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“Any earthenware utensil into whose interior one of them will fall everything within it shall become contaminated and you shall break it.” (11:33)

An earthenware vessel can contract impurity only through internal ritually unclean contact. Horav E. Munk, z.l,. cites Rav Mendel Mi’kotzk who distinguishes between a metallic vessel, whose intrinsic value is based upon the metal from which it is made, and an earthenware vessel, whose value is based upon what it contains. This is the reason that an earthenware vessel is contaminated only from the inside and cannot be purified by immersion in a mikveh, as a metallic vessel can. Consequently, an earthenware vessel which has become tamei, ritually contaminated, must be broken. The vessel is like a man formed from…

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“And the sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, took… and they brought before Hashem an alien fire that He had not commanded them.” (10:2,3)

The catastrophe which befell Nadav and Avihu is one of the great tragedies of the Torah. It begs for explanation. Each in his own way, the various commentators offer an orientation for understanding their sin and its ensuing punishment. Horav S.R. Hirsch, z.l., suggests that they had acted on impulse, in an outburst of enthusiasm. This impassioned act of pride in approaching the altar proved fatal to them. Joyful emotions, regardless of their sincerity, may not be used to serve as a pretext to break the discipline established by law. Alteration of Hashem’s law cannot be tolerated, especially on the…

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“And there came forth a fire from before Hashem and devoured them (Nadav and Avihu).” (10:2)

The Midrash explains that the death penalty had previously been decreed against Nadav and Avihu at the time of Matan Torah. At that time, Nadav and Avihu, together with the elders, ascended Har Sinai to receive the revelation of the Shechinah. Upon experiencing this unique revelation, however, they derived personal pleasure from it and did not respond with proper reverence. They were all judged to be guilty by Hashem. Hashem refrained from meting out their punishment immediately. One reason suggested is that Hashem bestows prophecy only on one who is happy and at peace. Had a national tragedy such as…

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“And it was on the eighth day, Moshe summoned Aharon and his sons.” (9:1)

Horav E. Munk, z.l., poignantly explains the significance of that glorious day, the eighth day of the inauguration services. It was Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the day the Mishkan was erected, a day crowned with ten crowns of distinction. On this particular day, Klal Yisrael was to attain an unprecedented level of communion with the Divine Presence. Moshe, however, knew that this exalted state of intimacy would require strict discipline from every member of the nation, especially its leadership. The slightest act of desecration would be punished, even if it were committed by those who were closest to Hashem. The Mishkan…

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