Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Shemini

After the seven days of excitement and joy upon the consecration of the Mishkan and the installation of Aharon and his sons as the priests of Israel devoted to the service of God and humans, tragedy strikes the family of Aharon and all of Israel. The commentators to Torah as well as the Talmud itself searched for the causes that created this sad situation. They attempted to answer the omnipresent question of life – why do bad things seemingly happen to good people? And there is a corollary question involved here as well – why did tragedy strike then and there?

Far be it for me to venture into explanations where greater people than I have been troubled and found it difficult to properly answer these questions. The will of God remains inscrutable to all of us in all times and in all circumstances. Yet Judaism, in its essence, remains a religion of logic and rationality, all rumors to the contrary notwithstanding.

Maimonides bids us to attempt to understand and explain all of God’s commandments and human events to the best of our rational abilities. So, these most basic questions of human existence and personal and national purpose, of reward and punishment and Divine justice must command our attention, even if at the end of our search we still will come up somewhat short on satisfying answers. The questions underlying the events described in the parsha of Shmini go to the heart of Jewish faith and worldview. They require investigation and serious analysis.

A review of the opinions expressed in Talmud and by the commentators, do not at first glance reveal any major transgressions on the part of Nadav and Avihu. True, Aharon’s role in helping create the Golden Calf may explain his being brought to grieving for his two eldest sons, but it was Nadav and Avihu who died, not Aharon.

Their sins seem to be only minor human foibles that are common to almost all of us – unwillingness to bear the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood, personal ambition to lead the people and overzealousness in their worship of God and in the service of the Mishkan by introducing a ritual of different fire on the altar not commanded by God. We see here, once again, that the Torah places great emphasis on the small things in life, on the details and not only on the grand sweep of things.

Small mistakes often lead to great tragedies. And the Torah teaches us that personal failures that can be tolerated in most humans are magnified and are not overlooked when they occur to people in positions of power and leadership. The scale of Heavenly tolerance, so to speak, is a sliding one, dependent on the status, accomplishments, abilities and public position of the human person being judged.

There is a special sin offering reserved for the leader of Israel. The accepted usual sin offering is insufficient if we are dealing with the sins of leadership. This is one of the key lessons of this parsha. God’s justice is personal and exacting. Nadav and Avihu are the prime examples of this truism.

Shabat shalom

Rabbi Berel Wein


Crash course in Jewish history

Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com


 






ARTICLES ON SHOFTIM AND ELUL / ROSH HASHANAH:

View Complete List

Giving in to the Dictates of One's Heart
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5759

Sound of the Unheard Shofar
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5764

It's Never Too Late
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5765

Looking for a Chavrusah?

The Special Role of the Kohen Who Reminds Us of the Source of Success at War
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5771

The System Must Prevail – Right Or Wrong
- 5768

Weighing In
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5763

> Rosh Hashana and the Kiss of Life
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5772

Protection For The Way
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5771

To Crown a King
Shlomo Katz - 5767

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Shoftim - - Judge For Yourself
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5765

Benefiting from the Benefit of the Doubt
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5767

Our Own Akeidah
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5766

ArtScroll

Repentance and Changing History
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5759

Tapping Into Our Meritorious Pedigree
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff - 5768

Preparing for Rosh Hashana and Shmittah
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5774

Judges, Kings, Workers & Scholars
Shlomo Katz - 5771



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information