Vol 32.16 - Acharei 1 Spanish French Audio Video
According to the interpretation of the Or HaChayim, the Torah portion of Acharei begins1 as follows: “G‑d spoke to Moshe of the death of Aharon’s two sons Nadav and Avihu, who drew so close to G‑d that they died.”
The verse thereby indicates that Nadav and Avihu so adored G‑d, that though they realized that drawing too close to Him might result in their demise, this did not prevent them from striving for a union and ecstasy so powerful that it literally caused their souls to flee their bodies.
Earlier on,2 the Torah tells of Nadav and Avihu’s passing in greater detail: “Aharon’s sons … offered incense before G‑d … which G‑d had not instructed them.” The verse goes on to say that this offering led to their passing. Evidently, Nadav and Avihu’s drawing so close to G‑d that it caused their demise was related in some way to their offering incense. What was the relationship?
There is3 a fundamental difference between the spiritual service involved in bringing sacrificial offerings on the Outer Altar and the spiritual service involved in offering incense on the Inner Altar.
The main spiritual component of sacrificial offerings brought on the Outer Altar was the elevating of the physical to G‑d.4 Thus, physical animals were brought and their fat and blood were placed on the altar, whereupon a heavenly fire would descend and consume the offering5 — the animals would thus be elevated and incorporated within holiness. Consequently, the general intent of Outer Altar offerings was that man would interact with worldly things and elevate them to G‑d.
This was clearly not the case with regard to offering incense on the Inner Altar. There the main aspect of the service was the kohen’s entrance into the Holy — and on Yom Kippur into the Holy of Holies — so as to be able to unite and become one with G‑d through the ascent of the fire, incense and cloud of smoke.6
In terms of man’s individual spiritual service, the difference between the offerings brought on the Outer Altar and the incense offered on the Inner Altar is as follows:
The sacrificial offerings on the Outer Altar relate to the “external aspect of the heart,” so that the main emphasis is on the person’s fulfillment of G‑d’s will in thought, speech and action — these being the soul’s garments, not its essence.
The incense on the Inner Altar, however, relates to a more profound level of service, wherein an individual strives to cleave to G‑d by revealing his soul’s internal reality — that level which is always at one with Him. When this level is revealed, the person’s thought, speech and action will fulfill G‑d’s will as a matter of course.
This difference is also implied by the Hebrew root words for offerings and incense, korbanos and ketores. The word korban comes from the root karov ,7 which means “to draw close.” When an individual brings an offering, he draws close to G‑d. Still, it is entirely possible to draw close but nonetheless continue to exist as a distinct entity. Ketores, however, comes from the word katar ,8 which means “to bind,” i.e., the person becomes inextricably bound up and united with G‑d, becoming wholly one with Him.
The connection between Nadav and Avihu’s drawing so close to G‑d and the spiritual service of incense will be understood accordingly. Drawing so close to G‑d that one dies is similar to the offering of incense. In other words, Nadav and Avihu were conscious of and responsive to the intense internal level of union with G‑d that emanated from the essence of their souls. It was this feeling that brought them to offer ketores, thereby utterly attaching themselves to Him.
So intense was their feeling of unity that they offered incense without even having been commanded to do so; their union with G‑d was so intense that they knew instinctively what to do; a command was not necessary, for their unity with G‑d enabled them to be cognizant of His will.
Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XXXII, pp. 98-101.
