The Passion of Nadav and Abihu
This parashah contains the story of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Abihu, who bring an extra offering of incense, which had not been required by God. When the brothers enter the Holy of Holies, they are consumed by fire — by God. The millenia-old question is: Why? Did they do something to offend God, or were they following their passion? The question is, and will remain, unresolved. In this way we have the opportunity to keep asking the questions: When do we allow passion to rule, and when do we follow the rules?
Some commentators have said that, in following their passion, God gifted them with “the ‘Divine kiss’, (Chayim ibn Attar, the Or HaChayim, 18 c. Morocco) such as experienced by the perfectly righteous; the difference is only that the righteous die when the Divine kiss approaches them, while Nadav and Abihu died by their approaching it”.
Rashi (12 c France) says that the brothers died fbecause they entered the sanctuary while drunk.
Yehuda Leib Alter (19th c) in his S’fat Emet, says they were drunk on “spiritual intoxication” — on the mysteries of, and their passion for, God’s Torah.
We are left with questions: Why did the brothers did? Did they do something to offend God, or were they following their passion? The questions are, and will remain, unresolved. In this way we have the opportunity to join in this conversation, to add our voices to the long heritage of our people, and to keep asking the questions: When do we allow passion to rule, and when do we follow the rules?
With insight from Rabbi Elyse Goldstein’s “To Die in the Exercise of Your Passion” at Ten Minutes of Torah – Reform Voices of Torah. ReformJudaism.org.