QUESTION: The Beraisa states that the verse, "Ki b'Anan Era'eh..." -- "For
in a cloud [of smoke of the Ketores] I shall appear over the Kapores"
(Vayikra 16:2), teaches that Ma'aleh Ashan, the ingredient that causes the
smoke of the Ketores to rise straight up, must be included in the Ketores.
The Beraisa continues and asks what is the source for the requirement to
include Ma'aleh Ashan in the Ketores, and it answers with the verse,
"v'Chisah Anan ha'Ketores Es ha'Kapores" -- "the cloud of the Ketores shall
cover the Kapores... so that he not die" (Vayikra 16:13).
The Gemara asks why two verses are needed to teach the same thing. Rav
Sheshes answers that the first verse only teaches that Ma'aleh Ashan must
be included in the Ketores that is brought on Yom Kipur in the Kodesh
Ha'Kodashim. The second verse teaches that during the rest of the year, the
Ketores (brought in the Heichal) also needs Ma'aleh Ashan, and without
Ma'aleh Ashan the Kohen who offered it would be Chayav Misah.
The BEIS YOSEF (OC 133) addresses the question why the Gemara (38a) says
that the Ketores made by the people of Alexandria would have been accepted
if not for the fact that its smoke did not rise straight up and thus it was
not as beautiful as the Ketores of Beis Avtinas. Their Ketores should not
have been acceptable because of a more basic reason -- it did not have
Ma'aleh Ashan in it, as the Gemara there explains, and thus the Koehn would
have been Chayav Misah for using it! The Beis Yosef answers that Ma'aleh
Ashan is not a necessary element of the Ketores and one is not Chayav Misah
if it is left out.
How can the Beis Yosef say such a thing? Our Gemara states explicitly that
there is a Chiyuv Misah for bringing Ketores any without Ma'aleh Ashan! It
cannot be suggested that the Beis Yosef is referring to the Ketores of the
Heichal, which was brought every day, while our Gemara refers to the
Ketores of the Kodesh ha'Kodashim, which was only brought on Yom Kipur,
because Rav Sheshes says explicitly in our Gemara that there is a Chiyuv
Misah for offering the Ketores *any day of the year*, i.e. in the Heichal,
without Ma'aleh Ashan! (MISHNEH LA'MELECH Hil. Klei ha'Mikdash 2:3 -- see
Insights to Yoma 38:1:c)
(a) The MISHNEH LA'MELECH answers that the other Amora'im mentioned in our
Sugya mean to argue with Rav Sheshes, and permit offering the Ketores of
the Heichal without Ma'aleh Ashan. The Beis Yosef is following the opinion
of these other Amora'im.
The Mishneh la'Melech adds that the RAMBAM, too, records the Halachah that
a Kohen is Chayav Misah for offering an incomplete Ketores in two different
ways. Regarding the Ketores of Yom Kipur, he writes that "if one left out
one of the ingredients *or Ma'aleh Ashan*," he is Chayav Misah (Hil.
Avodas Yom ha'Kipurim 5:25). However, regarding the Ketores of the Heichal,
the Rambam only writes that "if he left out one of the ingredients of the
Ketores he is Chayav Misah" (Hil. Klei ha'Mikdash 2:8), without mentioning
the Ma'aleh Ashan.
(b) The CHACHMAS ADAM cites the VILNA GA'ON (see Insights to 32:1) who says
that Aharon was allowed to go into the Kodesh Ha'Kodashim not only on Yom
Kipur but on any day, as long as he performed the Avodah as described in
Parashas Acharei Mos.
Perhaps that is the "Ketores of every day" to which Rav Sheshes refers.
When Rav Sheshes teaches that Ma'aleh Ashan is a necessary part of the
Ketores even for any day of the year, he is referring to the Ketores that
is brought *in the Kodesh Ha'Kodashim* by Aharon ha'Kohen on days other
than Yom Kipur! We might have thought that only on Yom Kipur it is
necessary to have the smoke rise up, so that the presence of the Shechinah
can appear in the cloud (Vayikra 16:2). During the rest of the year, when
Aharon ha'Kohen goes into the Kodesh Ha'Kodashim only to Daven but not to
have the Shechinah's presence descend, perhaps it is not necessary to have
the smoke rise up. Therefore a special verse is needed to teach that even
then, Ma'aleh Ashan must be incuded. He is not discussing, though, the
Ketores of the Heichal at all. (NISHMAS ADAM, in Kuntrus Matzeves Moshe at
the end of the Sefer.)
QUESTION: Rebbi Eliezer states that the sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu,
died because they made their own Halachic decision to bring their fire upon
the Mizbe'ach without first asking Moshe, their teacher.