2. Ibid., ch. 10.
3. See Likkutei Torah , Naso, p. 29a; Sukkos 88d; Toras Chayim, Shmos, p. 444b ff.; Derech Mitzvosecha 86b ff.
4. See Tanya, ch. 34 (43b).
5. Yoma 21b.
6. See Vayikra 16:13; Yoma 53a.
7. Sefer HaBahir, sec. 46 (109). See also Zohar, Vol. III, p. 5a; Shaloh, Tractate Taanis (211b).
8. Zohar , Vol. III, p. 11b, 37b. Shaloh, ibid.; see also Likkutei Torah , Naso, p. 22d.
1. In the explanation of the reason that the Torah states that the saying of the command to Aharon:
“He should not come at all times into the Holy”
“after the death of Aaron's two sons, when they drew near before the L-rd, and they died”,
the Sages expound that it was because the command came to exhort him (לזרזו) more than that sin, that his sons transgressed, namely that they entered into the Holy (when they drew near before the L-rd) and they died. Therefore Aharon was commanded “He should not come at all times into the Holy . .so that he should not die” – meaning that “he should not die the way his sons died”.
The Or HaChaim explains (according to one of the manners) that the verse in the beginning of the Parsha “And the L-rd spoke . . after the death . . when they drew near before the L-rd etc..” was an independent statement, whose subject was – the virtue of the Avodah of the sons of Aharon that died “when they drew near before the L-rd”.
“The Word of G-d to Moshe regarding the manner of their death which was in this manner that they died “when they drew near before the L-rd” meaning that they drew near to the supernal light with holy desire and this is why they died (and this is the secret of Neshika – “death by Divine kiss” – by which the Tzaddikim die)”
And the verse alludes to the “wonder of the dearness of the Tzaddikim, that even when they feel that they are approaching death, nevertheless they do not refrain from attaching themselves to the pleasant, delight, beloved, dearness, kissing, sweetness until their souls expired from them” (לא נמנעו מקרוב לדביקות נעימות עריבות ידידות חביבות נשיקות מתיקות עד כלות נפשותם מהם ).
(According to this explanation, it is (also) answered why the verse here is stated plainly and does not specify their sin
(That is explained in Parshat Shemini: “and they brought before G-d a strange fire, which He had not commanded them”).
but just states that: “when they drew near before the L-rd”, is because, in itself, this was a virtuous aspect)
Seemingly, according to this explanation, clarification is needed as to why the place of this Word (story) is close to the command to Aharon that “He should not come at all times into the Holy”?
One must say that even according to this explanation, the knowledge of the manner of their deaths (which is death by Divine Kiss etc.) is a preface to the aforementioned command “He should not come at all times into the Holy etc.”). However, it is not according the (aforementioned) explanation that it is a exhortation from the sin, but rather it is a positive reason (למעליותא).
2. One must also understood the words of the aforementioned Or HaChaim:
How does his commentary of when they drew near before the L-rd, and they died”
(That they drew near to the supernal light with holy desire . . until their souls expired from them)
fit with the simple understanding of the story in Parsha Shemini that “each of them took his fire-pan, placed fire on it and then placed incense upon it and they brought before the L-rd a strange fire, which He had not commanded them”, namely that they did a deed that “He had not commanded them”
(In other words that it was a sin here, alien (זרה) from G-d’s will)
There are those that explain, that according to the view that the sons of Aharon died because they entered the Mikdash while intoxicated – that the
“The explanation of ‘that He had not commanded them’ does not meant that it is was a reason for their death but rather, in order to make known that of their own accord (שמעצמם) they gave it and not that they were commanded to do so .. and the explanation of ‘for their offering of strange fire’ means at the time of their offering the strange fire; and the explanation of ‘when they offered’ means at the time of their offering - not that they died because of their Avodah”
(Similarly, one could explanation the verse according to the Or HaChaim
(That their death was due the depth of their drawing “near before the L-rd”) -
that when it states “and they brought . . a strange fire, which He had not commanded them” it is not a story of an undesirable deed, but rather a side statement (מאמר המוסגר)
(That they died at the time of their offering a fire that they had not been commanded to do so, but rather they offered it of their own accord).
However it still requires explanation:
For according to all the opinions that are cited in the Midrash etc., - the death of the sons of Aharon was in the realm of a punishment for the sin
(And the debate is only - what the sin actually was, and in conjunction with this – the greatness and severity of their sin)
Yet according to the Or HaChaim there emerges an innovation that their death was not a punishment for sin (for they did not sin) but on the contrary – a death by Divine kiss (which is how the Tzaddikim die) meaning that is was an expiring of their soul because of the great yearning for G-d (כלות הנפש).
3. One could say that the foundation of the explanation of the Or HaChaim is (also) in the plain meaning of the verses of Parshat Shemini:
In the flow of the story of the death of the sons of Aharon there, it is told that Moshe said to Aharon: “this is what is meant by the verse 'I will be sanctified through those near to Me’” ( בִּקְרֹבַ֣י אֶקָּדֵ֔שׁ) and the Sages explain (and this is cited by Rashi - the simple understood of the verse – on the Torah) that Moshe said to Aharon “My brother Aharon, I had known that the Temple would be sanctified through the beloved ones of the Omnipresent, but I thought it would be either through me or through you. Now I see that they (Nadav and Avihu) were greater than I or you!”
The essential aspect of “I will be sanctified through those near to Me’’ is explained by the commentators, according to the wording of the Talmud, to mean that it is “in order to sanctify the honor of G-d upon them“ – “to make known the He is awed over those that fear him and his acquaintances “.
In other words, since they are “those that fear him and his acquaintances” meaning that they are extremely close to G-d, therefore G-d is exact with them to judge them even with a minor infraction (שגיאה קטנה), and through this (namely, through the punishment over a hair’s width (כחוט השערה) infraction), the honor of G-d is established and His fear in all of Yisroel.
However according to this, the words of the Sages “the Temple would be sanctified through the beloved ones of the Omnipresent,” is not understood.
Because from this it is understood the death of Nadav and Avihu effected (not just that the name of G-d was sanctified among Bnei Yisroel, but also) that the Temple was sanctified. And if the whole aspect is just the revelation of the honor and fear of G-d through the punishment etc. – it is puzzling, seemingly. For is it possible to say that an undesirable deed (even if that sin is just in the slightest etc.) could cause the sanctification of the Temple?!
(And one cannot say that regarding Nadav and Avihu themselves, this was a desirable Avodah, and that the lack thereof was just because of the concern that maybe other Bnei Yisroel, who were not of the stature of Nadav and Avihu, would learn and copy from their deeds and Avodah. – for at the end of it all, this itself that their deeds caused a stumbling was itself something that is considered a sin, a semblance of something prohibited, “not to place a stumbling block (לפני עור)
(For specifically, because of the greatness of their stature, they should have been careful, with extra alacrity, not to mislead others from their deeds in creating a deterioration (קלקול)”)
And how can one say that a deed such as this would cause a sanctification of the Temple?)
Therefore from this there is a foundation to the words of the Or HaChaim, that not only were Nadav and Avihu “greater than me and you” before the offering of the strange fire, but in addition, this very deed itself, did not contain any aspect of sin (in any form). On the contrary, it was a very lofty Avodah that drew down a very lofty level of holiness, so much so that it had the power to sanctify the Temple.
According to this one could say that according to the explanation of the aforementioned Or HaChaim, that the words of the verse: “and they brought before G-d a strange fire, which He had not commanded them” comes to emphasize their great virtue, that their Avodah was on a very lofty level, so much so that it was impossible to command it, because it was above the realm of command – therefore “He had not commanded them”, as will be discussed.
(And that is why it is called a “strange fire” – for since it is above normal Avodah, it is in the realm of “strange” (compared to the normal Avodah in the Temple), “strange”, in a positive sense).
4. This can be understood by prefacing and additional explanation in the words of the aforementioned Or HaChaim, that where he writes that “they drew near before the L-rd” it refers to the “great closeness and attachment of the two sons of Aharon with G-d”:
It is explained in the verse that “drew near before the L-rd” was an additional deed to that which “each of them took his fire-pan, placed fire on it and then placed incense upon it and they brought before G-d a strange fire”. In other words the “their drawing near“ was connected with the deed of the incense. And it is probable to say that they are not two different aspects, but rather the same concept – that it represents the great yearning for G-d so much so that it reaches the expiry of the soul. This is expressed by that which they offered incense “before G-d”.
