Friday, April 23, 2004

Parshat Shemini #4: Nadav and Avihu: What did they do wrong? Also, Elazar and Itamar

Parshat Shemini #4: Nadav and Avihu: What did they do wrong?

In the post below I presented my "conspiracy theory" - that Nadav and Avihu did nothing wrong and their death was just a work accident.

Now I present what I consider a more likely scenario, on the basis of context of Elazar and Itamar, and in comparison to a parallel occurence in the Torah.

The specific parallel was the congregation of Korach, in Bemidbar 16.

In Bemidbar 16, Korach challenges Aaron for the high priesthood.
Pasuk 1:
וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח, בֶּן-יִצְהָר בֶּן-קְהָת בֶּן-לֵוִי; וְדָתָן וַאֲבִירָם בְּנֵי אֱלִיאָב, וְאוֹן בֶּן-פֶּלֶת--בְּנֵי רְאוּבֵן.
Pasuk 3:
וַיִּקָּהֲלוּ עַל-מֹשֶׁה וְעַל-אַהֲרֹן, וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם רַב-לָכֶם--כִּי כָל-הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדֹשִׁים, וּבְתוֹכָם ה; וּמַדּוּעַ תִּתְנַשְּׂאוּ, עַל-קְהַל ה.

Note the use of קְדֹשִׁים.

Moshe reacts by falling on his face (pasuk 4: וַיִּפֹּל עַל-פָּנָיו) and then responds to Korach (pasuk 5-7):
וַיְדַבֵּר אֶל-קֹרַח וְאֶל-כָּל-עֲדָתוֹ, לֵאמֹר, בֹּקֶר וְיֹדַע ה אֶת-אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ וְאֶת-הַקָּדוֹשׁ, וְהִקְרִיב אֵלָיו; וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר-בּוֹ, יַקְרִיב אֵלָיו
זֹאת, עֲשׂוּ: קְחוּ-לָכֶם מַחְתּוֹת, קֹרַח וְכָל-עֲדָתוֹ.
וּתְנוּ בָהֵן אֵשׁ וְשִׂימוּ עֲלֵיהֶן קְטֹרֶת לִפְנֵי ה, מָחָר, וְהָיָה הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-יִבְחַר ה, הוּא הַקָּדוֹשׁ; רַב-לָכֶם, בְּנֵי לֵוִי.
"And he spoke unto Korah and unto all his company, saying: 'In the morning the LORD will show who are His, and who is holy, and will cause him to come near unto Him; even him whom He may choose will He cause to come near unto Him.
This do: take you censors, Korah, and all his company;
and put fire therein, and put incense upon them before the LORD to-morrow; and it shall be that the man whom the LORD doth choose, he shall be holy; ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.'"

They do so, and finally, in the last pasuk of the perek (35), they are killed by divine fire.
וְאֵשׁ יָצְאָה, מֵאֵת יְהוָה; וַתֹּאכַל, אֵת הַחֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתַיִם אִישׁ, מַקְרִיבֵי, הַקְּטֹרֶת
"And fire came forth from the LORD, and devoured the two hundred and fifty men that offered the incense."

Perhaps Nadav and Avihu's sin was that on this particular day, the first day, when the Mishkan was being inaugurated and consecrated, only Aharon was supposed to perform the service. They brought incense when they were not supposed to, and they were not the selected people to do so, just like the congregation of Korach. This is just as during the Yom Kippur service, when only the Kohen Gadol was supposed to do basically all of the services of the day.

A summary of the events:

Looking at Vayikra perek 9. Moshe tells Aharon to bring a bunch of sin offerings for himself, his family, and for the people (pasuk 7: וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-אַהֲרֹן, קְרַב אֶל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ וַעֲשֵׂה אֶת-חַטָּאתְךָ וְאֶת-עֹלָתֶךָ, וְכַפֵּר בַּעַדְךָ, וּבְעַד הָעָם; וַעֲשֵׂה אֶת-קָרְבַּן הָעָם, וְכַפֵּר בַּעֲדָם, כַּאֲשֶׁר, צִוָּה ה).

