|From The Rebbe's Tish: Shemini|
|Written by Rabbi Shmuel Brazil|
The children of Aron, Nadav and Avihu died because they brought a strange fire upon which they were not commanded. However, our Chazal state that the reason that Hashem took away their lives was because they drank wine prior to performing the service during the dedication of the Mishkan. Proof to this is the fact that immediately after their demise Hashem commands that wine should not be drunk during the service in the Mishkan. Still another reason is forwarded by Chazal that they were not married when they performed the avodah. In order to answer this contradiction we must first understand the motivation behind their conduct to drink wine prior to the avodah. They were tzadikim of the highest caliber and it would seem unbefitting for these kedoshim to become inebriated at such a holy event.
The answer lies in this point. It is because they were so close to Hashem that they were in such trepidation to enter the Mishkan. If one does not realize the utter greatness of Hashem, it facilitates talking and requesting from Him without the feeling of incredible chutzpah by first contemplating or reckoning one’s own shortcomings in fulfilling His demands. The closer one comes to Hashem the more fearful and nullified he becomes upon seeing His awesomeness. It is at the point when one needs to increase his boldness to approach the awesome that he partakes from a little measure of wine just to foster and boost his courage to perform the task at hand. This is all they drank explains the Netziv in his pairush Haamek Davar. Lehavdil prior to a person’s speech before an audience of millions, he just might take a shot of whiskey just to take off the edge of nervousness and make the delivery smoother. Here as well, Nadav and Avihu were almost paralyzed to approach the Mishkan would it not have been for the little wine that they drank beforehand.
If so, what did they do wrong to warrant their deaths? The command not to drink any wine during the avodah only came about after their death? I would like to suggest the following interpretation. I want to ask a simple question. What is not Torahdik about taking drugs to get high and drinking to intoxication? Of course there is the danger to one’s health as we all know. However there is also something morally wrong as well. Man alone was created with bechirah. He is the sole creation that is a free moral agent to choose good or evil. The Rabbeinu Yonah learns that every virtuous bechira that Man make’s he fulfills thereby the mitzvah of Ubacharta Bachayim. To put oneself in an unnecessary state of living [unlike sleep] which dulls one’s cognizance and senses and hence his moral responsibility for his actions, nullifies the essence of Man and uproots and eradicates his uniqueness and purpose of creation.
The Torah is so worried about Man losing his bechira that Hashem commanded to build a special place where Man can regain the bechirah that he lost back. For Rav Huna says that a person sins once and then again the avaira becomes so much less severe in his eyes that it is tantmont to permissiveness. What Rav Huna is teaching us is that in each particular avairah it is possible to lose one’s free choice. The first time we struggled not to transgress. Once we failed, the second time we are less resistant to hold back. While the first time it might have been a fifty to fifty fight, the second time it has become seventy five to twenty five if that. The Torah therefore commands that the sinner should come to the Beis Hamikdash and bring a korban with teshuva for his transgressions thereby bringing his bechirah in that particular avairah back to par fifty against fifty. This is how important it is for man to preserve his bechirah and not fail in his moral obligations.
The Beis Hamikdash is called the Beis Habchira which literally means the house that was chosen. However another interpretation is the house where one can regain his lost bechirah. It is the designated place to reconstruct his lost uniqueness and definition of Adam Any state detracting from Man’s conscious cognizance dulling his ability to make full bechirah, would be a blatant contradiction to the essence and purpose of the Beis Hamikdash. The transgression would be even more severe during the time of its dedication. It was here that Nadav and Avaihu sinned. True that their intention for drinking a small amount of wine was admirable in that it was to encourage them with stamina to perform the avodah, but nevertheless it dulled their bechira and by doing so they contradicted the essence of the Beis Habechira during the dedication ceremony.
The Torah describes their avairah as an asih zarah that they brought a strange fire. Yet the Chazal on the other hand say they drank wine and that was the cause for their untimely deaths. According to our explanation both interpretations complement each other. Every individual has incredible power which Hashem invested in him allowing one to make full bechirah. If Nadav and Avihu would have made a superhuman effort to draw “fire” from within themselves to encourage them with the passion to do the avodah, then they would not have had rely on an external stimuli to raise their level of courage and inspiration. The little wine that they drunk was considered by Shamayim an aish zarah a strange fire for it came from the outside and not from the fire that lies within the person himself.
In this way we can also understand our Chazal when they said that Nadav and Avihu were not married. Marriage brings out the full bechirah of a husband. A woman was created as an aizer kenegdo which is translated by many as helping him by being his opposition. Not everyone is willing to relate or make you aware of your faults thereby leaving them unnoticed and uncorrected. An aishis chayil will somehow reflect back to you your shortcomings thereby bringing you full swing back to complete bechira. In an unmarried state one misses a lost opportunity to constantly learn how important it is to be in the state of full bechirah. For marriage is like building a Beis Hamikdash. The Satmer Rav ztl used to explain the Yiddishe beracha that we give to a chasan and kallah which is that their zeevug should be oleh tzu yafeh [that the marriage should go up to the level of yafeh]. In the sefer hamitzvos of the Ramban the 95th mitzvah is building the Beis Hamikdash. One wishes the new couple that they should elevate themselves to yafeh which is gematriah 95, an inference that together they should merit to build their Beis Hamikdash. In our words it means their marriage should nurture constant experiences of personal challenge and growth enabling the constant cycle and process of attaining and regaining full bechira.
A Yid has to very deeply believe in himself and his ability to conquer his yetzer harah successfully. That even when he fails he can bring his bechira back up to par and regain his lost uniqueness as an Adam. Don’t let your incredible malchus fall out of your hands and not reach your designated potential.