Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Shemini

Normally, the Thursday night parsha post on this blog contains a thought said over by R' Frand in his satellite shiur. Unfortunately, Rabbi Frand suffered the loss of a brother over Pesach and he is currently sitting shiva in Baltimore. As such, I have substituted a vort from R' Mansour which can be found at As always, if the p'shat appears to be incorrect, it is a result of my efforts to convey the thought that I found in the sefer or shiur.

This week's Parsha contains the story of the death of Nadav and Avihu. The meforshim present myriad reasons for the passing of these brothers including: (1) They were intoxicated; (2) They brought an extra/unwanted karban; (3) They were unmarried, as well as many other reasons. R' Mansour asked the following question - since this was the very first day after the mishkan was completed and the laws as to intoxication/marriage/extra karbanos had not yet been stated by Hashem, why did Nadav & Avihu merit the death penalty? Furthermore, many of the services were unique to the inauguration of the mishkan and the transgressions could be the result of confusion. Couldn't the sons of Aharon just have received a lesser punishment since they did not know their actions were wrong?

R' Mansour offered numerous answers to the question, but I would like to focus on just one of his reasons. Of course, since the reason begins with a story, it is even more attractive to me. R' Mansour quoted the Maggid of Dubno who told a mashal about a King who asked his people to build a fine palace. The best tradesmen were brought in and a magnificent structure was built. When they were done, the King decided that he wanted to bring glory to the city and honor the residents by having the finest doctor in the land reside in the city. So the King sent messengers to the fine doctor and told him about the new city and how the doctor would be honored and compensated. Of course, the doctor agreed to come. 

When the doctor first came to the city, he was feted with a grand parade and he was brought before the public in a royal carriage. Soon after he arrived, the doctor was told about a certain man who was gravely ill. The doctor went to see the sick man and after examining him, the doctor said, "I can cure him". Not long after the man started treatment with the doctor, the man died. The King then approached the doctor and asked, "why did you say you can cure him?" The doctor told the King that the doctor knew that he could not cure the man, but he told everyone that he could heal the man anyway. Why? Because the doctor wanted the people to see that the doctor could not heal everyone.

The doctor was afraid that people would become lazy in taking care of their health because they were sure that they could be healed by the doctor. The people needed to know that they still must exercise and take care of their bodies so that they did not all come to be in poor health. 

R' Mansour explained that the mishkan offered the same possible trap to the Jewish people. Bnei Yisrael could have viewed the mishkan as a structure which would save them from the repercussions of sinning. They could have adopted an attitude that their sins would all be forgiven as long as they could bring a sacrifice in the mishkan. In order to dispel this notion, the people needed to see that even what seemed to them like a small transgression could result in death, notwithstanding that there was a mishkan. 

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