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   by Jacob Solomon

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The sons of Aaron, Nadav and Avihu… brought before G-d a strange fire that He did not command them [to bring]. Fire came forth from G-d and it consumed them, and they died before G-d. Moses said to Aaron, "That is what G-d was speaking about when He said: 'I will be sanctified by those close to Me".' (10:1-3)

The Rashbam writes that the words bikrovai ekadesh: 'I will be sanctified by those who are close to me' apply to Elazar and Ithamar, the younger brothers of Nadav and Avihu. Not to Nadav and Avihu themselves. The reason is that Elazar and Ithamar were so devoted to the service of G-d that they continued the holy proceedings at the dedication of the Tabernacle even though their older brothers Nadav and Avihu had just died. True dedication is serving under the greatest hardship. And those who are 'close to' G-d are those who serve Him with extreme dedication.

Rashi, however, follows the well-known Midrashic interpretation that the words bikrovai ekadesh: 'I will be sanctified by those who are close to me' do apply to Nadav and Avihu. The deaths were indeed a fulfillment of G-d's previous words to Moses. In reference to the Tabernacle, G-d had said: "It will be sanctified through My glory" - bichvodi (Ex. 29:43) which is similar to the Hebrew word meaning 'those who honor me'. Rashi elaborates with the words: 'Moses told Aaron: "I knew that the Tabernacle would be sanctified by someone in whom G-d's glory rests, but I thought it would be one of us. Now I know that they were greater than either of us".'

The following alternative explanation may be suggested. Nadav and Avihu wished to get close to G-d, but they took an unauthorized short cut. As the text states: 'Nadav and Aivhu… brought before G-d a strange fire that He did not command them [to bring]'. And G-d was effectively making an example of them to teach the Israelites the following lesson. Closeness to G-d comes though using His Commandments as a guide to approach Him, stage by stage. Not doing what you think He wants. But doing what He tells you He wants. And if He doesn't tell, hold back. Getting close to G-d goes stage by stage, not instantaneous, though He may well give a 'helping hand' on the way…

That is the meaning of the words bikrovai ekadesh: 'I will be sanctified by those who have the patience rather that the impetuosity to get close to me'. Those who have that great dedication, of the quality exemplified by the Rashbam (above).

This concept also applies to human relationships. Most satisfying friendships and contacts are the products of sustained effort to get to know the other, and working together in sometimes trying conditions, rather than on the basis of just a quick meeting where there is 'chemistry'.

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at and on the material on the Haftara at .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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