Vol 7.14 - Acharei 1                      Spanish French Audio  Video

Hebrew Text:

Page 117   Page118   Page119   Page120   Page121   Page122   Page123   Page124   Page125   Page126   Page127  



(5730) Explanation of Rashi (Lev. 16:1) "And the L-rd spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons: ... Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah illustrated the answer with a parable of a patient etc"

Explanation of the story that when Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was appointed as the head of the academy when he was eighteen years old, a miracle happened to him, and "eighteen rows of his hair turned white".


Why was it necessary to stress to Aharon that the prohibition of entering the Holy of Holies was "after the death" of his two sons"! (v. 1-2)

RASHI: Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah illustrated this with a parable of a patient who was visited by a doctor. The doctor said to him, "Do not eat chilled foods, and do not i.e. down in a cold, damp place." Another (doctor) visited him and said, "Do not eat cold foods or lie down in a cold, damp place, so that you will not die like so-and-so died." (Clearly) this doctor motivated the patient more effectively to follow his instructions than the first doctor.

Thus the verse states (that Aharon should be warned not to enter the Holy of Holies,) "after the death of Aharon's two sons."


Our Parsha opens with the prohibition against Aharon, the High Priest, entering the Holy of Holies at any time other than Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). This command is particularly unusual in that, rather than merely being informed what the prohibition was, Aharon was given extra motivation to observe the command through being warned that his sons had died through negligence in this area. Rashi cites the parable of R' Elazar ben Azariah, who compared this to a doctor warning his patient of the severe consequences of failing to heed his medical advice.

The following points, however, require clarification:

  1. Why did Rashi need to cite an analogy of two doctors? Surely the point is made clear from the advice of the second doctor alone ("Do not eat cold foods or lie down in a cold, damp place, so that you will not die like so-and-so died.”)?
  2. Why did Rashi compare Aharon to a "sick person," suggesting some sort of deficiency on Aharon's part? Surely, it would be more appropriate to compare Aharon to a well person who was warned not to do a certain activity that might prove detrimental to his health?
  3. There are many things which can worsen the state of health of a sick person, G-d forbid. Why did Rashi pick specifically the cases of "eating chilled foods" and "lying in a cold, damp place"?
  4. Why did Rashi cite the author of the parable—R' Elazar ben Azariah? Of what relevance is it, at the literal level, to know the original source of this idea?


As a direct consequence of the passing of Aharon's sons, who entered the Holy of Holies while intoxicated, two commands ' were given to the priests:

  1. The prohibition of a priest performing Temple service while intoxicated (above 10:8-11),
  2. The prohibition of entering the Holy of Holies v 1-21.

In the first case. Aharon was simply given the without any special warning or motivation. But here, when receiving the instruction not to enter the Holy of Holies, Aharon was warned explicitly that his sons had died through being lax in this area.

So Rashi was troubled: (f Nadav and Avihu had died through being lax with both precepts—

  1. being intoxicated while performing service, and,
  2. entering the Holy of Holies

then why was Aharon only warned here that his sons had died through negligence in the latter case, when negligence was equal in both cases?

To answer this question, Rashi cited the parable of a sick person who desired to eat chilled foods and Sleep in a cold damp place. Presumably, the sick person desired this because his temperature was so high that he was desperate to make himself cooler in any way possible. And, even hearing advice of first he simply could not refrain from eating the chilled food etc. even though generally speaking he did listen to the doctor's advice, since he found his high temperature absolutely unbearable. Thus, a more graphic warning was required in this Case: "Do not eat foods or lie in a cold, damp place, so that you will not die like so-and-so died."

With this analogy, Rashi explains clearly why Aharon might have been tempted to disobey this command, despite his otherwise impeccable observance of the Mitzvot:

Aharon's love for G-d, and his desire to come close to Him was so great that he may have chosen to enter the Holy of Holies, even it cost him his life. For he may have felt that being close to G-d was even more important than continued physical existence in a body—just as his sons had indeed concluded. (see Ohr HaChaim)

In Other words, Aharon was literally "love-sick" for G-d to such an extent that he may have been tempted to ignore the prohibition of entering the Holy of Holies, in order to come closer to G-d. Therefore, Rashi cited an analogy of two doctors, to illustrate how in this case normal instructions (given by the first doctor) might prove insufficient, and he needed an especially strong warning.


One more subtle question that remains unanswered after the above explanation: Where do we find, at the literal level, that Aharon, had such an intense yearning to be close to G-d that he would be willing to give up his life for it? Nadav and Avihu did indeed possess this quality, but we do not appear to find it explicitly in Aharon himself.

Rashi hinted a solution to this problem by citing the author of this parable - R' Elazar ben Azariah:

The Talmud relates that R' Elazar ben Azariah was appointed as the spiritual leader of the Jewish people at the young age of eighteen. When his wife heard he was to receive this appointment, She doubted that he possessed sufficient maturity for the position at such a young age, and exclaimed, “Why, you do not even have any white hair!" The Talmud relates that G-d performed a miracle, causing R' Elazar ben Azariah to have white hair overnight. This was as a sign from above that he did indeed possess sufficient knowledge and maturity, despite his young age (see Berachot 27b).

This, however begs the question: how was it possible for a young man of a mere eighteen years to be so mature?

Presumably, this because of his fine lineage—as the Talmud relates that he was a direct descendant of Ezra—through which he inherited qualities that enabled him to reach a remarkable Level of knowledge and maturity in a short of time.

Thus, says Rashi, if we bear in mind that it was R' Elazar ben Azariah who offered the above parable of the doctors, then we will understand why Aharon would have been "love-sick" for G-d, desiring to enter the Holy of Holies. For since we find that Aharon’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu, did indeed possess such a love of G-d, we can only presume that they inherited this quality through their lineage, as descendants of Aharon. So, it follows that Aharon would have an equal—if not greater Iove of G-d as his two sons. for their emotional attachment G-d was directly inherited from their father.

Gutnik Chumash. Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. 7 p. 117 ff.




Date Delivered:   Reviewer:       
Date Modified:    Date Reviewed: