Questioning faith in the parsha
KOSHI: How do we understand death in relation to God’s Will? What is God’s role in “Who shall live and who shall die?” How does our faith figure in?
V.1 Now Aaron’s two sons, Nadav & Avihu….
RASHI…All Israel “fell on their faces” in prayer as God’s Presence appears…But Aaron’s two sons…”
TALMUD…Why would Aaron’s sons have entered such a sacred (forbidden) place? They did so to have a clearer view of God’s Presence. This is why they brought the special offering of incense, not commanded them, so as to have a reason for entering behind the curtain. [Yoma 53a]
CHIDUSHEI HaRIM…Nadav & Avihu were both holy men who performed the ritual with sincerity, yet they erred when offering incense which God had not commanded….Every blessing we recite before performing a commandment includes: “Who has sanctified us by Your commandments and commanded us” For the commandment of God is the fundamental force which hallows the ritual act, and not the other way around. This is a sacred trust which must not be broken.
V.3 Then Moses said to Aaron, This is what the Lord meant when He said: “Through those near to me I show Myself holy, and gain glory before all the people.”…And Aaron was silent.
VaYIKRA RABBAH…Moses said to Aaron: “My brother, I knew that the Sanctuary would become sanctified through those truly intimate with God. I always thought that would be either through you or through me. Now I see that they are greater than the both of us!”
HERTZ… “Vayidom Aharon”…Aaron found no answer in Moses’ words. He was as one who is dumb after a blow, as Psalms 39:10 declares: “I cannot bear to open my mouth, seeing what lies before me.”
CHATAM SOFER…“Vayidom Aharon”…Aaron did not speak, but wept uncontrollably, for he blamed his own sins for the death of his two sons…
J.P.S…“Vayidom Aharon”…Aaron accepts God’s harsh judgment and does not cry out and complain at his painful loss, consistent with the words of David: “Dom LaAdonai…Be silent before God and trust in Him.” [Ps 37:7]
KOTZKER…“Vayidom Aharon”…Read Vayid’dom–Aaron’s blood boiled within him. Enraged, he could not speak.
SYMONS…“Vayidom Aharon”…In the name of Rashi…From “dam—blood” Understand, then, “And Aaron bled.” The blood of life rushed from his body—for he too, in a way, had died.
R’DAVID BLUMENTHAL…Holiness and “personality” (that which conveys person-ness) are the Image of God in which human beings are created…It is what we and God have in common…what enables us to talk about, and with God…..So, we can ask…..Is abusiveness an attribute of God?…a quality without which we cannot understand the ultimate reality we call God? Yes!…God is abusive, but not always…As portrayed in our holy sources and as experienced by humans throughout the ages, allowing the innocent at times to suffer greatly, God can only be characterized by the term “abusive” When a perpetrator acts abusively, the victim is innocent; when an abuser abuses, what happens to the victim is not his or her fault…When God acts abusively, we are the victims. When God acts abusively, we are the hurt party, and we are not responsible for God’s abuse. Our sins—and we are always sinful, are in no proportion whatsoever to the punishment meted out…BUT, God is not always abusive. God is often loving and fair, even kind and merciful….To have faith in a post-holocaust world is first, to know—to recognize and admit—that God is an abusing God, but not always.
R’ LAURA GELLER…”and they died lifnai Adonai—before God’s consciousness” A tragic death is, as it were, before God’s consciousness, in God’s mind and heart, just as it is in ours. We can never really know in this lifetime why innocent people suffer, but perhaps we can be comforting hoping that God suffers with us …..This week’s par’sha is the middle of the entire Torah. Perhaps there is a hint here of “middle age.” We are in the middle of the journey from slavery to the promised land, a promised place that none of this generation of the wilderness will enter, Nadav & Avihu die, they are buried…and the people move on.
Our people are grown ups now, people who have experienced real life joy and tragedy, birth and death, all the complex paradoxes of human existence…Like us, they know from experience that life is sometimes full of pain, and there are no easy answers…Not for us, and not even, perhaps, for God.