TOSFOS (DH she'Horu) points out that the Midrash (Toras Kohanim, Acharei;
Vayikra Raba 20:6-10; Sanhedrin 52a) actually offers a number of reasons
why the sons of Aharon were punished. Some say that they entered the
Mishkan in a drunken state or with long hair, others say that Nadav and
Avihu were punished because they refused to marry and bear children, and
yet others say that they were punished for commenting, "When will these old
men (i.e. Moshe and Aharon) pass on so that we may be the new leaders of
What are all of these opinions arguing about? Why is the reason for the
deaths of Nadav and Avihu so equivocal? What is more confusing is that the
verse itself (Vayikra 10:1) clearly reveals to us the sin of Nadav and
Avihu! They were punished for bringing an unsolicited fire to the Mizbe'ach
upon which they offered an incense offering.
Why does the Gemara and Midrash look for other reasons for their death, and
how can they suggest reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the
Avodah in the Beis ha'Mikdash?
ANSWER: At the end of Parashas Mishpatim (Shemos 24:9-11) we are told that
when the Torah was given, Moshe and Aharon took Nadav, Avihu, and the
seventy elders up to Har Sinai. There, they "beheld Hashem, and they ate
and drank." Rashi there comments, based on the Midrash, that Nadav and
Avihu beheld Hashem haughtily, while satiated with food and drink, and for
that they should have been punished immediately. However, Hashem did not
want to dampen the joy of the Giving of the Torah. Instead, on the day of
the inauguration of the Mishkan, Nadav and Avihu received their punishment.
Why did Hashem choose the inauguration of the Mishkan for Nadav and Avihu's
retribution? The reason is because the sin of Nadav and Avihu at the
inauguration ceremony and their earlier sin were rooted in the same basic
error. In what way?
Hashem revealed Himself at Sinai to a degree which He had not done at any
other point in history. It was to this display of the Divine Presence that
Moshe brought Nadav and Avihu and the seventy elders, as described at the
end of Parashas Mishpatim. However, before Moshe "went to the heavens" to
encounter the Presence of Hashem and to receive the Luchos, he abstained
from food and drink for forty days (Shemos 34:28). Nadav and Avihu,
however, did not display the awe requisite for so momentous an occasion.
They believed that they were already spiritually prepared to behold the
Divine Presence, even without abstaining further from worldly involvement.
But the Torah reveals that, in truth, they were still entrenched to some
degree in the physical world of eating and drinking, for "their hearts were
dense with food and drink" (Rashi). They did not realize how stringently
one must separate himself from the world of material pleasure in order to
approach Hashem in such an intimate manner.
It was the same attitude that brought Nadav and Avihu to enter the Mishkan
with their fire at the inauguration of the Mishkan. Nadav and Avihu,
according to the Midrash, offered incense on their own in the Kodesh
Ha'Kodashim on the day that Hashem first rested His Presence there. Since
they were chosen to serve in the Mishkan as Kohanim, they considered
themselves to be on a high enough spiritual level to enter the Kodesh
Ha'Kodashim and to behold the Divine Presence uninvited. They repeated the
mistake that they had made at Sinai. This time, though, they suffered the
This is what is meant by the other Midrashim as well. Nadav and Avihu died
because they would comment, "When will Moshe and Aharon pass away, so that
we may become the new leaders of the nation?" They considered themselves to
be spiritually on par with -- or perhaps even greater than -- Moshe and
Aharon. Just as Moshe was granted "unlimited access" to the Kodesh
Ha'Kodashim (Toras Kohanim, Acharei, 1:6) and was in a constant state of
preparedness to prophesy (Rashi, Bamidbar 12:4), so, too, the sons of
Aharon felt that they were fit to serve before Hashem with similar
"familiarity." This is also why they decided the Halachah (about bringing
fire to the altar) without first asking their teacher, Moshe. They felt
that they were as competent as Moshe in matters regarding the Avodos in the
This is also the message of the Midrashim which tell us that Nadav and
Avihu refused to marry and bear offspring. Moshe, because he constantly had
to be in a state of readiness to receive the word of Hashem, separated from
his wife Tziporah (see Rashi, Bamidbar 12:4). Nadav and Avihu felt that
they had attained similar spiritual heights. They, too, abstained from
The Midrash also says that Nadav and Avihu entered the Mishkan while under
the influence of intoxicating drinks. This means that Nadav and Avihu
entered the Mishkan at a time that their powers of reason did not yet
retain full control over their worldly impulses. They entered with "long
hair" -- another symbol of worldly desires and impulses (as the Gemara
describes in the story of the Nazir in Nedarim 9b).