly became a different person; and that indeed was Hashem’s intention in sending the plague upon him.

During his seven-day period of separation he is given the opportunity to repent. and thus he may be spared. “When a man sees that suffering comes upon him, let him search into his deeds” (Berachos 5a). The purpose of the plague, and of misfortunes in general, is to make men more aware of Hashem; and especially to remind them how great was Hashem’s kindliness hitherto that He had spared this man from such misfortune. “He that chastises nations, is He not showing something [or: is He not rebuking?], He that teaches Knowledge to man” (Tehillim 94:10).

This Knowledge has chiefly of two aspects: that Hashem conducts all the affairs of the world, and that He bestows happiness on mankind. Even now, in his misery, the leper is more blessed than chastised: if he is able to see, to talk, to think rationally, to walk, to eat and to sleep, he must learn to be grateful and to understand that the blessings are more than the suffering.

He now should repent and learn to thank Hashem for all the good days he had enjoyed hitherto but had failed in the function of singing in joy to Hashem; and he should even now be grateful for all that Hashem gives him in abundance. The leper should also find solace in the very great benefit that his plight causes others to fear Hashem.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Shemini – Strange Fire

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

The commentators discuss the meaning and implications of the “strange fire” brought as an offering by Nadav and Avihu. In his discussion of this perplexing passage, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, discusses their early demise and observes that their death served a greater purpose (through the sadness that ensued) and that despite receiving a divine death penalty, the Torah regards them as great people.

And the sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, took each one his censer and they put into them fire, and they put upon it incense and they offered before Hashem strange fire which he had not commanded them” (10:1).

The Midrash Tanchuma here (Shemini) offers a long preface which quotes numerous examples where sadness occurs in the midst of happiness. The Midrash continues: “Never did we see a man and his wife who saw such happiness as Aharon and his wife Elisheva, the daughter of Aminadav; her husband served as kohen gadol and as a prophet; Moshe her husband’s brother was king and prophet; her sons were officers of kehunah, and her brother Nachshon was the chief of all the n’siim of Israel; but her joy did not persist, and her two sons entered to bring an offering and a fire came forth from Hashem and consumed them. Thus it is said [Tehillim 75:5]: ‘I said to the gay: be not merry.’ ”

From this it is obvious that the plan of Hashem had from the beginning intended to interject sadness into the midst of great joy, for the purpose of teaching that the sole true and unadulterated joy is in the Afterlife. Whatever sin the two sons committed, the severity of their fate was planned also to supply a lesson to exercise caution in performance of Hashem’s service.

But a sadness had been decreed beforehand. Thus the most righteous, Moshe, was denied entry into the blessed Land; and though his 120 years were completed and he could not live longer, this was utilized as an additional opportunity to rebuke: “Because you were disloyal to Me” (Devarim 32:51).

Hashem had commanded, “And the sons of Aharon the kohen shall put fire on the mizbe’ach (1:7) and the two sons of Aharon hastened to offer the ktores which should precede the burning of the olah (Yoma 33a). The fire that came forth from Hashem actually devoured their ktores (together with them) and then consumed the olah and the fats (as in 9:24). Though they were punished for taking action before consulting their master Moshe (Eruvin 63a), yet upon them it is said, “There is a righteous man that perished in his righteousness” (Koheles 7:1 5). “This refers to Nadav and Avihu that entered to offer for the honor of Hashem and they were burned” (Yalkut Shimoni, ibid.).

The matter is far from simple, and we should remember that these two were privileged to ascend with Moshe and Aharon and the Elders of Israel to see the vision of the G-d of Israel (Shemos 24:1). “Said Rabbi Chiya bar Abba: On the first of Nissan the two sons of Aharon died; why is their death mentioned on Yom Kippur? To teach that just as Yom Kippur atones, so also does the death of the righteous atone” (Yalkut Shimoni, Vayikra 10:1).

Actually, in this instance the ktores was not required before the olah (as the order is stated in Yoma 33a), because the order of the daily offerings was not followed now at the especial service of the dedications of the Mishkan, for this was not the olas tamid, but an especial offering for this occasion.

The name Nadav implies generosity of soul, or “volunteering.” It was probably his nature to volunteer to serve Hashem of his own accord, and therefore he offered that “which Hashem had not commanded” as an additional and voluntary service.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/shemini-strange-fire/2012/04/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: