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A Timely Torah Message By Shaya Gross

[Editor’s note: As a memory of my beloved brother Shaya, I would like to continue sending out his pearls of wisdom that he has shared with all of you in the past. For some of you this may ring a bell and for others it may appear to be totally new. May the learning of Shaya’s Divrei Torah inspire us to change our ways and thereby give an Aliya to the neshama of our dear beloved Shaya whom we miss so much.]

This week’s Parsha, Parshas Shemini, discusses the fatal mistake of Nadav and Aveehu in the service of the Mishkan, resulting in their untimely death. What was their mistake? Chazal offer many reasons for their punishment of death, including: paskening in front of Moshe and Aharon, serving Hashem in an intoxicated state, and not getting married. However, 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 voluntary sacrifice. What was so bad about the fact that it was self initiated? Isn’t a 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 a 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 [inner altar], 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 a 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 for Parshas Shemini, we have a similar story where Uza had irreverence and lack of discipline towards the Aron HaKodesh 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 Aveehu 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

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