Yom Kippur 5780: The Deaths of Nadav and Avihu and the Yom Kippur Leyning

Shalom Friends;

Our Yom Kippur vort is being sponsored by Yossie and Elisheva Schulman of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated l’zecher nishmas Elisheva’s Grandmother Zemira bas Nechama. To Yossie, Elisheva and the Schulman family, may you all be inscribed and sealed for only simcha, success, good health, nachas from your children, and only good things in the year to come and to at least 120 years. Many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued multitude of kindnesses.

Friends, you can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
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Yom Kippur 5780: The Deaths of Nadav and Avihu and the Yom Kippur Leyning

By Moshe Burt

In Yom Kippur’s leyning of Torah, we read the opening posukim from Parshat Acharei Mot about the aftermath of the deaths of Nadav and Avihu and Hashem’s laws regarding when the Kohen Godol may enter the Kadosh Kedoshim.

The Artscroll Stone Chumash renders to English the beginning of the Yom Kippur leyning (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 16, posukim 1-3):

“Hashem spoke to Moshe after the death of Aaron’s two sons, when they [Nadav and Avihu] approached before Hashem and they died. And Hashem said to Moshe: ‘Speak to Aaron, your brother — he shall not at all times come into the Sanctuary [the Kadosh Kedoshim], within the Curtain, in front of the Cover that is upon the Ark [the Aron HaKodesh], so that he should not die; for in a cloud will I appear upon the Aron-Cover. With this shall Aaron come into the Sanctuary: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for an elevation offering.'”

To set the scene, we go back to Sefer Vayikra, Perek 10, posukim 1-3 (Parshat Shemini) as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash:

“The sons of Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, each took his fire pan, they put fire in them and placed incense upon it; and they brought before Hashem an alien fire that He had not commanded them. A fire came forth from before Hashem and consumed them, and they died before Hashem. Moshe said to Aaron: Of this dis Hashem speak, saying: ‘I will be sanctified through those who are nearest Me, thus I will be honored before the entire people’, and Aaron was silent.”

An Artscroll Stone Chumash commentary on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 10, posukim 1-3 (page 592) states:

The behavior of Moshe and Aaron in the face of this grievous loss gave… testimony to their own greatness and brought about a new and greater sanctification of Hashem’s name.

A further Artscroll Stone Chumash commentary on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 16, posukim 1-3 (page 636) asks:

Why is the death of the righteous [i.e., Nadav and Avihu] mentioned in conjunction with the chapter on the Yom Kippur service? Because just as Yom Kippur brings atonement, so the death of the righteous brings atonement (Artscroll Stone Chumash citing Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1). Meshech Chochmah explains that Yom Kippur is a time of favor, and is thus an opportune time for atonement. When a righteous person such as Nadav or Avihu dies and his soul ascends to the world of souls, the other righteous souls in Shemayim rejoice at his coming. The good feeling above can inspire a feeling of forgiveness and atonement to the righteous person’s survivors on earth. This is the connection to Yom Kippur.

However, and this is crucial, both Yom Kippur and the death of the righteous bring atonement only on one condition. Yom Kippur atones only for people who recognize it as a holy day and treat it as such; those to whom it is merely a day of refraining from food and work, but without a spiritual dimension, do not find atonement on Yom Kippur. Similarly, those who don’t honor the righteous in life do not benefit from their ascent to Shemayim in death.

The Artscroll Stone Chumash commentary (pages 636-637) goes on to further inform us regarding the connection between the deaths of Nadav and Avihu and the Kohen Godol’s Yom Kippur service:

Our verse [Sefer Vayikra, Perek 16, posukim 2-3] informs us that they died because they ventured into the Holy of Holies [the Kadosh Kedoshim], which… no one may do except for the Kohen Godol when he performs the Yom Kippur service.

…Hashem told Moshe to convey the law to Aaron in the context of the tragedy. Even if Aaron had been told that there was a potential death penalty for entering the the Kadosh Kedoshim in an improper manner, it would not have had the same effect as the pronouncement that the death he had just witnessed was a Divine penalty of this very sin. (Artscroll Stone Chumash citing the Chofetz Chaim)

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

As a Rav back in the Old Country would say, “Tefillah Kasher V’Tzom Kal — Daven Hard, Fast Easy!” May You, All of My Brothers, Sisters, be Sealed, for another Year of Life… Now and Always!
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.