by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS SHMINI 5762 BS"D
Ch. 9, v. 9: "Va'yakrivu bnei Aharon" - Rabbi Shlomo Kluger in Imrei Shefer points out that throughout the parsha of the eighth day of dedication of the Mishkon neither Aharon nor his sons are referred to as "haKohein" or Kohanim." Since two of Aharon's sons would die on this day their honourable title is not used, as per the verse "v'ein shiltone b'yom hamovves" (Koheles 8:8).
Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin in Oznayim laTorah correlates this with the verse in Bmidbar 7:28, which deals with the death of Aharon and his son Elozor being invested with his father's position, where the term Kohein is again not used. He adds that although we do find "shom meis Aharon .. va'y'CHA'HEIN Elozor bno tachtov" (Dvorim 10:6), that verse is later recounting the death of Aharon but is not a narrative of his death itself.
Ch. 10, v. 1: "Va'yakrivu lifnei Hashem AISH ZOROH" - The gemara Eiruvin 63a, Sanhedrin 52a, and numerous medroshim give varied reasons for the death of Nodov and Avihu. The Chid"o in Pesach Einayim says that the words AISH ZOROH, spelled Alef-Shin-Zayin-Reish-Hei are an acronym for the list of sins. Alef = Aish Zoroh - a foreign fire, Shin = Sh'suyim - intoxicated, Zayin = Zera - they had no children, Reish = R'chitzoh - they did not sanctify their hands and feet prior to their service, Hei = Horu - they made an halachic ruling in front of their teacher Moshe.
Please note that these five sins are not exhaustive of all that is mentioned in gemara and medroshim.
Ch. 10, v. 1: "Asher lo tzivoh osom" - When a person does a mitzvoh and brings himself close to Hashem his soul cleaves to Hashem, as indicated by the word "mitzvoh," whose source is "tzavsa," joining. If done with sufficient purity and emotion, one's soul could easily leave the body. It is in the merit of the mitzvoh itself that is being performed that a person is protected from "klose nefesh," expiring, the soul leaving the body as it cleaves to Hashem. Nodov and Avihu had such elevated intentions that they reached this level but were not protected by their act, as it was "asher lo tzivoh osom."
Ch. 10, v. 1: "Asher lo tzivoh osom" - Nodov and Avihu died because they entered the Mikdosh without permission. If so, when idol worshippers entered the Beis Hamikdosh to destroy it, why didn't they immediately have Heavenly retribution visited upon them? The Medrash Shochar Tov answers that unfortunately they did receive an invitation, as per Z'charioh 14:17, "Hin'ni korei l'chol mish'p'chose ho'oretz ....."
Ch. 10, v. 2: "Va'teitzei aish milifnei HASHEM vatochal osom" - The M'ga'leh Amukos asks why the verse uses the Name HASHEM, a Name of mercy, rather than Elokim, a Name of judgement, when relating that Nodov and Avihu were killed? Although we find the Name HASHEM where evil people were punished, such as "va'yar HASHEM ki raboh ro'as ho'odom" (Breishis 6:5), "va'yomer HASHEM emcheh," (Breishis 6:7), "vaShem himtir" (Breishis 19:24), which teach us that evil people are capable of turning mercy into stern judgement and retribution (see Rashi on Breishis 8:1), surely here by Nodov and Avihu, two exceedingly exalted people, this does not apply.
The Shem miShmuel answers that we find in Vayikroh 16:1 "b'korvosom lifnei Hashem va'yomusu," - when they came close to Hashem and they expired. This is explained as "klose nefesh," a clinging and joining of one's soul to Hashem to the point that the soul leaves the body. Of course, this is contrary to halacha, as one must do everything in his power to remain alive, "vochai bo'hem" (Vayikroh 18:5). When one acts this way, from heaven the response is in kind, an unbridled closeness that draws the soul out of the physical body. Obviously this response from heaven is not in the realm of Elokim, but rather, a "misas n'shikoh," from HASHEM.
Ch. 10, v. 2: "Va'teitzei aish milifnei HASHEM vatochal osom" - Even though one of the reasons for the death of Nodov and Avihu that is offered by the gemara Eiruvin 63a is that they entered the Mishkon after having drunk intoxicating beverage, the Rosh says that on a simple level he has difficulty in understanding this. Firstly, we have a rule that "ein onshin elo im kein mazhirin" (gemara Sanhedrin 56b), that a punishment is not administered unless one is first apprised of there being a prohibition. The ruling prohibiting entry to the Mikdosh in this manner was only given after this incident (10:8-11). Secondly, even if they did deserve to be punished for this infraction, the punishment is "misoh bi'dei Shomayim," death by Heavenly intervention (Rambam hilchos bi'as Mikdosh chapter #1).
According to the opinion that they entered the Mishkon after having consumed wine, from where did they get the wine? Some commentators offer that they consumed manna with the thought that it should taste like wine, quite a "chidush!"
On a simple level we can say that they purchased wine from merchants who they chanced upon in the desert. Indeed, the Meshech Chochmoh in parshas Matos (30:1) brings a Medrash Shir Hashirim (4:26), which says that the wine for libations was purchased from merchants. Rabbi Yishmo'eil says that the Rabbinical prohibition against wine of an idol worshipper was not yet instituted.
