Photo Credit: Rabbi Shlomo Rosenblatt
Rabbi Shlomo Rosenblatt

This week’s parsha discusses the great tragedy of the deaths of Nadav and Avihu. The loss of these two holy tzaddikim was a blow to the whole Jewish nation. Every event in the Torah, specifically the actions of tzaddikim, show us the correct way to lead our own lives. In this week’s parsha we read about Aharon HaKohen‘s response to the loss of his two righteous sons. By examining how Aharon reacted we can learn how to deal with life’s challenges.

In describing the reaction of Aharon, the Torah is very brief saying vayidom Aharon – and Aharon was quiet. Chazal question the need for saying this. If after Moshe tells Aharon of Nadav and Avihu’s death it doesn’t say vayomer Aharon, then we can infer that Aharon was quiet. Why does it specifically say vayidom? There is a big difference between the lashon of vayidom and the lashon of vayishtoke. The meaning of vayishtoke is “and he was quiet.” Vayidom, however, doesn’t only mean silence, it implies being unmoved.

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There is a hierarchy in Hashem’s creations. The highest level is that of Yisrael, being a Jew, and the lowest level is domam. The lashon of domam is used to describe inanimate objects such as rocks and earth. So, too, Aharon was unmoved. This can’t be because Aharon was unfeeling; in fact we know the opposite was true. Aharon’s love for every Jew was tremendous, how much more so for his own children. What is the meaning of Aharon’s lack of reaction?

Ask any believing Jew these basic questions: Do you believe in Hashem? Do you believe everything that happens comes from His hands? Do you believe that all Hashem does is for our own good? The answer to all these questions would be an emphatic “Of course”! Why is it then, that when sorrow strikes, we aren’t as confident in this belief of Hashem’s ever-presence and ever-goodness? Simple. Even though these ideas are a belief for us, they aren’t as much of a reality as the present challenge. The sorrow can overwhelm our ability to comprehend the knowledge that everything is from Hashem and is for a purpose. Belief is pushed aside by reality.

We can now comprehend Aharon HaTzaddik and his quiet. For Aharon, these beliefs of hashgacha partit were a reality, and nothing could supersede it. He was quiet because he didn’t have any doubts. The same trust in chasdei Hashem that existed before the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, existed afterwards. This is what is meant in vayidom Aharon – he was unchanged in his emunah and bitachon by this tragic news.

The next topic in the parsha is the law that it is forbidden to enter the Mishkan in a state of intoxication. As a reward for Aharon’s silence, Hashem addressed only Aharon when teaching this halacha.

What connection is there between Aharon’s silence and this halacha? On a basic level, Rav Yishmael teaches that Nadav and Avihu sinned by being slightly intoxicated when they brought their korban. Thus, we now learn that it’s forbidden to bring korbanot in a state of intoxication. However, there is a deeper connection between these two topics. What is the reason for the issur of getting drunk before the avodah? It is because when a kohen is doing the avodah he must have an awareness of Who this korban is going to. It must be crystal clear that he is serving the Creator of the world. When a person is drunk, he doesn’t have the ability to appreciate this as much. His brain isn’t functioning at full capacity and therefore the kohen’s hakarat haBoreh is lacking.

In many ways a challenge can cause a similar reaction. When a person is overwhelmed, his seichel, his logic takes second seat to the powerful emotions of grief. At that moment a person’s seichel isn’t functioning at full capacity. The sorrow that he feels blocks out his ability to remember that everything is from Hashem. This is the greatness of Aharon. Upon receiving the sad news, he still had a fully aware seichel and an appreciation of chasdei Hashem that functioned at full strength. Therefore, Aharon alone was addressed in this mitzvah. The Ribono Shel Olam said to him, “You have demonstrated the ability to always make the seichel in charge. Therefore, you can fully appreciate the issur of being drunk by the avodah.”

This is the lesson which we can all learn from Aharon. During life’s challenges the hakarat haBoreh must remain foremost in every Jew’s mind. He can’t let his emotions engulf his realization of l’olom ki tov. He must maintain silence, not chas v’shalom because he can’t challenge Hashem’s actions, but because he knows that ma’asei Hashem are for his own good. The emotions may not be able to appreciate this, but the intellect must.

In the previous generation we witnessed heroes in the mold of Aharon haKohen. Anyone who had the privilege of knowing a survivor saw his or her unbelievable strength. Many survivors lost their entire family and lived through indescribable horrors. The ability of these tzaddikim and tziddkaniyot to not only survive, but to rebuild a new world is awe inspiring. They knew that there were questions that could never be answered. But they also knew that the true answer is that there is a Creator who has a Master Plan. A prime tool of the yetzer hara is to cause us to get overwhelmed with emotions such as grief, sadness, fear and confusion. At these times we need to strengthen our siechel and emunah. For there is only one true reality, that of Hashem’s kindness to his children. Everything that seems to question this ultimate truth is nothing but fiction.

May we be zoche to make our own belief become reality, and may to the day when we will see how all of history was for Klal Yisrael’s good.

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Rabbi Shlomo Rosenblatt gives a daily daf yomi shiur and has been a rebbi at Yeshiva Derech HaTorah for 15 years. His talmidim and alumni are the inspiration for his divrei Torah; there is no better way to stay connected than through Torah.