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וכל כלי חרש אשר יפל מהם אל תוכו כל אשר בתוכו יטמא ואתו תשברו

All earthen vessels into which (something contaminated) falls, all that is within it shall be unclean, and it must be destroyed. (11:33)

Unlike wooden or metal vessels that are rendered (spiritually) unclean by virtue of being touched externally by an unclean object, klei cheres, earthenware vessels, become unclean only when the contaminated object is within the airspace of the vessel. External contact of a Klei cheres is not mitamei, does not render the earthenware vessel unclean. The Kotzker Rebbe, zl, explains this halachah as predicated on the notion that only something of value can be rendered unclean. Wood and metal possess intrinsic value. Thus, they can become unclean. Earth, however, has no intrinsic value, other than the fact that if it is formed…

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'ואחיכם כל בית ישראל יבכו את השרפה אשר שרף ד

And your brethren, the entire House of Yisrael, shall bewail the conflagration that Hashem ignited. (10:6)

Chazal derive from here that the suffering of a Torah scholar (in this case, Aharon HaKohen and his remaining sons grieving) should be shared by all of Klal Yisrael. Indeed, as Horav Shlomo Kluger, zl, says, all Jews should show solidarity by mourning and grieving over a fellow Jew’s misfortune. Kol Bais Yisrael applies to every generation of Jews. Forever, until Moshiach arrives and wipes away our tears, it is incumbent upon us to shed tears over the tragic and untimely deaths of the two sons of Aharon HaKohen, Nadav and Avihu. Indeed, in the Yom Kippur Machzor right before…

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בקרבי אקדש

Through those who are close to Me, I will be sanctified. (10:3)

When Hashem carries out His decree of Strict Justice, especially when – as a result of this decree – someone dies, Hashem’s Name is sanctified. There is no greater Kiddush, sanctification, of Hashem’s Name, than missah, death. It indicates that Hashem is in control, that He alone determines how long and under what circumstances one will live. The Talmud (Niddah 30b) comments concerning the pasuk, Ki li tichra kol berech, “To me will every knee bends” (Yeshayahu 45), Zeh ha’missah, ‘This is a reference to death.” Indeed, the solemnity of a funeral – even one that takes place with a…

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ותצא אש מלפני ד' ותאכל אותם וימתו לפני ד'

A fire came forth from before Hashem and consumed them and they died before Hashem. (10:2)

Chazal enumerate a number of areas of deficiency in the behavior of Nadav and Avihu which, on their lofty level, was considered sinful. One of their shortcomings was manifest in their drinking wine prior to performing the service. Inebriation might find an acceptable place in contemporary society’s morally bankrupt value system, but it certainly did not belong in the Priestly service. While Nadav and Avihu certainly did not entertain the idea of inebriation, this does not preclude their partaking in a glass of wine. Truth be told, they were not commanded against drinking wine prior to performing the service until…

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ויקריבו לפני ד' אש זרה אשר לא צוה אתם... וידם אהרן

And they brought before Hashem an alien fire that He had not commanded them… And Aharon was silent. (10:1,3)

Much has been written concerning the apparent misstep of Nadav and Avihu in offering what was considered an alien fire, and the reaction of their father, Aharon HaKohen, to their tragic deaths. Chazal have analyzed and explained every word in order to give later generations a clue, a path for understanding and coming to grips with this tragedy. The Torah writes, Asher lo tzivah osam, “That He (Hashem) had not commanded them.” Apparently, their sin was in acting on their own. Discipline is obviously important, but is it that demanding? The Chiddushei HaRim sheds light on this “sin.” He derives…

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ויאמר אל אהרן קח לך עגל בן בקר לחטאת

He said to Aharon: “Take for yourself a yearling calf as a sin-offering.” (9:2)

Various levels of atonement coincide with different transgressions. “One size fits all” does not fit all in reference to penance, because sins occur on various levels. Two people might commit the same act of infraction; yet, their modes of atonement are different. Although, on the surface, their sins may appear similar, Hashem gazes into the hearts and minds of the sinners and distinguishes between them. Aharon was commanded to bring a calf as a Korban Chatas, sin-offering, to let him know that, with this calf, Hashem would grant him atonement for his actions in creating the Golden Calf (Rashi). Klal…

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וידם אהרן

And Aharon was silent. (10:3)

Aharon HaKohen received schar, reward, for his silence and acceptance of Hashem’s decree. As a result of his silence, Hashem rewarded him with a “private” detailing of the mitzvah/prohibition against Kohanim entering the Sanctuary after having imbibed an intoxicating beverage. We are taught that every punishment and reward coincides middah k’neged middah, measure for measure, with the sin or mitzvah that catalyzed it. What is the middah k’neged middah whereby Aharon’s silence led to a private hearing of the mitzvah? The Bais Aharon quotes Chazal (Berachos 60a), “One must bless on bad (sad) tidings, as he does on good (happy)…

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וידם אהרן

And Aharon was silent. (10:3)

With two words, “And Aharon was silent,” the Torah presents its standard for confronting tragedy, for dealing with grief. While this spiritual plateau is reserved for the “Aharon Hakohens” of our People, it is vital that we understand the profundity of his reaction, to achieve an understanding of his response to this tragedy. In this way, we are able to develop a deeper appreciation of his greatness and we have a model of the sublime level of spirituality to which we should aspire. When a person is, lo aleinu (not on us), confronted with tragedy, he, by nature, seeks an…

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ובגדיכם לא תפרומו

And do not rend your garments. (10:6)

In order not to interfere by casting a pall of grief on the joy of the inauguration, Hashem forbade the usual display of mourning, even to the brothers of Nadav and Avihu. The Sefer HaChinuch (149) says that the Kohanim are prohibited from entering the Sanctuary with disheveled, long hair – out of respect for the Bais Hamikdash and the service which they perform. This also applies to the clothing worn by the Kohanim that may not be torn. Obviously, since we no longer have the Bais Hamikdash, these laws transfer over to the Mikdash Me’at, miniature sanctuaries, the batei…

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בקרבי אקדש ועל פני כל העם אכבד

I will be sanctified through those who are nearest to Me, thus I will be honored before the entire People. (10:3)

Bikrovai ekadeish, “I will be sanctified through those nearest to Me,” are two words that instill fear and awe, because they are words that are often uttered following a tragedy in which the best, those closest to Hashem, are taken from within our midst. One who is exposed to greater inspiration, to greater Heavenly illumination – whose spiritual cognition is more profound – is on a higher spiritual plane. He is nearer to Hashem; therefore, more is expected of him. Horav Chaim Zaitchik, zl, explains that this was the reason for the punishment received by the mekoshesh eitzim, one who…

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