Pesach Journal 2019

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Weekly Parsha

Pesach Day 1

Acharei means “after,” as in the opening verse of our Parsha:  “G-d spoke to Moshe after the death of Aharon’s two sons – when they came near, before G-d, and they died.”

Chasidic thought explains that Aharon’s sons did not die because they were wicked and transgressed G-d’s will.  Rather they were righteous individuals who wanted to come closer to G-d.  But this yearning became so strong that it reached the point where they no longer wished to continue a normal, bodily existence, which makes a person feel distant from his Maker, and they simply expired.  Thus, the verse actually describes the cause of their death:  “They came near, before G-d, and  therefore – they died.”

At first glance, it might appear that the yearning of Nadav and Avihu to come close to G-d was misplaced, as G-d clearly does not want us to die out of love for Him.

In truth, however, Nadav and Avihu’s desire to come close to G-d and leave their bodily existence was entirely appropriate to have – on a temporary basis.  Their fault was in their inability to redirect those energies back into normal, everyday life, after a period of heightened spiritual arousal.

In other words, if a person does not have times when he simply wishes to leave the confines of corporeal existence and come closer to his Maker, then that person is lacking a certain spiritual sensitivity.  But, on the other hand, when a person does have these feelings, he must eventually come to the realisation that G-d placed him in this world for a purpose which necessitates his soul remaining in his body.  The harmonious fluctuation of these two opposite emotions is thus the sign of a healthy spirituality, rather like the rhythmic beating of the heart which is a sign of physical wellbeing.

So, the intense spirituality of Nadav and Avihu was actually a good thing from which we should all learn.  The fact they failed to channel their love of G-d back “down to earth” was indeed a fault, but that does not mean that we cannot learn from their positive qualities.

And it is precisely for this reason that the Parsha is called Acharei (“after”).  For Nadav and Avihu were the first individuals (recorded in the Torah) to demonstrate an intense spiritual yearning, which set a new precedent for all Jewish people as to what levels of emotional attachment to G-d could be achieved.  Thus, “after the death of Aharon’s two sons,” the Jewish people entered a new era where higher standards of spirituality had been set.