"The sons of Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, each took his fire pan, they put fire
in them and placed incense upon it; and they brought before G-d an alien
fire that He had not commanded them. A fire came forth from before G-d and
consumed them, and they died before G-d." (Vayikra/Leviticus 10:1-2) At
this moment of great intimacy between G-d and the Jewish Nation, they were,
Rashbam (1) explains, motivated to bring the daily incense that Moshe had
not yet told anyone to bring. They were unaware that Moshe was waiting for
a Heavenly Fire to descend and consume the incense, to have an even greater
sanctification of the Divine Name. How could two so righteous individuals
have made such a tragic miscalculation?
The Medrash Yalkut Shimoni (#524) expounds that "each took his fire pan"
indicates that each took his on his own without consulting one another.
Each thought they were fulfilling G-d's will with this bold step. As
people of great spiritual measure - as Moshe consoled his brother, "Of
this did G-d speak, saying 'I will be sanctified by those nearest to
me...'" (v.3) - they must have given the act great forethought. How would
consultation have altered the result? After great contemplation they both
came to the same conclusion that it was a great act of piety to bring this
alien fire. Would not that conclusion have been further solidified had
they consulted with one another?
Rabbi Alter Henach Leibowitz (2) explains that the give and take of
conversation is not merely an opportunity to confirm previously determined
rationales. Rather, the reduction of thoughts and emotions to clear,
concise expressions and the verbalization of one's reasoning and
justification compels one to delve deeper into the issue until he
discovers the core truth.
Indeed, Pirkei Avos (Ethics of the Fathers, 6:6) states that one of the
forty-eight essential qualities for acquisition of Torah is "friends
attentive to detail". Generally, this is thought of as referring to friends
who will correct errors. But from our situation, concludes Rabbi Leibowitz,
we comprehend another facet. When one has a friend with whom he can share
and discuss his thoughts, the friend's attention to detail will oblige the
speaker to clarify the issues and arrive at the truth.
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) Rabbi Shlomo ben Meir; 1085-1174; grandson of Rashi and brother of
Rabbeinu Tam, he was a leading Tosafist and Talmudic commentator
(2) Rosh Yeshiva/Dean of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim of Kew Gardens Hills, New
York, in Chidushei HaLev, the compilation of his discourses