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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Consultation (Acharei Mos)

By Rabbi Sender Haber

After the death of Aharon’s two sons Moshe came and told Aharon that he should not enter the Kodesh Hakodashim.

Rav Yosi Haglili confirms that the sons of Aharon had been killed as a punishment for their entry.

Something seems wrong here. If the sons were punished for bringing a strange fire or for being intoxicated, one could argue that they had been warned. But here there was no hint at all that the brothers were not allowed to enter the holy of Holies. Why the punishment?

One could argue that we are dealing with cause and effect – that the holiness of the space caused them to expire - but that does not seem to be the approach of Rav Yosi Haglili.

I think the answer lies in a Medrash Rabba. The Medrash teaches that Aharon’s sons actually committed four sins: They entered the Holy of Holies, they brought a strange fire, they brought the wrong sacrifice, and … they did not consult with one another.

Some cleverly seek to explain this last transgression of not consulting with one another based on the rule that only one person may enter the Kodesh Hakodashim at a given time. Since Nadav and Avihu didn’t collaborate they ended up coming simultaneously, breaking this rule and becoming liable for death.

I think the explanation may be much simpler.

Whenever we embark upon something holy, exciting, and new, we need to humble ourselves and check with somebody else. There is an arrogance to saying, “there is one spot on earth that is holier than any other and I am going to be the first one to enter it”. It may come from a good place and it may even be a good sentiment, but Nadav and Avihu should have at the very least conferred with one another before taking the step.

The Torah is acquired B’chavrusa and B’Eitzah – through companionship and advice.

Perhaps the brothers were punished for entering because they should have consulted with someone else first. Maybe they would have come up with a different idea. Maybe they would have realized that only Aharon should go in, and only on Yom Kippur, and only for a minute.

This was Moshe’s message to Aharon at the beginning of this week’s Parsha. “Your sons cannot be excused for entering the Kodesh Hakodashim on their own. You didn’t enter. You waited to discuss it with me. Now I am here as your brother to tell you that it is a good idea. This is how you should enter the Holy of Holies…”

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