Ch. 10, v. 2: "Va'teitzei aish .. va'yomusu" - The gemara Y'vomos 64a says that Nodov and Avihu never married. The medrash says that they reasoned, "Our paternal uncle (Moshe) is a king, our maternal uncle is a tribal leader, our father is the Kohein Godol, we are Vice Kohanim G'dolim (s'ganim). Do there exist women who are worthy to become our wives?"
Their not marrying is derived from the words "u'vonim lo hoyu lo'hem" (Bmidbar 3:4). These words taken at face value do not clearly state that they did not marry, rather only that they had no children. Staying with the literal sense of these words we are even able to say that they might have had daughters, but no sons. Indeed this is the opinion of the Targum on Divrei Hayomim 1:24:1.
Ch. 10, v. 2: "Va'yomusu lifnei Hashem" - The Holy Zohar says that Pinchos was so frightened upon entering the room where Zimri was sinning, fearing being killed by Zimri's fellow tribesmen, that his soul left him. Hashem revived him by placing the souls of both Nodov and Avihu into him. When these souls of Kohanim entered him, he became a Kohein. This is alluded to in Bmidbar 25:11. Pinchos the son of Elozor and also the son of Aharon, as he was now a reincarnation of Nodov and Avihu, "haKohein," is now a Kohein. The Chidushei Hori"m says that with his courageous act he corrected the flaws of Nodov and Avihu. They brought a foreign fire that they were NOT COMMANDED to bring, while Pinchos with fiery zealousness acted properly, although he was also NOT COMMANDED to do so, "bo limloch ein morin lo" (gemara Sanhedrin 82a). As well, they sinned by giving a halachic ruling in front of Moshe. Pinchos also ruled in front of Moshe, but did so correctly, as Moshe momentarily forgot that "kano'im pogin bo." Perhaps another matter was rectified. They illegally entered the Holy of Holies with their incense. Pinchos, at the risk of his life, entered the defiled of defiled, the room where Zimri was actively sinning with Kozbi bas Tzur.
Ch. 10, v. 6: "U'vigdeichem lo sifromu" - Rashi on the gemara Makos 22b d.h. "nif'r'mu" says that "primoh" means ripping at the seams. ("Krioh" means ripping the material itself.)
Rashi on the gemara Brochos 39a d.h. "praminhu" writes that "prima" is the cutting up of vegetables in a manner where the unwanted parts are cut away and the best desirable parts are left. Perhaps the word PRIME has as its source the word "primoh."
Ch. 10, v. 6: "Lo sifromu" - As mentioned in the previous offering, "primoh" means ripping at the seam, while "krioh" means ripping in the actual material. Why indeed did Moshe warn Aharon's remaining family members to specifically not rip their garments at the seam?
The Ramban in his commentary on the Rambam's Sefer Hamitzvos, mitzvoh #164 writes that this command was not among the 613 mitzvos, as it was only a command for the male member's of Aharon's family at the time of the death of Nodov and Avihu and not for all generations. This is most puzzling, as Aharon and his sons were actively doing the Mishkon service at the time and were dressed in the priestly apparel. If so, why was there a need to warn them to not rip their garments since there was already a prohibition to do so from the words "lo yiko'rei'a" (Shmos 28:32)? This problem is compounded if we take into account the opinion of the Ramban himself that there is no Torah requirement to rent one's garment upon the death of a close relative.
Rabbi Chanoch Henoch Eigish in his responsa Hamarcheshes volume O.Ch. #12:1:6 explains that the Rambam in hilchos klei mikdosh 9:3 writes that for one to be culpable for lashes for ripping priestly garments he must rip them in a destructive manner. When the Rambam mentions this prohibition in regard to the "m'il" he does not mention "in a destructive manner" as the "m'il" was woven in such a manner that when one would rip through the serged reinforced edge of the opening for the Kohein Godol's head, the fabric would totally fall apart, surely a destructive ripping.
In any case, the Kohanim were indeed already prohibited from destructively ripping the priestly garments through the material itself, as per the words "lo yiko'rei'a." This is why Moshe told them to not rip their garments in a "primoh" manner, even on the seam, a non-destructive ripping. He told them to display no form of mourning.
Ch. 11, v. 42: "Kole holeich al gochon" - Rashi (Toras Kohanim 11:163) says that this refers to a snake. Rabbeinu Bachyei on verse 30 writes that although there are 8 rodents that defile on contact, the snake is an exception. The Torah does not want the snake to defile so that people will not be reluctant to kill this dangerous creature. The words of Rabbeinu Bachyei are to be found in the Medrash Va'yosha.
The mishneh Sanhedrin 2a brings the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer that whoever is first to kill a snake has a merit, as he has rid the public of a dangerous nuisance.
It is interesting to note that the Holy Zohar on parshas Yisro page 68b writes that Rabbi Chizkioh saw a snake and was about to kill it when Rabbi Eliezer told him to leave it alone because a snake does not bother a person unless it is decreed from Above that it should, and if it is decreed one should not tamper. Either Rabbi Eliezer changed his opinion or Rabbi Eliezer mentioned in the Holy Zohar is not the same Rabbi Eliezer of the first mishneh in Sanhedrin.
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