One could say that the explanation in this is:
It is explained in many places that there is a general and foundational difference between the Avodah of the Korbanot on the outer altar versus the Avodah of the Ketores/incense on the inner altar:
The nature of the offering of the Korbanot on the outer altar, is the elevation of physicality to G-d. And this is manifested plainly, in that we bring a physical animal (etc.) and we offer its fat and blood on the altar. And heavenly fire descends and consumes it and it is included in the G-dly fire.
In other words – the nature of the Avodah of the Korbanot is the act of the person in the articles of the world (בחפצי העולם) that are outside of him, in order to elevate them to G-d.
However, the primary aspect of the Ketores that is on the inner altar, is not the elevation of physical things to G-d (and we are commanded: “Do not bring upon it strange (unauthorized) incense; neither burnt-offerings nor meal-offerings. You shall not pour a libation-offering upon it”. But rather the Kohen enters the holy to offer the Ketores and the connection with G-d is through the raising of the fire of the Ketores and the smoke.
In Avodah HaAdam:
The Avodah of the Korbanot on the outer altar represents the Avodah that is from the externality of the heart (חיצוניות הלב), whose aspect the influencing of the external portion of the person. This is in order that the person fulfill the will of G-d in deed speech and though, which are garments of the soul of the person.
However, the Avodah of the Ketores that is on the inner altar represents the connection of the person with G-d through the revelation of the pnimiyut of his soul (that is connected with G-d) – and this revelation automatically influences his garments of thought speech and deed, in order that they be fitting, according to G-d’s will.
And this aspect is also alluded to in the difference between the words “Korbanot” and “Ketores”:
The word “Korban” is from the word “close/קירוב”. For through the Korbanot the person comes close to G-d. And it is possible that although he comes close to G-d, nevertheless he remains an independent being (דבר בפ״ע) that comes close to G-d.
Whereas the word “Ketores” is from the word “connection/קשור” and attachment/ .חיבור
(Similar to what it states “and his soul is bound with his soul”. And also regarding Yonatan and David it states: “and the soul of Yonatan was bound with the soul of David, and Yonatan loved him as his own soul”)
For the nature of the aspect of the Ketores is not just that the person comes close to G-d (through his Avodah in through speech and deed), but rather that he becomes connected and attached to G-d.
5. According to this, the connection between the two aspects in the Avodah of the two sons of Aharon – namely:
1. Their “when they drew near before the L-rd and they died”
2. The offering of the Ketores
The essence of the aspect of “when they drew near before the L-rd and they died” is their great closeness and attachment to G-d, so much so that it reached actual expiry of the soul. And this why they offered the Ketores in the holy, for then (on the eighth day of the Inauguration) they were illuminated with the revelation of the pnimiyut of their souls, and this is why they offered Ketores – since they were connected to G-d (similar to what it states regarding the Rashbi that “I am bound to You with one knot – with G-d” (בחד קטירא אתקטרנא בי׳ ב־קוב״ה״).
And this is also what is meant by “and they brought . . a strange fire, which He had not commanded them”:
Concerning the Avodah of the outer altar (the externality of the heart) there is an aspect of command. For since the person is an independent being, his coming close to G-d is through the fulfillment of G-d’s command in thought speech and deed.
However, with the Avodah of the Ketores – meaning when a person connects and attaches his soul with G-d – when his connection is in a very lofty manner, then at times, there is no need for a command to fulfill the will of G-d, for the fulfillment of G-d’s will comes automatically, due to that which he feels the will and intent of G-d so much so that he connects with Him.
