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April 4, 2013 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Tzav

This week’s portion contains a story that is a bit less dry than most of what we’ve read so far in Leviticus: the story of Nadab and Abihu, two of Aaron’s sons who offer “alien fire” (Lev. 10:1) and then mysteriously die.  What happened to these men? Why were they struck down?  The midrashim and medieval commentators have a wide variety of explanations.

Levine has one too.  He emphasizes Moses’s statement after this disaster: “This is what Hashem meant when he said: Through those near to me I show Myself holy” (10:3).

Who are “those near to me”? Levine suggest that the priests are “near” to God, since some portions of Ezekiel use similar language to refer to priests.  According to Levine, It logically follows that when priests act correctly, they “sanctify God” “while when they “flout God’s will, he exercises his punitive power, compelling all to recognize his authority.”

In other words, the punishment of Nadab and Abihu shows God’s power and holiness by showing the masses that the priests are not above Divine punishment, even for the most seemingly trivial offenses- in fact, maybe especially for the most trivial offenses.

This incident fits in with the Torah’s anti-idolatry agenda- in particular, its general willingness to show its readers that leaders sin and are punished; the Torah is trying to tell us that even the best men are far below God and should not be treated as infallible.

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