This week’s Parsha discusses the fatal mistake of Nadav and Aveeho in the service of the Mishkan, resulting in their untimely death. What was their mistake?
Chazal give many reasons for their punishment of death: paskening in front of Moshe and Aharon, serving Hashem in an intoxicated state, and not getting married, but these are merely reasons why their punishment was so severe.
The actual sin that the Torah states was that they brought a foreign fire of Ketores [incense] that they were not commanded to bring. Meaning they brought Ketores as a Nedava – a self initiated sacrifice. What was so bad about the fact that it was self initiated? Isn’t Nedava a wonderful thing? In fact Nedavos have a huge role in the Mishkan, so what was wrong with their Nedava?
The answer is that Nedava is fine for KORBANOS which are brought on the Mizbeiach Hachitzon[outer altar], outside the inner sanctum of the Mishkan. The Ketores however, is brought on the Mizbeiach Hapnimi in the inner sanctum of the Mishkan, which is not a place to bring a nedava. The reason for this is that when one is in the innermost sanctum relating to the Almighty Himself we can’t have nedava, as the focus has to be on what HE wants. This doesn’t mean that the service has to be cold and completely stunted but rather to be in touch with and muster up the emotions that He want us to express each in its proper time.
In the Haftorah we have a similar story where Uza had irreverence and lack of discipline towards the Aron and was killed, but Dovid danced ecstatically in front of the Aron in a way his wife thought was inappropriate but was in fact quite appropriate. Dovid had the discipline to have the proper balance of emotion, each in its proper time. So the the root of the sin of Nadav and Aveeho was not having the proper discipline to curb their emotions and channel them properly. In fact both of their names reflect this. Nadav is derived from the term nedava, self initiation and self desire, and Aveehu is derived from ‘he is my father’, which relates to Hashem ONLY as a father without the proper reverence one is required to give a king!
I am glad that this year Shmini came out after Purim because Purim was a time when we drank wine and brought out our innermost desires of self expression [hopefully in an uplifted way!] but doing Avoda intoxicated is forbidden for this very reason; it brings out SELF expression and when we are in the palace of the king we must have discipline to channel our emotions properly.
May we all take this lesson to heart to know when, where, and how to express each of our emotions properly, both relating to each other and to Hashem.
Based on a Shiur from Rav Yonah Sklare Shlita