(And one could say that this is a glimmer of the words of Rambam that when the evil inclination of a person is strong (and the inner will is covered and hidden) that there is a reed to force him (לכפותו) to fulfill G-d’s will. However when the person’s true will is revealed, then there is no need for force, for the inner and true will of each and every one of Yisroel is to fulfill G-d’s will)
And this is what is meant by the words: “which He had not commanded them” – that the Avodah of the sons of Aharon was in the level of “He had not commanded them” – that the boundary of command was not applicable, since they were on a level that did not require command, and all of their deeds and aspects were done according to G-d’s will of their own accord and automatically.
6. According to this one can also explanation why it states, specifically by them, that “I will be sanctified through those near to Me’” (בִּקְרֹבַ֣י אֶקָּדֵ֔שׁ) and that Moshe said to Aharon “My brother Aharon, I had known that the Temple would be sanctified through the beloved ones of the Omnipresent, but I thought it would be either through me or through you. Now I see that they (Nadav and Avihu) were greater than I or you!”:
For seemingly one should examine what exactly is meant by “the Temple will be sanctified” – for this was after “all seven days of the investitures, when Moshe erected the Mishkan, performed the service in it” and after the Avodah of the eighth day of the investitures – for then “the Shechinah descended to Yisroel”. And as it is states in the verse that “the glory of the L-rd appeared to all the people. And fire went forth from before the L-rd and consumed the burnt offering and the fats upon the altar, and all the people saw, sang (praises), and fell upon their faces”
And since the Shechinah had already rested on Yisroel, what else was lacking in the sanctification of the Mishkan?
However, just as with a person there are two manners and levels, Avodah of the Korbanot which is related to the outer altar (the externality of the heart) where the person is an independent being that fulfills the command of the Creator – and the Avodah of the Ketores on the inner altar (the pnimiyut of the heart) where the person fulfills the command of the Creator in a manner of Ketores, that he connects and attaches with the Creator until he becomes one –
Similarly it is with the object of the Mishkan - that it contains two manners and levels of holiness and the resting of the Shechinah:
1. “The Shechinah descended to Yisroel” – meaning that the Mishkan was an independent aspect and that is where the Shechinah descended.
2. The Temple was sanctified - meaning that the resting of the Shechinah and the holiness of the Temple was not in a manner that they are two separate things that come close, but rather that the holiness is in the essence and the body of the Temple.
And one could say that they are two levels in the “G-dly fire that descended”:
“And fire went forth from before the L-rd and consumed the burnt offering and the fats” represents that which the Shechinah descended to Yisroel, for this came thorough the Avodah of Aharon, as Rashi precisely states: “My brother Aaron is more worthy and important than I, insofar as through his offerings and his service the Shechinah will dwell among you”. In other words through the Avodah of the Korbanot outside- the outer altar.
Whereas “fire went forth from before the L-rd and consumed them” represents the sanctification of the Temple, and this came
(Not through the Korbanot, - the Avodah of outside, the externality of the heart, but),
through the Ketores of Nadav and Avihu – “and they brought before G-d a strange fire, which He had not commanded them” - a connection and attachment with G-d that is higher than command.
Therefore Moshe said “Now I see that they (Nadav and Avihu) were greater than I or you!”.
For he saw that through his Avodah and the Avodah of Aharon the Temple was still not sanctified in the epitome of completeness. This is similar to what Rashi says before this that “all seven days of the investitures, when Moshe erected the Mishkan, performed the service in it, the Shechinah did not rest in it. The Israelites were humiliated . .Therefore, Moshe answered them, “This is the thing the L-rd has commanded; do, and the glory of the L-rd will appear to you. My brother Aaron is more worthy and important than I, insofar as through his offerings and his service the Shechinah will dwell among you”
Similarly, also through Aharon’s Avodah that accomplished the resting of the Shechinah, the Temple was still not “sanctified completely”.
Specifically Nadav and Avihu, whose Avodah was with Ketores which is above command, the epitome of connection and attachment to G-d - they accomplished that the Temple was sanctified. Therefore Moshe said “Now I see that they (Nadav and Avihu) were greater than I or you!” For they, specifically, are the “beloved ones of the Omnipresent,” - which through them, the Temple was sanctified.
