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“And the pig…it is unclean to you.” (11:7)

Professor Daniel Chavelson was a living tragedy. A brilliant scholar, who became an apostate and converted out of the faith in order to advance his secular status, he enjoyed the respect and friendship of a number of rabbinic leaders. He continued to study Torah on a consistent basis, maintaining an active correspondence of halachic responsa with these rabbis. When the Netziv, z.l., was questioned about this enigma – an individual who, although a heretic, was still held in esteem by many observant Jews, he sighed, responding with the following story: One day the wife of the town’s wealthiest man became…

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“And your brethren the entire house of Yisrael shall bewail the conflagration that Hashem ignited.” (10:6)

The Rambam in Hilchos Aveilus 13:10 writes, “One does not weep for the deceased more than three days. But for a Torah scholar, it depends upon their level of wisdom.” Nevertheless, one does not weep more than thirty days. There are clearly defined parameters for the length of time one may express emotional grief upon the death of another Jew. Yet, the Torah does not seem to place a time limit concerning the weeping for Aharon’s sons. When Moshe Rabbeinu – the quintessential leader and rebbe of Klal Yisrael – died, Klal Yisrael was instructed to mourn for thirty days….

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“Do not leave your heads unshorn and do not rend your garments that you not die…and your brethren the entire House of Yisrael shall bewail the conflagration that Hashem ignited.” (10:6)

  Aharon HaKohen’s two eldest sons died in a terrible, tragic fire that consumed their souls, yet left their bodies intact. It was to  be  a  day  of  heightened  joy,  the  greatest simchah for Hashem, for Aharon and for all of Klal Yisrael. It was the day that the Mishkan was to be dedicated. The festivities were tragically marred. Yet, Aharon and his sons were commanded that, as Kohanim, they could not exhibit any outward signs of mourning. It was Hashem’s day. Their personal grief was not to detract from Hashem’s simchah. On the other hand, Klal Yisrael was adjured to…

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“A fire came down from before Hashem…and they died before Hashem…and Aharon was silent.” (10:2-3)

As the joy surrounding the inauguration ritual reached its zenith, tragedy suddenly struck. Aharon’s two oldest sons died during their performance of an unauthorized incense service. Aharon’s classic response – or lack thereof – attests to his greatness, his nobility and his resolute faith in Hashem. He accepted Hashem’s Divine decree. He was silent. He did not exhibit any form of emotion. Hashem’s decree is not to be questioned, because the answer is above us. Chazal tell us that misas tzaddikim, the death of the righteous, is “m’chaper,” atones for our sins. This idea is derived from the fact that…

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