Aharon does basically all the service. He slaughters the calf (pasuk 8), his sons just bring him the blood but he, Aharon, then sprinkles and pours the blood (9) and offers up on altar the portions of the calf that should be offered (10).

The hide and flesh of Aharon's sin-offering, which should normally be kept by the priest and eaten, respectively, are burnt outside the camp (pasuk 11). {This might help explain the story with Elazar and Itamar later.}

Then Aharon slaughters the Olah offering, which is an offering burn in its entirety on the altar. His sons bring his the blood which he sprinkled (12) and his sons bring him peice by peice, and Aharon offers all the portions
on the altar (13-14). Then he does the same for the people's sin offering and Olah (15-16). Then he brings the Mincha offering (17).

Then he brings the two peace offerings, of which parts are typically eaten; his sons bring him the blood and he throws it on the altar (18) and they (inclusive of his sons) bring the portions which should be brought onto the altar (19-20).

The parts of the peace offering which are to be eaten by the kohanim Aharon waves as a wave-offering before Hashem(21) - presumably he or his sons should eat this.

Then Aharon blesses the people after offering all these sacrifices (22), Moshe and Aharon leave the tent of Meeting and they both bless the people (23). Finally, a divine fire comes down and consumes the Olah and the fats from the other offerings which are on the altar; the people see this and are much impressed; they should (or sing) and fall on their faces (ouch!).

Then Nadav and Avihu take censers, and put fire in it, and incense on it, and bring the foreign fire, which Hashem did not command (10:1). Lets see the Hebrew and translation:

וַיִּקְחוּ בְנֵי-אַהֲרֹן נָדָב וַאֲבִיהוּא אִישׁ מַחְתָּתוֹ, וַיִּתְּנוּ בָהֵן אֵשׁ, וַיָּשִׂימוּ עָלֶיהָ, קְטֹרֶת; וַיַּקְרִיבוּ לִפְנֵי ה, אֵשׁ זָרָה--אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוָּה, אֹתָם.
וַתֵּצֵא אֵשׁ מִלִּפְנֵי ה, וַתֹּאכַל אוֹתָם; וַיָּמֻתוּ, לִפְנֵי ה.
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-אַהֲרֹן, הוּא אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר ה לֵאמֹר בִּקְרֹבַי אֶקָּדֵשׁ, וְעַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָעָם, אֶכָּבֵד; וַיִּדֹּם, אַהֲרֹן.
"And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.
And there came forth fire from before the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
Then Moses said unto Aaron: 'This is it that the LORD spoke, saying: Through them that are nigh unto Me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.' And Aaron held his peace."

So we see that basically all of the day's services were to be performed by Aharon.

Both Korach's congregation and Nadav and Avihu took this incense when they were not supposed to, and especially on this day of inauguration it looks like they are trying out for the position of high priest themselves, just as Korach's congregation did.

Further, in both cases a Divine fire comes from before Hashem and consumes them. Finally, Moshe says to Aharon that Hashem said: בִּקְרֹבַי אֶקָּדֵשׁ, "Through them that are nigh unto Me I will be sanctified", which cab be read similarly to Moshe's statement to Korach: וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר-בּוֹ, יַקְרִיב אֵלָיו and וְהָיָה הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-יִבְחַר ה, הוּא הַקָּדוֹש. There was a process of selection and Aaron was chosen.

What happens next? Aften the death of Nadav and Avihu and their being brought out of the camp, Moshe tells Aharon, Elazar and Itamar what to do.

He tells them to eat the Mincha-offering remnants (what was not brought on the altar) in a holy place (12-13) and to eat the portions of the peace offerings that are for the priest to eat (14-15).

However, Moshe decidedly does NOT tell them what to do with two of the remaining offerings - the parts of the sin-offering of the people, and that of Aharon's offering where a sin offering usually has portions that are eaten. Earlier, in last perek, in pasuk 11 (scroll up too see) we saw that Aharon's sin offering was not in this case it was burnt outside the camp. Further it seems he did the same for the people's sin offering, as pasuk 15 states וַיִּקַּח אֶת-שְׂעִיר הַחַטָּאת, אֲשֶׁר לָעָם, וַיִּשְׁחָטֵהוּ וַיְחַטְּאֵהוּ, כָּרִאשׁוֹן. )

It seems that these prakim are not relating the narrative in a strict chronological manner. That is, this instruction on what to do was presumably given in the course of the day described in the previous chapter. Moshe gives no instructions about the people's sin-offering, and they burn it outside the camp rather than consuming it. Further, when was the death of Nadav and Avihu? This is also in the course of the day, and at such a time that when Moshe instructed Elazar and Itamar about the eating of the Mincha and peace-offerings they could be called "the remaining sons (pasuk 12)."

So, the previous perek gives the general order of the day, and then follows it with various expansions and details - I would say the divine fire consuming the offerings on the altar, Nadav and Avihu's incense and deaths, and Moshe's commands.

How could Moshe get angry at Elazar and Itamar? He did not tell them to eat of the people's sin-offering. Yet, in 10:16-20:

וְאֵת שְׂעִיר הַחַטָּאת, דָּרֹשׁ דָּרַשׁ מֹשֶׁה--וְהִנֵּה שֹׂרָף; וַיִּקְצֹף עַל-אֶלְעָזָר וְעַל-אִיתָמָר, בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן, הַנּוֹתָרִם, לֵאמֹר.
מַדּוּעַ, לֹא-אֲכַלְתֶּם אֶת-הַחַטָּאת בִּמְקוֹם הַקֹּדֶשׁ--כִּי קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים, הִוא; וְאֹתָהּ נָתַן לָכֶם, לָשֵׂאת אֶת-עֲו‍ֹן הָעֵדָה, לְכַפֵּר עֲלֵיהֶם, לִפְנֵי ה.
הֵן לֹא-הוּבָא אֶת-דָּמָהּ, אֶל-הַקֹּדֶשׁ פְּנִימָה; אָכוֹל תֹּאכְלוּ אֹתָהּ בַּקֹּדֶשׁ, כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוֵּיתִי.
וַיְדַבֵּר אַהֲרֹן אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, הֵן הַיּוֹם הִקְרִיבוּ אֶת-חַטָּאתָם וְאֶת-עֹלָתָם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, וַתִּקְרֶאנָה אֹתִי, כָּאֵלֶּה; וְאָכַלְתִּי חַטָּאת הַיּוֹם, הַיִּיטַב בְּעֵינֵי ה.
וַיִּשְׁמַע מֹשֶׁה, וַיִּיטַב בְּעֵינָיו.
"And Moses diligently inquired for the goat of the sin-offering, and, behold, it was burnt; and he was angry with Eleazar and with Ithamar, the sons of Aaron that were left, saying:
'Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin-offering in the place of the sanctuary, seeing it is most holy, and He hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD?
Behold, the blood of it was not brought into the sanctuary within; ye should certainly have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded.'
And Aaron spoke unto Moses: 'Behold, this day have they offered their sin-offering and their burnt-offering before the LORD, and there have befallen me such things as these; and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, would it have been well-pleasing in the sight of the LORD?
And when Moses heard that, it was well-pleasing in his sight."

Why is Moshe not angry at Aharon for not consuming his own sin-offering and is only concerned with that of the people? Further, What does Moshe mean that they should have eaten it in the sanctuary as he commanded? Nowhere in the parsha does Moshe talk about this. He talks about other korbanot but not the people's sin-offering. Further, it would seem that they did in fact eat the Mincha and peace-offering.