7. According to this, one can also explain, even according to the commentary of the Or HaChaim that is written here specifically regarding the (virtue of the Avodah and) death of the sons of Aharon that it was in a manner of “they drew near before the L-rd and they died.” For this aspect is a preface to the following Parsha where it explains the entering of the Kohen Gadol once a year in the holy of holies.
The essence of the Avodah of Yom Kippur where the Kohen Gadol enters, as an emissary of all Yisroel, to offer the Ketores in the holy of holies, represents the entering of the pnimiyut of each one of Yisroel in the place of the Temple and in the holy of holies of the world. For there the Shechinah rests and the holiness of G-d is united.
(Which is why the space/ מקוםof the ark is not in the realm of measurement (אינו מן המדה) - because there, the level which is above place, illuminates and is revealed in the physical place of the holy of holies)
And this itself is the reason that Yom Kippur atones, as it states:
“For on this day He shall effect atonement for you to cleanse you. Before the L-rd, you shall be cleansed from all your sins”.
For the whole aspect of sin and transgression (“that separate between you and between your G-d”) is just from the level of Bnei Yisroel as being independent beings, that that their connection to G-d is through the fulfillment of His commands. Therefore by transgressing G-d‘s command, G-d forbid, the connection is weakened. However when the pnimiyut of the soul of Bnei Yisroel is revealed - that even at the time of the sin, nevertheless they are with Him – which is the cleaving and attachment to Him, the one people who affirm Your Oneness (חבוקה ודבוקה בך, יחידה לייחדך). This is applicable to the “before G-d”, pnimiyut and above the (name) Havaya (G-d) – from this level, the sins and transgressions, that were done because of the outer powers of the person (בכחות החיצוניים), are nullified.
And all this is explained in another place, at length (Likkutei Sichos 4:1151)
And concerning this level of Yom Kippur it states in the conclusion of the Parsha:
“All this shall be as an eternal statute for you, . . once each year”
For this level of “once” (Yechidah) that illuminates on Yom Kippur must influence the entire year, that each one of Yisroel be at this level and condition, that the pnimiyut of his heart illuminates him visibly in a manner that all the aspects of Torah and Mitzvot are observed by him, not (just) in a manner of a yoke and forced, but that this is his desire and the pnimiyut of his will. Therefore, he fulfills them in a manner that it is from his own volition and automatically, “He had not commanded them” similar to “he bowed by himself”, (מנפשי׳ כרע) in a positive sense.
And just as this is related to the aspect of the fast on Yom Kippur:
For because of the great level of Bnei Yisroel – that on Yom Kippur they “resemble the ministering angels”, this aspect, that they do not eat on Yom Kippur is not because of the command but because of the holiness of the day, (like the well-known saying of R’ Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev) “who wants to eat!”. So much so, that the fast of Yom Kippur is an aspect of pleasure, as it states “to enliven them with hunger” – that they receive vitality (pleasure) from the hunger itself.
And this is the preface of the statement “after the death of Aaron's two sons, when they drew near before the L-rd, and they died” - that because of the great drawing near and attachment of their souls with G-d, so must so until the expiry of the soul, this effects and draws down into each one of Yisroel that the “once a year” of Yom Kippur is able to come into revelation in the pnimiyut of his soul in attaching himself to G-d, in a manner that he does not need a command in order to fulfill the supernal will.
However at the inauguration of the Mishkan, on the eighth day of the commencement, it was in a manner of “they died”, actual expiry of the soul, since then it was necessary to “sanctify the Temple (through the beloved ones of the Omnipresent)”.
However after this, the revelation of the level of the pnimiyut of the soul of each one of Yisroel, specifically needed to be in a manner that “and not die”, specifically a soul in a body, with long life and good years, to make for G-d an abode in the lower realms.
Msichas Shabbat Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim 5745
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