Aharon's answer is also an enigma. Is he saying they did not bring or eat the korbanot? Is he saying he did not because of being an onen? It seems he is saying he did not eat the Chatas, which he did not (it was burnt, in pasuk 11). Also, what if he speaking of their Olah and Chatas not being brought? The Olah was brought, and Moshe did not complain about it. Further, we see in the past perek that the sin offering of the people was indeed brought! In pasuk 15:
וַיַּקְרֵב, אֵת קָרְבַּן הָעָם; וַיִּקַּח אֶת-שְׂעִיר הַחַטָּאת, אֲשֶׁר לָעָם, וַיִּשְׁחָטֵהוּ וַיְחַטְּאֵהוּ, כָּרִאשׁוֹן.
"And the people's offering was presented; and he took the goat of the sin-offering which was for the people, and slew it, and offered it for sin, as the first."

I am somewhat confused about all this. I was originally going to parse pasuk 10:19, Aharon's answer, as saying that his sons did not do some action because it was Aharon's day, and since they were not the Kohen Gadol they did not do it. That is:

וַיְדַבֵּר אַהֲרֹן אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, הֵן הַיּוֹם הִקְרִיבוּ אֶת-חַטָּאתָם וְאֶת-עֹלָתָם לִפְנֵי ה, וַתִּקְרֶאנָה אֹתִי, כָּאֵלֶּה; וְאָכַלְתִּי חַטָּאת הַיּוֹם, הַיִּיטַב בְּעֵינֵי ה.
הַיִּיטַב has a full patach under the heh, rather than chataf patach we should expect were it a question. Thus:
Aharon said to Moshe, had they today sacrifices their Olah and sin offering before Hashem, then perhaps it would have happened to me as these (Nadav and Avihu) {that is, Elazar and Itamar might have also been killed}. Rather I ate the chatas today, which was {rather than would it have been} pleasing in the eyes of Hashem.

Thus, they learned the lesson.

However, this does not fit with what seems to have gone on, since Aharon in fact did not eat his sin offering.

{Note that Zevachim 101a has a 4-way machloket about what Moshe thought, and what Aharon did. I am going to offer a different explanation.}

I think what is happening was as follows. Moshe inquires after the sin offering of the people. He sees it is burntoutside the camp. He assumed incorrectly that if the remains were burning outside the camp, something had happened after slaughter that perhaps invalidated it, or they did not feel like bringing it. In terms of the people's sin-offering, this was a big deal, since Moshe wanted to make certain the people were atoned for.

Moshe did not inquire after Aharon's calf sin-offering, because if Aharon did not get atonement, it was perhaps his own business. But if the sin-offering was not brought for the people, they shirked their duty. So, both were burned outside the camp.

Aharon responded that Moshe was mistaken in thinking that because he saw the people's sin offering burning outside the camp, that the people's sin offering was not brought.

וַיְדַבֵּר אַהֲרֹן אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, הֵן הַיּוֹם הִקְרִיבוּ אֶת-חַטָּאתָם וְאֶת-עֹלָתָם לִפְנֵי ה, וַתִּקְרֶאנָה אֹתִי, כָּאֵלֶּה; וְאָכַלְתִּי חַטָּאת הַיּוֹם, הַיִּיטַב בְּעֵינֵי ה

Aharon said to Moshe: Today, we did indeed offer the people's sin offering and Olah offering before Hashem (as indeed we see in 9:15-16). Then, happened to me such and such (that is, Nadav and Avihu's death). Had I (or they) eaten the chatas today, would it be good in Hashem's sight?

That is, either Hashem would not like the callousness of eating meat when Aharon's son's had died, or because of Aninut, or because Aharon would not eat it with a full heart. And so Moshe saw that the sin-offering for the people had indeed been brought, and it was good in his eyes what had been done.

I'm not sure whether consumption of the korban chatas is meakev, or if the throwing of the blood suffices. In one case the people would have atonement, and in the other they would not...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you should just make a straightforward list of the sins they committed in addition to all the information you already gave.


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